You adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever chooses to be a friend of the world renders himself an enemy of God.
I. THE ANTAGONISM BETWEEN THE LOVE OF THE WORLD AND THE LOVE OF GOD. (Ver. 4.) This painful epithet, "Ye adulteresses," is the key-note of the chord which James strikes in his appeal. God is the rightful spiritual Husband of every professing Christian; and thus, if such a one embraces the world, he or she resembles a woman who turns away from her lawful husband to follow other lovers. The world is an evil world, alien in its principles and pursuits from the will and glory of God; and therefore "the friendship of the world" is incompatible with the love of him. But what precisely is this "friendship"? It does not lie
(1) in habits of friendly intercourse with worldly men; or
(2) in the diligent pursuit of one's daily occupation; or
(3) in an appreciation of creature comforts and innocent pleasures.
Worldliness does not depend upon outward acts or habits. It is a state of the heart. The word denotes the spirit and guiding disposition of the unbeliever's life - the will to "be a friend of the world." Since, accordingly, this friendship represents direct opposition to the Divine will, every man who seeks it first and most declares himself by that very act "an enemy of God."
II. CONFIRMATION OF THIS TRUTH. (Vers. 5, 6.) We accept as accurate the Greek reading of ver. 5 which has been adopted by the Revisers, together with their translation: "Or think ye that the Scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the Spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?" The apostle, accordingly, confirms his representation regarding the antagonism between the love of the world and the love of God by:
1. The tenor of Scripture teaching. The sacred writers with one consent take up an attitude of protest against worldliness. They uniformly assume that "the friendship of the world is enmity with God." They urge the duty of moderation in one's desires, and of contentment with the allotments of Providence. The worldly disposition, which shows itself in covetousness and envy and strife, is opposed both to the letter and the spirit of Holy Scripture. And the moral teaching of God's Word on this subject is not "in vain." The Bible means what it says. In all its utterances it is solemnly earnest.
2. The consciousness of the renewed heart. "Doth the Spirit [i.e. the Holy Spirit] which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?" If the Holy Ghost, speaking in the written Word, condemns the spirit of envy, he does so also in the law which he writes upon the hearts of Christ's people. Some of those to whom this Epistle was addressed had "bitter jealousy and faction in their hearts" (James 3:14): it was seen in their worldly "wars" and "fightings." But the apostle appeals to their consciences to confess whether such a state of mind was not due to their walking "after the flesh' instead of "after the Spirit." They knew well that the power of the Holy Ghost within their souls, in so tar as they yielded themselves to it, produced always very different fruit from that of envy and strife (Galatians 5:19-23; James 3:14-18).
3. The substance of the Divine promises. (Ver. 6.) "Grace" is the name for the influence which the Holy Spirit exerts upon the heart in order to its regeneration and sanctification. And how does grace operate, but just by killing the love of the world within the soul, and breathing into it the love of God? He, by his Spirit, gives to his believing people "more grace," i.e. supplies of grace greater in force and volume than the strength of their depravity, or the temptations against which they have to contend. Not only so, but those who employ well the grace which they already possess, shall receive more in ever-increasing measure (Matthew 25:29). And "the humble," who realize must deeply that they do not deserve any grace at all, are those upon whom God has always bestowed the most copious supplies. The further we depart from pride, which is the fruitful mother of envy and strife, the more freely and abundantly shall we receive that supernatural energy which will drive the love of the world out of our hearts (Proverbs 3:34).
CONCLUSION. Let us impress upon our minds the intensity with which God abhors pride. All history echoes the truth that "he setteth himself in array against the proud." Take the case of Pharaoh, of Nebuchadnezzar, of Haman, of Wolsey, of Napoleon. For ourselves, therefore, let us "fling away ambition" in every form. Especially let us crucify spiritual pride. "Many laboring men have got good estates in the Valley of Humiliation;" and if we go there "in the summer-time" of prosperity we shall learn the song of the shepherd boy -
"He that is down needs fear no fall;
The friendship of the world is enmity with God.I. WHAT WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND BY THE FRIENDSHIP OF THE WORLD.
1. In what sense the word "world" is to be taken(1) "The world" is often put to signify the wicked men of the world, whether unbelievers or believers, of evil and profligate lives (1 Corinthians 11:32).(2) It is sometimes put to signify the vicious actions and customs of the world (Romans 12:2; James 1:27; Titus 2:12; 2 Peter 2:20).(3) It is likewise used to signify the things of the world and the enjoyment of them, viz., the riches, honours, and pleasures of it, and, in one word, ever)thing belonging to it which men are apt to be pleased with (Matthew 16:26; Galatians 6:14). It is this that is chiefly intended here.
2. What degree of friendship with the things of the world is here condemned.(1) When we love them more than we do God, our Saviour, religion, and our souls, or indeed with any degree of nearness or equality to them.(2) When we love them more (though vastly short of God, our Saviour, our souls, our religion, and the spiritual rewards of it, if such a thing could possibly be supposed) than they in themselves really deserve to be beloved, and for other ends and purposes than God has designed them for; when we love them as our own, as bringing mighty delights with them, as being certain, permanent, durable goods.
II. SOME MARKS OR SIGNS BY WHICH WE MAY CERTAINLY KNOW' WHETHER WE ARE SUCH FRIENDS OF THE WORLD AS ST. JAMES CONDEMNS. If, therefore, we find our thoughts and affections chiefly taken up with the things of this world; if the main bent of all our studies and endeavours tends this way; if for the sake of these things we attempt such difficulties, run such hazards, as we would not for the sake of anything else whatsoever, not even for God's and our own soul's sake, venture upon; if our hearts are rather set upon making ourselves or our children rich and great than wise and good; if we suffer ourselves to give way in the cause of God and religion, and let this man's greatness and the other man's wealth, this secular inconvenience and that consideration of worldly gain, keep us from doing our duty or frighten us from opposing wickedness — if this, or anything like this, be our case, there is no room left to dispute what principle we are governed by, but the world, which so plainly shows its authority over us, must have us.
III. FOR WHAT REASONS SUCH A FRIENDSHIP OF THE WORLD MUST NEEDS BE ENMITY WITH GOD.
1. You cannot but see how unreasonable, ill-proportioned, and unjust a love this is. It robs God; prefers the creature to the Creator, shadows to substances, &c. It reflects upon God's honour and disparages His wisdom by perverting the designs of it.
2. You cannot but see how vastly it is below the nature and dignity of man, who was made and is fitted for much nobler enjoyments.
3. You cannot but see how directly contrary and repugnant this is to the very nature and design of the Christian religion; to the example of our blessed Saviour, who declared both in word and deed that He was not of the world; to our own constant professions of being subjects of a kingdom that is not of this world; to the great end of our Lord's coming, which was to save us from this evil world, to chase us out of it, and to make us a peculiar people to Himself, that should not mind earthly things; to His most plain and frequent commands, &c.
4. You cannot but see how plainly this tends to wear away and utterly extirpate all sense and regard of God and religion out of our minds.
(Wm. Dawes, D. D.)1. Worldliness in Christians is spiritual adultery. It dissolves the spiritual marriage between God and the soul. To let the world share with God is an evil, but to prefer the world before God is an impiety.
2. Women have special need to take heed of worldly pleasures and lusts: "You adulterers and adulteresses."
3. To seek the friendship of the world is the ready way to be God's enemy. God and the world are contrary -" tie is all good, and the world lieth in wickedness; and they command contrary things. The world saith, "Slack no opportunity of gain and pleasure; if you will be so peevish as to stand nicely upon conscience, you will do nothing but draw trouble upon yourselves." Now, God saith, "Deny yourself; take up your cross; renounce the world." Well, now, you see the enmity between God and the world.(1) Think of it seriously when you are about to mingle with earthly comforts and delights, and can neglect God for a little carnal conveniency and satisfaction; this is to be an enemy to God, and can I make good my part against Him? He is almighty, and can crush you (Ezekiel 22:14). And He is a terrible enemy "when He whetteth His glittering sword" (Deuteronomy 32:41). Nay, if none of all this were to be feared, the very estrangement from God is punishment enough to itself.(2) Learn how odious worldliness is; it is direct enmity to God, because it is carried on under sly pretences. Of all sins this seemeth most plausible.
(S. S. Roche.)I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN BEING A FRIEND OF THE WORLD. To be a friend of the world, we should be inclined to think, at first view, would be rather estimable than otherwise. Ought not every Christian to be a friend to his fellow-man? Should we not cultivate dispositions of love, benevolence, and kindness towards all? Yes. But to be a friend of the world, in the sense of the text, is totally different from this. It implies —
1. Love. If you love the world, you are, in the sight of God, the friends of the world. Sinners love those who, like themselves, are destitute of the grace of God in the heart.
2. Association. Friends consort together; they are frequently found in each other's company; not merely because duty leads them these, or business calls them, but because inclination draws them towards one another.
3. Conformity. Friends conform to each other. There is a mutual forbearance with each other's inclinations, rules, and customs.
4. Assimilation. Friends resemble each other in the selection of those things most likely to contribute to their comfort and happiness.
II. CONFIRM THE STATEMENT MADE IN THE TEXT: he is the enemy of God.
1. This is an awful fact; and in illustration of it, we remark, that such a man is —(1) An enemy to the law of God. Nothing can more fully prove an individual to be an enemy, than his systematic attempts to set at nought those precepts and injunctions which he is aware that it is his duty as well as his privilege to obey (Romans 12:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:22; Exodus 23:2).(2) An enemy to the grace of God. He refuses to yield to the striving of the Holy Spirit, and strengthens the principles of depravity in his nature, and plunges still deeper into the abyss of sin and guilt.(3) An enemy to the will of God. He is continually endeavouring to accomplish his own gratification in those things which the Judge of all the earth has prohibited.(4) An enemy to the cause of God. By this is meant the work which Jehovah is carrying on throughout the world for the salvation of all mankind; the means which He has adopted, and the plans which He has set forth, for the rescue of immortal souls; thus bringing them from the galling yoke of Satan into the liberty and privileges of the gospel.(5) An enemy to the people of God. It is gratifying to the wicked to throw obstacles in their path to the kingdom of heaven; and, if possible, to turn them altogether out of the way of salvation.
2. What is implied in being an enemy of God.(1) The character is at once dishonourable and disgraceful. Such a person is at variance with all goodness, excellence, and truth; all that angels admire, extol, and love; all that excites joy, triumph, and endless gratitude in the breast of redeemed spirits, who "circle His throne rejoicing."(2) The enemy of God is guilty of the foulest ingratitude. Is not the Lord Jehovah our best friend, constantly loading us with benefits?(3) The enemy of God is miserable. The deepest despair of the lost soul arises from being for ever excluded from God; and though the wicked experience not the anguish of the damned, it is because their probationary state is not yet terminated, and they are still in a world where mercy triumphs, and where vengeance is not speedily executed.
(R. Treffry.)1 John 2:15, 16).
1. "The lust of the flesh"; when our ruling motive in the use of these things is to gratify the appetites and passions of the body, not to supply its necessities, not to keep it in health, and to fit it for its proper work. And not only bodily passions or desires. When we remember how the flesh is opposed to the spirit in the New Testament, we see that the word includes in it very much at least of the evil which St. Paul ascribes to the soul — the strong active desires of our nature so far as they are corrupt.
2. Again; the world in us is partly "the lust of the eye." It may be asked why this one of the bodily senses is singled out for separate mention. And, if the answer is sought in our own self-questionings, the question is wisely asked, and will find its answer more and more constantly. For who can estimate the power of the eye to receive pure and healthy impressions of truth and love, of gentleness and meekness, of self-denying simplicity, and of heaven-born purity?
3. Once more; the world in us is partly "the pride of life" — the pride of this world's existence, as the heart fastens upon outward show of visible and tangible objects, wealth, respect and homage from without, reputation, or whatever else it may be, as far as these exalt oneself above another, and consequently in some sense distinguish and separate men by these outward distinctions. This world-worship may assume an unselfish character. The process may be pushed forward for others, not for ourselves. But still it is a world which no friend of God may love, whether in himself or in another. So St. John's description is realised not only within us, but without us, in the outward world itself. Are there not many objects around us, and many arrangements of things whose very purpose and almost only effect is to foster those sinful propensities; schemes carefully devised for this very end; some in a more refined manner; some more coarsely; the former only the falser for their apparent refinement; the latter repulsive at first sight or embrace, gradually habituating the body and the soul to the very coarseness of their vice? But view these arrangements and fashions of things in their most refined outward form; shed over them the lustre which the most refined art can supply; give them the outline of beauty, the harmony of colour and of sound, sweetness of melody, gracefulness and life of graceful movement, the charm of sympathy in pleasure, and the responsive enjoyment of friendship or of love. And is it to feed any one of these three, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life? Or, in St. James's words, do you ask for them that you may consume them on your own desires? Then what have you done? You have taken fragments of God's beautiful world, elements of His beautiful order; you have misshaped and miscombined them, though in forms beautifully false; you have expelled Him from the work of your own skill and taste; and you have made a world, the friendship of which is ruin to yourself and enmity with Him. But we must go a step further in testing the true and the forbidden use of human art. Let us take the case where the purpose is an intellectual gratification. When form and colour and sound are results of pure and simple intellectual taste, and occasions of pure and simple intellectual enjoyment, is this a world of which we may be friends? The question almost answers itself! If we make a world of art for ourselves, or a world of intelligent thought and speculation, or accept the creation of some other more accomplished than ourselves, is it really a new world? or is it truly and honestly a part of God's world or God's order? Where is His place in it? Is He acknowledged or expelled? Nay, is He, after all, the centre and life of that world? Do all its parts and all its subordinate order point directly and tend to Him? I do not ask if we are at every moment consciously realising His presence in it. But does it tend to bring us to Him, and to reveal Him to us? This right tendency may be more or less direct or indirect. But it must exist, it must be an essential element, in true intellectual exercise. But what of the more common enjoyment of natural beauty, enjoyment which is open even to uninstructed and uncultivated minds? Here, too, is the same distinction. Men speak of looking up from nature to nature's God. It may be a true expression: it may be only a mask. The passive enjoyment of natural beauty is not looking up to God at all: it is personal gratification, perhaps of the body, perhaps of the soul. This passive enjoyment, when rightly used and controlled and directed, may be the first step of a real ascent from nature to nature's God. But who and what is the God to whom we thus ascend? Is He infinite greatness, and skill immeasurable by us, acting in ways so various and so beautiful that we are lost in the contemplation? Is He untold goodness whose love to His creatures shine through every one of the natural beauties which we admire and love? And is this all? I fear our friendship of this world is enmity with God. The blind sense of immeasurable greatness leads only to idolatry, to worship of visible or invisible creatures, or of the thoughts of our own hearts. The blind sense of untold goodness takes away the thought of sin, the consciousness of warfare against God, and wraps us up in weak and godless sentiment. Our God in such case is at the very best some ancient Father of gods and men, or some Hindoo abstraction of the Supreme; or even, perhaps, the deification of some form of natural beauty, or some image of our own hearts. It may seem that we have dwelt too much on the negative side of this great Christian principle. But, surely, the direct positive principle has not been wanting. Our safety is this. "The Word of God abideth in us." That Word of God is Jesus Christ Himself; Jesus Christ revealing Himself, revealing the Father, working by His Spirit. Enthrone Him in your heart. Present yourself to Him a Jiving sacrifice, body, soul, and spirit, and you are safe. For you will find Him everywhere, in the world without, in the world within. Friendship and love, art and science and nature, all will discover Him when once you have found Him in yourself, and will bind you to Him more and more closely. And He will shed upon them the pure and gentle light of His own love, which will save you from the false friendship of the world, will cheer you under all its disappointments and deceits, and lead you through this world to another world, where all objects of Jove and friendship are pure as tie is pure, and Himself is visibly enthroned above them all.
(J. F. Fenn, M. A.)I. THE WORLD, THE FRIENDSHIP OF WHICH IS COURTED BY TREACHEROUS AND LUKEWARM CHRISTIANS.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THAT UNSANCTIFIED FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD WHICH IS CONDEMNED IN THE TEXT MANIFESTS ITSELF. And here we must guard, both on the right hand and on the left. To keep ourselves "unspotted from the world" we are not to go out of the world. Let it be also understood that this friendship with the world is not to be avoided by surliness of manners; not by indifference to the good opinion of the world itself. We are to "please all men"; only we are to remember to do it "for their good to edification." The culpable courting of the world's friendship here condemned manifests itself —
1. In being unwilling to encounter reproach and difficulty for Christ's sake.
2. In hiding our opinions, and suffering men to go on in error and spiritual danger, that we may keep up their society.
3. In preferring some interest, some honour, to adherence to conscience.
4. In such obsequiousness to the world's maxims and principles as to lead to at least doubtful compliances,
III. THE AGGRAVATION OF THE CRIME CHARGED. Here these friendships with the world which betray Christ are marked by two opprobrious characters.
1. Spiritual adultery. This implies abnegation of God.
2. Enmity to God. The Bible becomes dull; prayer becomes irksome; and final apostasy is often the sad consequence of worldly compliances.
IV. THAT MOST EXCELLENT WAY WHICH THE APOSTLE'S DENUNCIATION SUGGESTS. He would have us decide. The benefits of decision are numerous and great.
1. It is ordinarily attended with less difficulty than a vacillating and hesitating habit.
2. It is a noble object to aspire to fidelity to God.
3. There is an interesting reciprocation. If we are God's people, He is our God; and we have everything to expect from Him.
4. The real pleasure which decision opens are many and great. The conscience is at rest; we have unbounded confidence towards God; and the unclouded prospect of heaven is opened before us.
5. The comforting sense of acting according to our real circumstances as responsible dying men, men who are to be judged.
(R. Watson.)1. In the repugnancy of their natures. God is by His nature, pure, holy, undefiled, without contagion of sin, and without permission of any evil; but the world is altogether wicked, defiled with sin, full of all contagion, and deadly poison of iniquity.
2. As their natures are contrary, so are their precepts contrary. God commandeth mercy, liberality, pity, compassion; the world persuadeth cruelty, covetousness, hardness of heart, violence. God commandeth holiness to be fruitful in all good works, to His glory, and to increase therein to ripeness, and a full measure in Jesus Christ. But the world moveth us to filthy conversation, to defile ourselves with carnal lusts and all ungodliness.
3. As their precepts are contrary, so are the qualities of them which love the one and the other contrary. The lovers of God must be led by the Spirit of God, and bring forth the fruits thereof, as love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, but the servants and lovers of the world are possessed with cruelty, mercilessness, wrath. The lovers of God are pure, unrebukable, blameless before Him in love, serving Him in spirit and in truth, but the servants of the world are corrupt, deceitful from the womb, defiled with sin, flattering God with their mouth, and dissembling with Him in their double tongue.
4. Finally, the very love itself is in quality contrary. For the love of God is pure, chaste, holy. spiritual, but the love of the world is impure, unclean, profane, and sensual; wherefore no man can love God and the world.
New Cyclopaedia of Illustrations.A weeping-willow stood by the side of a pond, and, in the direction of that pond, it hung out its pensive-looking branches. An attempt was made to give a different direction to these branches. The attempt was useless: where the water lay, thither the boughs would turn. However, an expedient presented itself. A large pond was dug on the other side of the tree; and, as soon as the greater quantity of water was found there, the tree, of its own accord, bent its branches in that direction. What a clear illustration of the laws which govern the human heart! It turns to the water — the poisoned waters of sin perhaps, but the only streams with which it is acquainted.
(New Cyclopaedia of Illustrations.)
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