Page images
PDF
EPUB

of James.

(No. VI.) SUBJECT: Divine Legislation for Man in a World of Evil.

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore, lay apart all filthiness, and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”-Jas. i. 19—21. INCE (as we have seen) God is so far from being the

author of evil, that He is working everniore for its destruction in man, “by the word of truth”-the Gospel—the practical inference of James is, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be,” &c. Here is Divine legislation for sinful man in a sinful world. Unlike the laws of men, this commandment is so exceeding broad as to comprehend all the susceptibilities and faculties of human nature.

Thus we have here

[ocr errors]

I. LEGISLATION FOR THE EAR.

"Be swift to hear.” The ear is one of the chief, if not the chief of the receptive organs

of the soul. This organ receives both good and evil. Of course the apostle does not mean “be swift to hear” the bad. Alas ! the human ear is fearfully keen, as was that of Eve long' ago, to evil sounds. It has a greed for the unchaste, the slanderous, the erroneous. The duty here enjoined is a readiness to listen to the

pure,

the
generous,
the true,"

L“ the word of truth.” Teachableness is the state of mind required. This includes (1.) Freedom from prejudice. Prejudice stops the ear, as in the case of Stephen's murderers. (2.) Eagerness to learn. The cry should be that of young Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.”

II. LEGISLATION FOR THE TONGUE. " Be slow to speak.” Neander says there is such a thing as self-willed silence, but, as self-willed loquacity was the fault of the Church at the

а

time, against that James now writes. Evidently he does not mean (1.) Unsocial taciturnity. What is sulky and cynical speechlessness, but dumb devil ?" Nor does James mean (2.) A drawling utterance. This is the speech of a lazy soul, whose monotonous sounds are somnific. The slowness of speech the apostle enjoins is that of Cautiousness. We should be cautious (a) Because we are in danger of speaking the wrong thing. Angels and all sinless beings may speak involuntarily, because the unwise, the unkind, the untrue, is not in them. But our speech is the channel of streams from a fountain more or less polluted. (B) Because we are in danger of speaking at the wrong time. There are appropriate seasons even for the utterance of the true in this world. Jesus often manifested a Divine reserve.

66 There is a time to speak."

III. LEGISLATION FOR THE TEMPER. « Slow to wrath." The word used here, ópynv, indicates an abiding, settled habit of the mind, with the purpose of revenge. In this injunctio there is one thing implied, and another thing expressed. The thing implied is, That men in this world of evil are in danger of being provoked to wrath. There is a great deal here to irritate, to awaken indignation, and to throw the soul off its balance. Even meek Moses lost his temper, and Pau called the high priest “ thou whited wall.” The thing expressed is, That wrath in no case tends to excellence of character. “The righteousness of God," here means the righteousness of character God requires. Passion never produces piety.

IV. LEGISLATION FOR THE LIFE. “Lay apart all filthiness," &c. Here is the summing up of all. It insists upon (1.) Renunciation of all evil. The expression here, “superfluity of naughtiness," must not, of course, be understood as meaning that there is a certain malice, kakía, that is not superfluous, and need not be laid apart; but rather that all evil is superfluous, and must be renounced. (2.) Appropria tion of good. “Receive with meekness," &c. (a) The thing

received, "ingrafted word," &c. There is here implied about the Gospel, Its essential vitality. A dead thing cannot be ingrafted, Its fitness to human nature. What the stock is to the graft, the human soul is to the Gospel. (B) The manner of receiving it. 6 With meekness.” Manton well says, “there must be incision before insertion, meekness before ingrafting. (y) The reason for receiving it. “Able to save your souls.” The Gospel is able to save your souls. Its great theme is an Almighty Saviour.

(No. VII.) SUBJECT : The Word of Words. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass : for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”—Jas. i. 22-25.

The apostle has shown in an earlier portion of this chapter that God is restoring men to holiness by“ the word of truth”the Gospel, and then having enjoined upon those to whom he writes this epistle, rightfully to receive that Gospel, he proceeds in our text to show what is the effect of the word” upon the two great classes of those who have to do with it. Thus there is noticed in this injunction,

I. “THE WORD" AS MERELY HEARD. He entreats men not to be “ hearers only.” They are to avoid this because of two consequences which result whenever the word is merely heard. (1.) It is only superficially known. The Divine commands must be translated into human conduct before they are rightly understood and appreciated. They are for the life, and the life alone can interpret them. “ He that doeth the will knoweth the doctrine.” (2.) It leaves men in self-ignorance. It is true of the whole Gospel, as it was of the life of Jesus, that by it “the thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed.” With it we see both our likeness and unlikeness to God. But

this revelation of ourselves is never realised by merely hearing the truth. Just as the man who looks in the mirror once for all (for that is the meaning of the tense here, katevónoe), and thinks no more of it, but is immediately gone, will forget the appearance of his physical face, so the mere hearer of the word will rapidly forget whatever of his moral image he may in a passing moment have seen. Self-knowledge is dependent on obedience. Professor Plumptre on this text remarks : “Each single act of disobedience, each sin wilfully committed, each preference of the law of the flesh to the law of God, of the judgment of men before His judgment, weakens our power to discern what we are, and what He wishes us to be.”

II. “THE WORD" RIGHTLY PRACTISED. When men are true doers of “ the word.” (1.) It is thoroughly investigated. The obedient hearer is spoken of by James as one who looketh into.The word tapakúčas, thus translated, is that employed to describe the stooping down of the disciples to look into Christ's sepulchre, and also the narrow search which the angels desire to use to discover the mysteries of salvation. It evi. dently signifies that the practical hearer closely inquires into “the word.” He looks into it (a) to learn to obey it, and then, having obeyed, he loves it, (B) and looks into it because he loves. it. “O how I love thy law," &c. (2.) It confers the highest Blessing. “Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein,” &c. From this sentence of Scripture we are taught that the Gospel (a) imparts complete liberty. It is the “perfect law of liberty,” that is, the liberating law emancipating from the power and the guilt of sin. “I shall walk at liberty, for I seek thy precepts.” (B) It ensures constant happi

“The word,” when rightly practised, does not merely tell of a heaven of future blessedness, as the result of virtuous deeds, but makes the obedient man "blessed in his deed”— happy in his daily doings.

While the whole of this epistle is perhaps the distinctest echo of the Sermon on the Mount that

any

of the apostolic teachings afford, this utterance of James about hearers and

ness.

doers of the word has a specially marvellous resemblance to the closing tones of that Sermon, “Whoso heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them," &c. Bristol.

U. R. THOMAS.

Germs of Tbongbt.

SUBJECT: Daily Dying.

“I die daily."-1 Cor. xv. 31. Analysis of Homily the Seven Hundred and Fifty-First. N all the writings of the world there is nothing in doctrine,

argument, style, influence, surpassing this chapter. It shines as the brightest orb in ali literature- an orb that sends its radiance into the grave, and reveals a glorious future for redeemed humanity. Millions of mourners, in committing their loved ones to the tomb, have felt the consolatory influence of this priceless section of apostolic writing. It has hushed the sigh, dried the tear, dispelled the gloom, and lifted the spirits of the bereaved to worlds over which death has no power. Were these verses but the creations of fancy or the dreams of fanaticism, I scarcely know that I should be disposed to give them up as worthless. The whole is so grateful to our hearts, so enrapturing to our hopes, so consolatory in sorrow, so uplifting in depression, that its erasure from sacred literature would be an incalculable loss.

As the HOMILIST has discussed at various times different portions of this chapter,* we will confine our attention to the short sentence now read—“I die daily.Though Paul used these words to express the perils to which he was daily exposed as the apostle of a faith so directly at war with the prejudices, the superstitions, the philosophies, the institutions, the habits and spirit of his age, as to rouse the spirit of bitter hostility against him wherever he went, there is a sense in which the words have a universal application.

* See, for example, vol. vii., third series, pp. 278 and 279.

« PreviousContinue »