Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.Jam 1:3
It sometimes seems a little strange how, after having earnestly prayed to be delivered from temptation, and having given ourselves with shut eyes into God's hand, from that time every thought, every outward influence, every acknowledged law of life, seems to lead us on from strength to strength.
—Mrs. Gaskell, in Ruth (ch. XXIII.).
Never expect thy flesh should truly expound the meaning of the rod. It will call love, hatred; and say, God is destroying, when He is saving. It is the suffering party, and therefore not fit to be the judge.
—Baxter, Saints' Rest (ch. x.).
If the passion have ended, not in a marriage but in a disappointment, the nature, if it have strength to bear the pressure, will be more ennobled and purified by that than by success. Of the uses of adversity which are sweet, none are sweeter than those which grow out of disappointed love; nor is there any greater mistake in contemplating the issues of life, than to suppose that baffled endeavours and disappointed hopes bear no fruits, because they do not bear those particular fruits which were sought and sighed for.
—Sir Henry Taylor, Notes on Life, pp. 76, 77.
Reference.—I. 3.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. i. p. 122.
A great man is always willing to be little. When he sits on the cushion of advantages, he goes to sleep. When he is pushed, tormented, dejected, he has a chance to learn something.... In general, every evil to which we do not succumb is a benefactor. As the Sandwich Islander believes that the strength and valour of the enemy he kills passes into himself, so we gain the strength of the temptation we resist.
—Emerson, on Compensation.
'In my younger years,' said Richard Baxter, 'my trouble for sin was most about my actual failings in thought, word, or action. But now I am much more troubled for inward defects, and omission or want of the vital duties or graces of the soul. Had I all the riches of the world, how gladly would I give them for a fuller knowledge, belief, and love of God and everlasting glory! These wants are the greatest burden of my life.'
References.—I. 4.—W. F. Shaw, Sermon Sketches for the Christian Year, p. 103. T. Sadler, Sunday Thoughts, p. 273. J. M. Neale, Readings for the Aged (4th Series), p. 111. Ibid. Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 355. H. D. Rawnsley, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xv. p. 1104. Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 35. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—James, p. 351.
St. Philip and St. James
This is one of the many beautifully-practical thoughts which so fill and characterise St. James, whose festival, together with that of St. Philip, we celebrate today.
I. What is Wisdom?—'Wisdom' is not knowledge, though it involves knowledge, for the most learned persons are often the least wise. 'Wisdom' is the right use of knowledge. Or take it thus. 'Wisdom' is that union of the heart and head when right affections guide the exercise of talent Or, 'wisdom' is power to balance materials of good thought. It is the ability to direct intelligently and usefully the words we speak or the acts we do. Or, a step higher still, 'wisdom' is the reflection of the mind of God. Christ is the reflection of the mind of God. Therefore Christ is 'wisdom'. And the most Christlike is the most wise. If you wish to understand 'wisdom,' study Christ.
II. The Quilt of Foolishness.—The memory of most of us need go very little way back to show the necessity for this understanding of God. What a very humbling thing it is to look back and think—I do not now say how sinfully—but how very foolishly we have again and again spoken and acted. And is foolishness much less than sin? Is foolishness not sin? Is it not the 'idle word' for which we shall 'give account'? Was it not the 'fool' who said in his heart, 'There is no God'? and the 'fool' who said to his soul, 'Soul, thou hast much goods'? Was not it the 'foolish man' that 'built upon the sand'? And were not the 'foolish virgins' the virgins lost? If 'wisdom' were not a thing covenanted, then might a man not be responsible for being unwise. But now that God has promised to 'give wisdom' to every one who 'asks' for it, it is no longer venial to be foolish. The silly word you say, and the foolish act you do, is left guilty, and without excuse.
III. Asking for Wisdom.—To obtain 'wisdom,' the first thing you have to do is to recognise it to be a gift. 'Wisdom' seems to be such a natural development of mind that we cannot easily get rid of the idea that if we only think enough—think long enough, and think deeply enough we shall think ourselves into wisdom. But to the 'wisdom' such as God gave Joseph in the sight of Pharaoh—that 'wisdom' of which some asked, 'Whence hath this man wisdom'?—the wisdom 'which is first pure'—the 'wisdom' no science, no self-discipline, no effort will secure—the road is prayer, only prayer, communion with the Unseen.
'Doctor,' said the invalid again, 'will you read me just four verses in the Bible?' 'Why, yes, my boy, as many as you wish to hear.' 'No, only four.' His free hand moved for the book that lay on the bed, and presently the Doctor read: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, Who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 'There,' whispered the sick man, and rested with a peaceful look in all his face. 'It—doesn't mean wisdom in general, Doctor—such as Solomon asked for?' 'Doesn't it?' said the other meekly. 'No, it means the wisdom necessary to let—patience—have her perf—I was a long time—getting anywhere near that!'
—G. W. Cable, Dr. Sevier, pp. 450, 451.
When Thomas Scott determined, for conscientious reasons, to give up his ministry in the English Church, he describes (Force of Truth, ch. II.) how he set about an inquiry into the scriptural basis of the Articles. 'And the first passage, I remember, which made me suspect that I might be wrong,' in refusing to examine them thus, 'was Jam 1:5, "If any of ye lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him". On considering these words with some attention, I became conscious that, though I had thought myself wise, yet assuredly I had obtained none of my wisdom in this manner; for I had never offered one prayer to that effect during the whole course of my life.'
The Aryan nations, before their separation, cherished a belief in a hero or god to whom they owed all their comforts in life: it was he that made the sun shine and the dawn keep her time; and it was to him they looked for the weather they wanted. The first breeds of animals useful to man, whether domestic or wild, were believed to have been obtained by him through craft or violence from the jealous powers who wished to keep them from the human race.... The habit of imagining both gods and demons to be jealous of the human race is familiar to all in the literature of various ancient nations.
—Rhys, Celtic Heathenism, p. 302.
References.—I. 5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No. 735. F. B. Cowl, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 237. J. Learmount, British Congregationalist, 4th July, 1907, p. 18. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 263. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—James, p. 360. I. 5, 6.—J. Keble, Sermons for Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 321. I. 6, 7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2537.
The Vacillations of Faith
In the writings of the Apostle Paul, as well as in the sayings of our Lord Himself, we are reminded of the fact that the faith which achieves great things and uplifts the devout life to the highest excellence set before it, must be an established principle of the soul, and not a passing mood only.
I. The faith that is evanescent is an affectation, and can no more pass as a just constituent of fruitful worship and service than any other kind of vamped-up sentiment. The complete sincerity of faith is proved by its imperturbable persistence. Faith means the deepest thought we have of God; and when that thought swings from side to side like the pendulum, one moment viewing God as true, benign, compassionate, covenant-keeping, and the next letting Him pass out of sight or viewing Him in more or less contradictory aspects, God is not thought of according to His due.
II. The faith that is only momentary cannot satisfy the heart of the Eternal. The life of some winged insects is said to be measured by the hour only, and, unlike bees and ants, they have no need to lay up food supplies which will last through long wintry months. God does not belong to an order of beings whose requirements can be met by what is transient and volatile, and it is impossible to satisfy His mighty insistency by a mood of faith unstable as the morning dew.
III. The blessings we seek in believing supplication are permanent in their duration, and faith is the condition of their tenure as well as of their first attainment. 'For by faith ye stand.' The double-minded man who never knows himself, who has never found out his own equation in spiritual things, who drifts before moods as gaily as the nautilus spreads its painted sails to the winds, who believes when genial influences combine to make it easy so to do, and morbidly disbelieves at the first temptation which comes to test his faith, is a failure as a suppliant and touches the lowest depths of vanity and frustration when he bends the knee in vacuous prayer.
IV. If we would cherish into an established habit the faith that seeks to spring up and possess our souls, we must never wantonly expose ourselves to influences hostile to faith. And, above all, we must draw near to God in the ways appointed for building up faith.
V. If our prayers are to be marked by unswerving and triumphant confidence, strong qualities must go to the making of our faith, qualities which will stand the strain of waiting and the rebuffs which meet us when we have gone forth to await the fulfilment of our desires. (1) Such an attribute is conscience, less mutable by far than other parts of man's being. God's breath is in it, and the breath of One in whom there is no variation, neither shadow cast by turning, protects this faculty from the weaknesses of its kindred faculties. (2) And in the best sense of the word reason must also enter into our faith if it is to escape the reproach of fitfulness. (3) And then when the conscience and the judgment are assured concerning the great hearer of prayer and the fitness of the things for which we ask, we must put into our prayers that power of will which is one of the most distinctive attributes of our being, and thus will the undivided and coherent man be made to pray.
References.—I. 6-8.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 32.
Dr. Marcus Dods wrote at the age of twenty-nine to his friend the Rev. S. R. Macphail: 'Be persuaded that God will deliver you from sin, wait on Him, do not sink, do not scoff, do not suffer a shadow of doubt about it. I do not obey my own voice, but yet my past years say, if there is one verse of the Bible that is true it is about the waverer, "Let not that man think that he will receive anything from the Lord". Is it not, Simeon, the turning-point with us all when we can give God His place, believe in Him wholly. Early Letters, p. 323.
In all religious processions through the city the heralds went first to bid the people cease their work and attend to the ceremony; for just as the Pythagoreans are said to forbid the worship of the gods in a cursory manner, and to insist that men shall set out from their homes with this purpose and none other in their minds, so Numa thought it wrong that the citizens should see or hear any religious ceremony in a careless, halfhearted manner, and made them cease from all worldly cares and attend with all their hearts to the most important of all duties, religion; so he cleared the streets of all the hammering and cries and noises which attend the practice of ordinary trades and handicrafts, before any holy ceremony.
—Plutarch, Life of Numa (XIV.).
Reference.—I. 9, 10.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 195.
Would it not be wiser for people to rejoice at all that they now sorrow for, and vice versa? To put on bridal garments at funerals, and mourning at weddings? For their friends to condole with them when they attained riches and honour, as only so much care added?
Adversity had been so far his friend that it had taken from him all hope of the social success for which people crawl and truckle, and restored him, through failure and doubt and heartache, the manhood which his prosperity had so nearly stolen from him.
—W. D. Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham (XXVII.).
Life will be dearer and clearer in anguish,
Than ever was felt in the throbs of delight.
References.—I. 10, 11.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 264. I. 11.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. x. p. 445.
The Blessedness of Enduring Temptation
The text does not mean that we ought to be glad if temptation comes, nor that temptation is a blessed thing in itself; but that the Christian is blessed who endures it, and who comes out of it approved and strengthened.
I. Let us try to discover the meaning of 'temptation' spoken of here. The English word has become so associated with the idea of incitement to evil that it does not fully express what is meant, nor even express it correctly. True, a 'trial' or 'trouble' is sometimes also a 'temptation' in that sense, as we know too well. But no trouble is ever sent by God with the intention of inciting to sin. Perhaps some paraphrase such as this may help us: 'Blessed is the man that endureth the test which comes through God—sent troubles, for when he has passed through the testing time, and been approved, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.' Trials do for us what stormy winds do in nature, for both fulfil God's word and carry out His design.
II. Now the variety of our capacities requires variety in the means used to test and develop them. Hence, in the second verse, we read of 'divers' temptations. (1) Trial often comes through prosperity and comfort. For example, those about you may be singularly gentle and yielding. Now this has been one of God's tests to you, though you have never recognised it. How far have you been considerate, trying to find out the wishes which will not be openly expressed? (2) On the other hand, if those about you are cold and irresponsive; if they never reward you with a smile or a word of thanks, do what you may for them; if your quiet acts of self-sacrifice are not so much as noticed, if your love is met by indifference, or even by unkindness, God is testing you by this.
III. What, then, are some of the purposes wrapped up in God's design? His main purpose, according to this chapter, is to strengthen, to test, and to develop faith by its exercise; because faith is the root-virtue from which patience and courage spring. Blessed is the man that endureth the temptation of struggle and effort, for he shall receive the crown of life.
IV. The promise referred to here was given by the Lord Jesus Himself, who, in His personal experience, knew the hardness of our conflict and the painfulness of our sufferings; and it involves the assurance that He Himself is watching over us, measuring our strength, proportioning our trials and duties to the powers of endurance, innate and inspired, so that He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able.
—A. Rowland, Open Windows and other Sermons, p. 48
References.—I. 12.—W. Wynn, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 102. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1874. T. F. Crosse, Sermons (2nd Series), p. 213. Brooke Herford, Courage and Cheer, p. 217. R. W. Church, Village Sermons (3rd Series), p. 223. C. Bosanquet, Blossoms from the King's Garden, p. 111. W. L. Watkinson, The Supreme Conquest, p. 142. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 443; ibid. vol. ix. p. 4. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—James, p. 868. I. 12-18.—R. W. Dale, The Epistle of James, p. 22.
This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune,—often the surfeit of our own behaviour,—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a Divine thrusting on.
—Shakespeare, King Lear (Act i. Sc. 2).
Compare the conversation between Socrates and Adeimantos in Plato's Republic (379, 13):—'Then that which is good is not the cause of all things, but only of what is as it should be, being guiltless of originating evil.'
'If that be so, then God, inasmuch as He is good, cannot be the cause of all things, according to the common doctrine. On the contrary, He is the author of only a small part of human affairs; of the larger part He is not the author: for all evil things far outnumber all good things: and the good things we must ascribe to no other than God, while we must seek elsewhere, and not in Him, the causes of the evil things.'
References.—1.13.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 323. I. 13-15.—G. W. Brameld, Practical Sermons, p. 69. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iv. p. 42.
Oh the hourly dangers that we here walk in! Every sense and member is a snare; every creature, every mercy, and every duty is a snare to us. We can scarcely open our eyes, but we are in danger of envying those above us, or despising those below us; of coveting the honours and riches of some, or beholding the rags and beggary of others with pride and un-mercifulness. If we see beauty, it is a bait to lust; if deformity, to loathing and disdain.
How soon do slanderous reports, vain jests, wanton speeches, creep into the heart! How constant and strong a watch does our appetite require! Have we comeliness and beauty? What fuel for pride! Are we deformed? What an occasion of repining! Have we strength of reason, and gifts of learning? Oh how prone to be puffed up, to hunt after applause, and despise our brethren. Are we unlearned? How apt we are to despise what we have not! Are we in places of authority? How strong is the temptation to abuse our trust, make our will law, and cut out all the enjoyments of others, by the rules and model of our own interest and policy! Are we inferiors? How prone to grudge at others' preeminence, and bring their actions to the bar of our judgment! Are we rich and not too much exalted? Are we poor and not discontented? Are we not lazy in our duties, or make a Christ of them? Not that God hath made all these things our snares, but through our own corruption they become so to us. Ourselves are the greatest snare to ourselves.
—Baxter, Saints' Rest, pp. 60, 61.
'There is a popular belief respecting evil spirits,' says Scott in a note to the fifteenth chapter of The Abbot, 'that they cannot enter an inhabited house unless invited, nay, dragged over the threshold.'
'Temptation is a cause of possible sin,' says Ritschl, 'originating in an impulse, the satisfaction of which appears on first thoughts to be in itself legitimate.... It is, therefore, a signal mistake to refer the well-known saying of James, as is generally done, to evil and desire. Christ also was exposed to temptation, simply because temptation is always bound up with an inclination which is at the outset morally legitimate or permissible. For no man of moral worth will find a temptation in a situation in which he from the first recognises Satan.'
References.—I. 16, 17.—J. H. Jowett, The Examiner, 7th June, 1906, p. 558.
God As the Eternal Giver (a Sermon to Oxford Undergraduates)
I. What is the description, the character, of God, as depicted in the Bible? What should we have to take as the title of the Bible if it was a story for which we were asked to find a title? I say there is only one title we could select, and it would be: 'God as the Eternal Giver'. Open the Bible, and begin with the book of Genesis. We cannot stop to go into it, but there, in picture form, it describes the Eternal Giver giving gifts to mankind—sunshine, air, the gift of life; and
How good is man's life, the mere living
How fit to employ
All the heart, and the soul, and the senses
For ever in joy.
He gives further the gift of love, the love of man for woman, and woman for man, and parents for children, and children for parents. All that is described in the opening chapters. Then comes the second part, which comprises all the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. And what is that? The gift of the Eternal Son—nothing short of that. And we ask you—we who are in the middle of the battle—to hold fast down here to the true Christian religion, and not to barter it away for any religion which merely speaks of a good man named Jesus Christ Who once lived on earth. The Christian religion as prophesied in the Old Testament, and depicted in the New, is the giving of the Eternal Son of God and nothing else. It is prophesied all through the Old Testament, and then described in the simplest and most touching language at the beginning of the New Testament.
Is that all? Have we now got to the end of the giving of God? Not at all. 'It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away the Comforter will not come; but if I depart I will send Him to you.' Prophesied all through the latter part of the Gospel, and described at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, is the third giving, the giving of the Eternal Spirit. With tongues of fire and a rushing mighty wind the great doors of heaven open again and down comes the third great gift of God, the Eternal Spirit, which He has given to the end of time.
II. But is He—that brings us to the second question—is He the same God today? Have we this Eternal Giver to turn to? A moment's reflection will show you that every one of those gifts which is described as given in the Bible, He gives perpetually.
III. Now come one more stage with me. It is impossible to describe to you what this third proposition means to many of us. We have still got our imagination to deal with—our imagination which tells us that this is too good to be true. Is it impossible to believe that the great God is like this? Do you remember that splendid saying of David's when he looked on Saul lying there in his melancholy madness and felt a Divine desire to help him come into his heart, and he says, 'Would I suffer for him whom I love? so wouldst thou; so wilt thou?' There has never been any answer to that. A little lad at Euston was filling all those thousands of men in the station with admiration, because, without thinking of what he did, or thinking anything of it, he threw himself forward to pick up two children off the line as an express came rushing in, and though the train actually touched him, he pulled the children out of the way as a matter of course. If a lad would do that, and God would not do it, then the little lad is greater than God. But the creature cannot surpass the Creator. If there is a God at all He must be capable of self-sacrifice. The Eternal Giver described in the Bible must be loving and working today. The more you think of it, the more you are convinced that the Bible description must be true, and that this is the God that you and I are asked to serve and love and worship for ever and ever.
IV. And if this is so, what is the difference it makes to our lives? (1) The first difference is this: if we really believe it we are bound to do something which we find very often the hardest thing to do. We must love God. That is the difficulty of religion. And if we love God it changes life. The weariness will vanish from religion; it will become a labour of love.
(2) And secondly, how can we tread under foot His gifts, if we believe He gives us them Himself. Put on the shoes of service.
(3) And thirdly, what a difference it makes to our prayers. I believe many of us even now have no idea what prayer is. Prayer is not trying to change the will of God to suit our whims. We may be quite sure that the Eternal Giver is much more anxious than you or I are for our highest interests. He always wants to give us the best. Every morning His hands are full of hope and love and wisdom for us. But by prayer we enable Him to give us what He wants to give us, and which He cannot do for a cold, apathetic, sluggish nature that does not want to improve. Therefore prayer is a most delightful cooperation with God in which two friends, as it were, work together for a common object. And intercession is like unto it.
(4) And, lastly, ought there not to be, if this picture of the Eternal Giver is true, a great deal more likeness in the faces and characters of the sons of the Eternal Giver to their Father. You know how fathers and mothers love to see their likeness in their children. Well, now, I fully believe that the reason that Christianity progresses so slowly, that we are not more impressive to the world, and able to make a far quicker impression, is that the sons of the Eternal Giver are so unlike their Father. That is what Christ prayed for in His great prayer, that we were to be one, that the world might believe that the Father sent Him. The world does not believe at all fully yet in that, and that is because the sons of the Eternal Giver do not give themselves away with the generosity that is to be expected of those that believe in the Bible story.
—A. F. Winnington-Ingram (Bishop of London), Church Times, 28th October, 1910.
In optics, if you make a hole in the shutter at noon, or stick a square bit of blackness on the pane, and make the rays from the hole or around the square to pass through a prism, then we have, if we let them fall on whiteness or catch them right, those colours we all know and rejoice in, that Divine spectrum.... The white light of heaven—lumen siccum—opens itself out, as it were, tells its secret, and lies like a glorious border on the Edge o' Dark (as imaginative Lancashire calls the twilight, as we Scotchmen call it, the gloamin'), making the boundaries between light and darkness a border of flowers, made out by each. Is there not something to think of in 'The Father of lights,' thus beautifying the limits of His light and of His darkness, which to Him alone is light, so that here burns a sort of 'dim, religious light'—a sacred glory, where we may take off our shoes and rest and worship?
—Dr. John Brown, In Clear Dream and Solemn Vision.
God is a Being of perfect simplicity and truth, both in deed and word, and neither changes in Himself nor imposes upon others, either by apparitions, or by words, or by sending signs, whether in dreams or in waking moments.
—Plato's Republic (382).
'If I only knew that God was as good as that woman, 1 should be content.' 'Then you don't believe that God is good?' 'I didn't say that, my boy. But to know that God was good and kind and fair—heartily, I mean, and not halfways with if's and but's—my boy, there would be nothing left to be miserable about.'
—George Macdonald, Robert Falconer.
Speaking of the spirit of the age, in his essay on Dr. Marshall, Dr. John Brown, in Horae Subsecivae, notes how 'this great social element, viewless, impalpable, inevitable, untameable as the wind, is—like the great laws of nature—of which indeed it is one—for ever at its work; and like its Divine author and guide, goes about continually doing good.... This is that tide in the affairs of men—a Deo, ad Deum—that onward movement of the race in knowledge, in power, in work, and in happiness, which has gladdened and cheered all who believe, and who, through long ages of gloom and misery and havoc, have still believed that truth is strong, next to the Almighty.... It is a tide that has never turned; unlike the poet's, it answers the behest of no waning and waxing orb, it follows the eve of Him who is without variableness or the shadow of turning.
Thou hadst not to do with an unconstant creature, but with Him 'with whom is no variableness, nor shadow of turning'. His love to thee will not be as thine was on earth to Him, seldom, and cold, up and down.
—Baxter, Saints' Rest (ch. I.).
References.—I. 17.—A. C. Turberville, The Pulpit, vol. i. p. 6. R. C. Trench, Sermons New and Old, p. 16.3. R. Flint, Sermons and Addresses, p. 28. F. St. John Corbett, The Preacher's Year, p. 88. C. Kingsley, The Good News of God, p. 229. Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 39. 1.18.—J. H. Snowdon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 292. J. Keble, Sermons for the Saints' Days, p. 224. T. Binney, Kings' Weigh-House Chapel Sermons, p. 206. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. i. p. 124. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 183. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—James, p. 376. I. 18-21.—Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 22.
The new moral birth is sacred—as sacred as the child within the mother's womb—it is a kind of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost to conceal it. And when I use the word "moral" here—or anywhere above—I do not, I hope, mean that dull pinch-lipped conventionality of negation which often goes under that name. The deep-lying ineradicable desires, fountains of human action, the lifelong asp rations, the lightning-like revelations of right and justice, the treasured hidden ideal, borne in flame and darkness, in joy and in sorrow, in tears and in triumph, within the heart—these are, as a rule, anything but conventional.
—Edward Carpenter, England's Ideal, p. 73
Speaking of the discipline of self-restraint and the stoical repression of feelings in Japan, Dr. Nitobé, in his volume on Bushido (pp. 106f.), observes that in Japan 'when a man or woman feels his or her soul stirred, the first instinct is quietly to suppress the manifestation of it. In rare instances is the tongue set free by an irresistible spirit, when we have eloquence of sincerity and fervour. It is putting a premium on a breach of the third commandment to encourage speaking lightly of spiritual experiences. It is truly jarring to Japanese ears to hear the most sacred words, the most secret heart experiences, thrown out in promiscuous audiences. "Dost thou feel the soil of thy soul stirred with tender thoughts? It is time for seeds to sprout. Disturb it not with speech; but let it work alone in quietness and secrecy"—writes a young Samurai in his diary.
'To give in so many articulate words one's inmost thoughts and feelings—notably the religious—is taken among us as an unmistakable sign that they are neither very profound nor very sincere. "Only a pomegranate is he"—so runs a popular saying—"who, when he gapes his mouth, displays the contents of his heart."'
Compare the advice of Polonius in Hamlet (Act i. Sc. 3):—
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.
Surly judges there have been who did not much admire the 'Bible of Modern Literature,' or anything you could distil from it, in contrast with the ancient Bibles; and found that in the matter of speaking, our far best excellence, when that could be obtained, was excellent silence, which means endurance and exertion, and good work with lips closed.
—Carlyle, Latter-Day Pamphlets (v.).
While in thy lips thy words thou dost confine, Thou art their lord; once uttered, they are mine.
'All the ground near Sir Archibald's,' between Aberdeen and Inverness, 'is as well cultivated as most in England. About seven I preached. The kirk was pretty well filled, though upon short notice. Certainly this is a nation "swift to hear, and slow to speak," though not "slow to wrath".
—Wesley's Journal (7th June, 1764).
Johnson.—What I most envy Burke for is his being constantly the same. He is never what we call humdrum; never unwilling to begin to talk, nor in haste to leave off. Boswell.—Yet he can listen. Johnson.—No; I cannot say he is good at that. So desirous is he to talk, that, if one is speaking at this end of the table, he'll speak to somebody at the other end.
—Boswell's Tour to the Hebrides (15th Aug.)
References.—I. 19.—J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons, p. 220. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 9. I. 19, 20.—W. H. Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 292. I. 19-21.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. iv. p. 279. I. 19-27.—R. W. Dale, The Epistle of James, p. 36.
If a bad-tempered man can be admirably virtuous, he must be under extreme difficulties.... For it is of the nature of such temper to interrupt the formation of healthy mental habits, which depend on a growing harmony between perception, conviction and impulse. There may be good feelings, good deeds—for a human nature may touch endless varieties and blessed inconsistencies in its windings—but it is essential to what is worthy to be called high character, that it may be safely calculated on.
—George Eliot, Essays of Theophrastus Such (VI.).
Reference.—I. 20.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 28.
The stream of custom and our profession bring us to the Preaching of the Word, and we sit out our hour under the sound; but how few consider and prize it as the great ordinance of God for the salvation of souls, the beginner and the sustainer of the Divine life of grace within us! And certainly, until we have thus thought of it, and seek to feel it thus ourselves, although we hear it most frequently, and let slip no occasion, yea, hear it with attention and some present delight, yet still we miss the right use of it, and turn it from its true end, while we take it not as that ingrafted word which is able to save our souls.
References.—I. 21.—A. B. O. Wilberforce, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 296. J. Keble, Sermons for Easter to Ascension Day, p. 386. I. 21, 22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1847.
In the one volume of Sesame and Lilies—nay, in the last forty pages of its central address to Englishwomen—everything is told that I know of vital truth, everything urged that I see to be needful of vital act—but no creature answers me with any faith or any deed. They read the words, and say they are pretty, and go on in their own ways.
—Ruskin, Fors Clavigera (LVIII.).
When President Roosevelt opened the Bible to kiss it, on taking the oath at his inauguration, this text was found to be the place he chose.
References.—I. 22.—E. A. Stuart, His Dear Son and other Sermons, vol. v. p. 17. F. W. Farrar, Sin and its Conquerors, p. 58. F. B. Cowl, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 188. I. 22-24.—H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 49. I. 22-25.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv. No. 1467. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 25; ibid. vol. iii. pp. 183, 448. I. 23.—F. St John Corbett, The Preacher's Year, p. 92. I. 23-25.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1848.
'Few people,' says Matthew Arnold, in The French Play in London, 'who feel a passion think of learning anything from it. A man feels a passion, he passes through it, and then he goes his way and straightway forgets, as the Apostle says, what manner of man he was. Above all, this is apt to happen with us English, who have, as an eminent German professor is good enough to tell us, "so much genius, so little method". The much genius hurries us into infatuations; the little method prevents our learning the right and wholesome lesson from them.'
The Law of Life in Christianity—Liberty
There is no more inspiring word in human speech than Freedom, Liberty. It expresses an instinctive craving of the human heart. It awakens a responsive echo in the human breast.
Curiously enough, it has often been a taunt levelled at the Church—and with a certain measure of justification—that it stands in opposition to this noble and legitimate instinct of the human heart. If that is true, then a great error has been committed in direct antagonism to the spirit of the Gospel. The Gospel was announced by the Lord in terms of liberty: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me... to preach deliverance to the captive... to set at liberty them that are bruised'. The Christ appeared as the Liberator, the Emancipator.
He came to break oppression,
To set the captive free,
To take away transgression
And rule in equity.
Note the third line—'to take away transgression'—for it is of the essence of the Christian conception of liberty, and we must return to it. But it is important to notice generally that the Christian religion is in entire accord with this noble aspiration of the human heart. If Christianity is to understand itself aright, it must see that liberty is of the very essence of its own constitution. Freedom is the law of the Christian life. The flower of the Christian life can never blossom in its perfection till it expands in the congenial atmosphere of perfect liberty.
I. It is important to notice that there are two kinds of freedom. There is an outer freedom and an inner, just as there is an outer and an inner bondage. The outer is in each case the more obvious. The slavery that holds the body captive is more quickly detected than the tyranny that enthralls the spirit. A man's limbs may be free. He may have every right of the freeborn and yet have the spirit of a slave, held captive in the tyranny of custom or dread, or degrading habit. A man, on the other hand, may be a prisoner, with a spirit indomitable, with a liberty within, which tyrants cannot quell. Men contend for their right to more than Burns sings of in his Scottish paean of freedom. They want ultimately, like the Pilgrim Fathers, 'Freedom to worship God'. This is, in its highest terms, the one right man has from nature, as Mazzini maintains, even if he have no other. He has the right of 'liberating himself from every obstacle impeding his free fulfilment of his own duties'. But that is something spiritual. It demands, in the first instance, the emancipation of the inner man. It is men with the free spirit who fight for freedom.
II. Notice the significance of this for Christianity and of Christianity for this. The Gospel is what man needs if he will be free. It is the Gospel which becomes 'the religion of ethical liberation, for in its very centre lies the belief in the unfettering of the will for good by the forgiveness of sins'. Martin Luther, who never beats about the bush, gives a very straight answer to the question, Where lie the roots of liberty? In a brief treatise on 'The Liberty of a Christian Man,' a most concise and illuminating statement of the essence and spirit of Christianity, he says, in a word, that the foundation of all true freedom lies in the deliverance of the soul from the bondage of sin through faith in the finished work of Christ.
Where did Luther learn this? It was the truth of Christ, which Rome had concealed from the eyes of men for centuries in order to impose on them the tyranny of her own will and serve her own base ends. Luther learned it from Paul and a greater than Paul, Paul's Master, our Lord.
III. Liberty is a right of man from God's hand, a right which has been discovered for us by Christ. But, as Dr. John Ker says, 'there is great danger in contending for freedom, either civil or religious, of our making it the end instead of the means'. Anthony Trollope had a novel called What will He do with It? That is the question for every man who has gained his freedom. What will he do with it? If it is not recognised speedily that freedom is more than anything else a constant opportunity, it will degenerate into licence. If men do not realise that there is a law of liberty, they will become mere libertines, who, wearing the name of freedom, are the most degraded slaves. No, there are great calls awaiting a man, the call of truth, the call of righteousness, as soon as he gains his freedom. And as Dr. Denney says, 'A man must be perfectly free'—why?—'that the whole weight of his responsibilities may come upon him. Liberty is the correlative of responsibility?' A free man must address himself to the knowing of the truth that he may form proper judgments. He must consider the will of God that he may choose and pursue worthy ideals. Self kicks at these, as though they were new fetters, an infringement of freedom of thought, a restraint on the natural impulses. It were well for a man in this temper to consider the prayer with which the late Master of Balliol, Professor Edward Caird, used every morning to open his class for the study of Moral Philosophy: 'Almighty and most merciful God, who hast created us for Thyself so that we can find rest only in Thee, grant unto us purity of heart and strength of purpose, so that no selfish passion may hinder us from knowing Thy will, and no weakness from doing it, that in Thy light we may see light, and in Thy service find perfect freedom, through the spirit of Christ'. 'For,' says St. Francis de Sales, 'the liberty of beloved children... is a thorough detachment from all things in order to follow God's recognised will.'
—R. J. Drummond, Faith's Certainties, p. 255.
As the most far-sighted eye, even aided by the most powerful telescope, will not make a fixed star appear larger than it does to an ordinary and unaided sight, even so there are heights of knowledge and truth sublime which all men in possession of the ordinary human understanding may comprehend as much and as well as the profoundest philosopher and the most learned theologian. Such are the truths relating to the logos and its oneness with the self-existent Deity, and of the humanity of Christ and its union with the logos. It is idle, therefore, to refrain from preaching on these subjects, provided only such preparations have been made as no man can be a Christian without. The misfortune is that the majority are Christians in name, and by birth only. Let them but once, according to St. James, have looked down steadfastly into the law of liberty or freedom in their own souls (the will and the conscience), and they are capable of whatever God has chosen to reveal.
In a letter to a country rector (Life, ch. VIII.) Kingsley avows that 'the highest idea of man is to know his Father, and look his Father in the face, in full assurance of faith and love; and that out of that springs all manful energy, all self-respect, all self-restraint, all that the true Englishman has, and the Greek and Spaniard have not. And I say this is what St. James means when he speaks of "the perfect law of liberty". I say that this Protestant faith, which teaches every man to look God in the face for himself, has contributed more than anything else to develop family life, industry, freedom, in England, Scotland, and Sweden.'
All civilisation is the yoking of man, and the vicissitudes of history arise out of the trial of various yokes, and the abuse of them by lawless and unyoked power, the rebellions against their misuse involving also rebellion against yokes as such. We have need of law and Gospel. Better Law only than no yoke, and the Gospel is no Gospel if it does not both presuppose and include Law.
—Dr. Hort, Hulsean Lectures, p. 203.
References.—I. 25.—W. Morison, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p. 132. Archbishop Lang, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 384. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—James, p. 386.
'The thing here supposed and referred to,' says Butler in his great Sermon on The Government of the Tongue, 'is talkativeness: a disposition to be talking, abstracted from the consideration of what is to be said; with very little or no regard to, or thought of doing, either good or harm.... And this unrestrained volubility and wantonness of speech is the occasion of numberless evils and vexations in life. It begets resentment in him who is the subject of it; sows the seed of strife and dissension amongst others; and inflames little disgusts and offences, which if let alone would wear away of themselves.' While thou so hotly disclaimest the devil, be not guilty of diabolism. Fall not into one name with that unclean spirit, nor act his nature whom thou so much abhorrest; that is, to accuse, calumniate, backbite, whisper, detract, or sinistrously interpret others. Degenerous depravities, and narrow-minded vices! not only below St. Paul's noble Christian but Aristotle's true gentleman. Trust not with some that the Epistle of St. James is apocryphal, and so read with less fear that stabbing truth, that in company with this vice 'thy religion is in vain'. Moses broke the tables without breaking of the law; but where charity is broke, the law itself is shattered, which cannot be whole without love, which is the fulfilling of it.'
—Sir Thomas Browne, Christian Morals (pt. 1. sec. 16).
Canon Carus, in his memoir of Charles Simeon, quotes a reminiscence of the latter's quick temper. 'We were one day sitting at dinner at Mr. Hankinson's, when a servant behind him stirred the fire in a way so unscientific that Mr. S. turned round and hit the man a thump in the back to stay his proceedings. When he was leaving me, on horseback, after the same visit, my servant had put the wrong bridle upon his horse. He was in a hurry to be gone, and his temper broke out so violently that I ventured to give him a little humorous castigation. His cloak-bag was to follow him by coach; so I feigned a letter in my servant's name, saying how high his character stood in the kitchen, but that they could not understand how a gentleman who preached and prayed so well, should be in such passion about nothing, and wear no bridle upon his tongue.'
'If the religious spirit,' says Mr. Morley in Compromise (pp. 178, 179), leads to a worthy and beautiful life, if it shows itself in cheerfulness, in pity, in charity and tolerance, in forgiveness, in a sense of the largeness and the mystery of things, in a lifting up of the soul in gratitude and awe to some supreme power and sovereign force, then whatever drawback may be in the way of superstitious dogma, still such a spirit is on the whole a good thing. If not, not. It would be better without the superstition: even with the superstition, it is good. But if the religious spirit is only a fine name for narrowness of understanding, for shallow intolerance, for mere social formality, for a dread of losing that poor respectability which means thinking and doing exactly as the people around us think and do, then the religious spirit is not a good thing, but a thoroughly bad and hateful thing.'
References.—I. 26.—Bishop Butler, Human Nature and Other Sermons, p. 54. J. Keble, Sermons for Easter to Ascension Bay, p. 416.
Unspotted From the World
As men and women grow older they change. Of all the changes that they undergo, those of their moral natures are often the most painful to watch. The boy changes into the man, and there is something lost which never seems to come back again. He has a hard conscience now, instead of a tender one; he is scornful about sacred things; no longer earnest and enthusiastic, but flippant and cynical; he tolerates evils he used to hate; makes excuses for passions he once thought horrible; he qualifies and limits the absolute standards of truth and purity. He has changed. His life has lost that clear ring, its white lustre. He is no longer unspotted.
In regard to this we all have a dim idea that if we could have taken that life and isolated it, we could have kept its freshness and purity. We grant that there is evil in the heart, but we do not believe that the mere fermentation of that evil in itself could have come to all this. Out of the aggregate of the many influences which we call 'the world,' have come the evil forces that have changed and soiled this life. It has not been himself. He has walked through mire, and the filth has gathered on his skirts; through pestilence, and the poison has crept into his blood. Not merely the evil heart within has shown its wickedness, but the evil around us has fastened upon us. We have not merely been spotted, but 'spotted by the world'. Our own experience confirms the Bible conception of 'the world,' and so we listen. And here the Bible steps in and describes lives shaped by this cosmos, this total of created things.
I. 'Lives spotted by the world.' The stained lives. Who does not know what this means? There is the outward stain—the stain upon the reputation. How few reputations remain so pure as to be fit patterns for others to follow! There are the stains upon our conduct, the impure and untrue acts which visibly cloud the fair surface of our best activity. And then, worst of all, there is the stain upon the heart, of which none but the man himself knows anything. These are the stains which we accumulate.
II. And now, in view of all this, we come to our religion; and we hear St. James telling us, in unsparing words, what 'pure religion and undefiled before God' is. Mark, then, how intolerant religion is. She starts with what men declare to be impossible. She refuses to bring down her standards. She insists that men must come up to her. She proclaims absolute standards. She will not say, 'Your case is a hard one, and for that reason I will waive a part of my demands; for you, religion shall mean not to do this sin or that sin'. Before every man, in the thickest of the world's contagions, she stands and cries with unwavering voice, 'Come out, be separate, keep yourself unspotted from the world'. There is something sublime in this unsparingness. It almost proves that our religion is Divine when it undertakes for man so Divine a task. And our religion is not true unless it have this power in it, unless the statesman, the merchant, the man or woman in society, do indeed find it the power of purity and strength. We must bring our faith to this test. Unless our religion does this for us, it is not the true religion that St. James talked of, and that the Lord Jesus came to reveal and to bestow.
III. We go for our assurance to the first assertion of the real character of Christianity in the life of Jesus. The life of Jesus was meant to be the pattern of the lives of all who call themselves His followers. His was a real human life, and yet the very sinlessness of Jesus has made Him seem to many not to be Man, instead of being the type of what manhood was intended to be, and what all men must come to be. The very principle of the Incarnation, that without which it loses all its value, surely is this, that Christ was Himself the first Christian; that in Him was displayed the power of that grace by which all believers were to be helped and saved. And so for this reason the life of Jesus was lived in the closest contact with His fellowmen. He passed through the highest temptations to which our nature is exposed; He walked through the same muddy streets of sordid care; He penetrated the same murky atmosphere of passion that we have to go through, and thence He came out pure, and unspotted from the world; thus He is really God manifest in the flesh. As He came forth spotless, so by His power we must come out unstained at last, and 'walk with Him in white'.
IV. As we study the life of Jesus we are taught that religion is, by its very nature, positive. Jesus was never guarding Himself, but always invading the lives of others with His holiness. He did not shut Himself up, as it were, in the castle of His life, guarding every loophole, but He made it an open centre of operations from which the surrounding territory was to be subdued. So we learn from Him that our truest safety, our true spotlessness from the world must come, not negatively, by the garments being drawn back from every worldly contact, but positively, by the garments being so essentially pure that they fling pollution off.
V. We must ever bear in mind the purpose of the Incarnation; we must grasp the bewildering thought of a personal love for our single souls; we must find its meaning in those precious words, 'Christ died for me.' Then will the soul, full of profoundest gratitude, look round to see what it has to give to the Saviour in return, and it will find it has nothing to give—save itself. It is its own no longer; it is given away to Christ. It lives His life—Who redeemed it—and not its own. Thus, it is by walking in this new sense of consecration to Him, it will walk unharmed; it will be kept' unspotted from the world' by Christ. More than this; it is by a Christlike dedication to the world that Christ really saves us from the world. You go to your Lord and say, 'O Lord, this world is tempting me, and I fear its stains. Shall I run away from it?' And the Voice comes, as from the opened sky, 'No, go up close to the world, and help it; feel for its wickedness; pity it; sacrifice yourself for it; so shall you be safest from its infection, and not sacrifice yourself to it'. It is possible so to be given up to Christ and our fellows, that the lust, falsehood, cruelty, injustice, and selfishness of the world shall not hurt us; it is possible to walk through the fire and not be burned. But it depends always and wholly upon whether He walks there with us. Let us not trust ourselves, for we are weakness. Trust Him, work for all who need us; so shall we go through all impurity and be gathered safe home at last into the Father's House.
—Bishop Phillips Brooks.
How much it is misunderstood may be seen from the fact that, though the word itself, religion, stands for one of the most beautiful and simple things in the world, there yet hangs about it an aroma which is not wholly pleasing. What difficult service that great and humble name has seen! With what strange and evil meanings it has been charged! How dinted and battered it is with hard usage! how dimmed its radiance, how stained its purity!... To express the religion of Christ in precise words would be a mighty task; but it may be said that it was not merely a system, nor primarily a creed; it was a message to individual hearts, bewildered by the complexity of the world and the intricacy of religious observances. Christ bade men believe that their Creator was also a Father; that the only way to escape from the overwhelming difficulties presented by the world was the way of simplicity, sincerity, and love; that a man should keep out of his life all that insults and hurts the soul, and that he should hold the interests of others as dear as he holds his own.
—A. C. Benson, From a College Window, pp. 307 f.
One of the hardest burdens laid upon the other good influences of human nature has been that of improving religion itself.
—John Stuart Mill.
Shortly after being made a bishop, Jean Pierre Camus of Belley, consulted St. Francis de Sales upon the difficulty which he felt of keeping chaste amid the temptations into which his love of charity led him inevitably. St. Francis replied: 'You must distinguish between persons whose position obliges them to take charge of others, and such as lead a private life which involves no responsibility save for themselves. The first must commit chastity to the care of charity, and if it be real, it will answer to the trust, serving as a wall and rampart; but private persons do well to subject their charity to chastity, and maintain great reserve and caution in their actions. Those in responsible positions are often obliged to expose themselves to temptations inseparable from their duties, and so long as they do not tempt God by presumption, His grace will guard them.'
The outward service (θρησκεία) of ancient religion, the rites, ceremonies, and ceremonial vestments of the old law, had morality for their substance. They were the old letter, of which morality was the spirit; the enigma, of which morality was the meaning. But morality itself is the service and ceremonial (cultus exterior, θρησκεία) of the Christian religion. The scheme of grace and truth that became through Jesus Christ, the faith that looks down into the perfect law of liberty, has light for its garment; its very robe is righteousness.' On this the twenty-third aphorism in Aids to Reflection, Coleridge has this comment: 'Herein the Apostle places the preeminence, the peculiar and distinguishing excellence, of the Christian religion. The ritual is of the same kind, though not of the same order, with the religion itself—not arbitrary and conventional, as types and hieroglyphics are in relation to the things expressed by them; but inseparable, consubstantiated (as it were) and partaking therefore of the same life, permanence, and intrinsic worth with its spirit and principle.
I myself can hardly conceive a working Ethical society of which the aim would not include in essentials the Apostle's definition of the pure service of religion. We might characterise it as the aim of being in the world and yet not of it, working strenuously for the improvement of mundane affairs, and yet keeping ourselves, as the Apostle says, 'unspotted of the world'—that is, in modern phrase, keeping clear of the compromises with sordid interests and vulgar ambitions which the practical standards of all classes and sections of society are too apt to admit.
—Sir Leslie Stephen, Practical Ethics, p. 14.
When the time called Christmas came, while others were feasting and sporting themselves, I looked out poor widows from house to house, and gave them some money.
—Fox's Journal (1645).
Thinkers of the most different schools and sects would probably agree that true charity demands of us money, but also something more than money: personal service, sacrifice of time and thought.
—Sir Leslie Stephen, Practical Ethics, p. 7.
Son, if lofty be the lintels of thy house, and thy friend be sick, say not, What shall I send him? but go on foot and see him with thy eyes; for that is better for him than a thousand talents of gold and silver.
—From The Story of Ahikar.
In describing the great Welshman, Lewis Morris, of the eighteenth century, George Borrow (Wild Wales, ch. XL.) praises his 'noble generosity and sacrifice of self for the benefit of others. Weeks and months he was in the habit of devoting to the superintendence of the widow and fatherless.'
At the last day He is to ask us not what sins we have avoided, but what righteousness we have done, what we have done for others, how we have helped good and hindered evil: what difference it has made to this world, and to our country and our family and friends, that we have lived. The man who has been only pious and not useful will stand with a long face on that great day, when Christ puts to him his questions.
—R. L. Stevenson, to the Samoan Students.
The moment we care for anything deeply, the world—that is, all the other miscellaneous interests—becomes our enemy. Christians showed it when they talked of keeping oneself 'unspotted from the world'; but lovers talk of it just as much when they talk of the 'world well lost'.
—G. K. Chesterton.
A white bird, she told him once, looking at him gravely, a bird which he must carry in his bosom across a crowded public place—his own soul was like that.
—Pater, Marius the Epicurean, vol. 1.
To have one chance in life, in eternity, for a white name, and to lose it!
—James Lane Allen, The Mettle of the Pasture, p. 404.
After I had spent a month in surveying the curiosities of this city [Venice], and had put on board a ship the books which I had collected in Italy, I proceeded through Verona and Milan, and along the Leman lake to Geneva. The mention of this city brings to my recollection the slandering More, and makes me again call the Deity to witness, that in all those places in which vice meets with so little discouragement, and is practised with so little shame, I never once deviated from the paths of integrity and virtue, and perpetually reflected that, though my conduct might escape the notice of men, it could not elude the inspection of God.
—Milton, The Second Defence.
I firmly believe that it is in keeping our honour spotless that we best perform our duty, both to ourselves and to others—of course I mean honour in its purest and highest sense. Our chief business in this world is with ourselves: 'Keep yourselves unspotted from the world'. This I know is not at this time a fashionable doctrine.
—J. H. Shorthouse.
References.—I. 27.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2313. H. Rix, Sermons, Addresses and Essays, p. 73. J. Laidlaw, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 214. B. J. Snell, The Widening Vision, p. 113. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 408. T. Arnold, The Interpretation of Scripture, p. 261. W. Ogg, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 408. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iv. p. 456; ibid. (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 220. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—James, p. 397.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Do not err, my beloved brethren.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
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 engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
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.
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.