But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
The word "temptations" here includes bodily temptations to evil, but not alone these; all forms of trial of every kind as well. Now, what is the attitude of men, even the best, when the clouds gather about them, when one desire after another is balked, and when one fear after another is fulfilled? Men settle down into gloom. They are very apt to fall into complaints and dolorous lamentations. But the Apostle James says to them, "Count it all joy" when adversity and various trials of the spirit come on you. Where we come into life with comparatively untrained forces, in ignorance of the old-established laws, with social liabilities and desires that seek to be fulfilled, we require a long period of time in which to develop; and when men's desires are unfulfilled and are thwarted, that condition of things makes a man more manly. It drives him from his lower up into his higher nature. For see, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, knowing this," etc. Is that, then, the result of patience? Is that homely quality so wonderful as to be praised in that way, that all your trials work faith, and faith works patience, and patience makes the perfect man? Is patience the sign of perfection in a man? It is that supreme quality by which a man reins in his forces, places himself willingly where God, by His providence, allots him, and is superior to his circumstances; where he has that consideration for himself, as a child of God and an heir of immortality, that no condition upon earth can daunt him. A king in disguise, wandering incognito through different lands, brought oftentimes to great straits, obliged to company with peasants, to gnaw their black bread, suffer hunger and thirst, oftentimes pushed hither and thither. But he lives within himself, and says, "How absurd for me, who am a king, who have revenues in abundance, to be put in these conditions. Here I am treated as any peasant; I am shoved here and there, and nobody takes any account of me. In a few weeks or days, at most, I shall recover myself, and sit again in high places." So a man in this life, knowing himself to be God's son, the heir of eternal glory, knocked about by various circumstances here and there and everywhere, has a legitimate pride in his birthright. It is just exactly under such circumstances that pride is legitimate. It lifts one up into a consciousness of his superiority to everything when he is pushed this way, that way, or the other by conflicting troubles and by trial. The conception of the apostle is that the difficulties and temptations of every kind in this mortal life really drive us up into the higher elements of our nature, practise us in them, make us more sanctified men, veterans, as distinguished from militia untried in the field, old men of wisdom and experience as compared with young men just coming into the trial of life. Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, because it is going to make men of you, going to make you hardy, going to thrust you up upon higher considerations, that are more becoming to you than the mere gain of ease and comfort and desires fulfilled. We see it to be, then, one of the most important qualities, as it works for manhood, to have this conception of ourselves as superior, by the grace of God, to all the accidents and conditions of this mortal life. Are griefs oppressive? By the grace of God I am able to bear grief, saith the Christian hero. Does one suffer lack? I am able to do without abundance. Am I despised and thrust aside? I am able to be despised and rejected. Now look at this matter more largely. Patience is the indispensable condition of mankind, unless they are at the seminal point. A savage and lazy Oriental, in a climate that takes away all courage and enterprise, does not have much patience. He does not want anything. He sits still, without desire, without enterprise, without out-reaching, without grasp, except in momentary fury. Just in proportion to the eminence of a man's sphere and the genius of a man's endowments, the quality of patience is necessary. Necessary, in the first place, because it is not possible for a man to have at once all he wants, or to regulate his wants and nature so that his supplies shall come in their order and in their gradation just as he needs them. Let us consider a few of the conditions in which men are placed where patience is necessary.
1. In the sphere of personal life, patience is a virtue. The ambitions of youth, the far-reaching before we are prepared for manhood, need it.
2. Now, in the household, and in early life generally, there are a thousand things that call for simple patience. The household is a little kingdom. It is a little sphere of light, held together by love, the best emblem and commentary upon Divine government there is. And yet how much there is in the household that frets! In the household there are the seeds of disturbance and confusion. But — patience, patience! You have need of patience in all the various experiences of the household, the collisions that come from differing natures seeking to fit themselves together; developments of all those practical qualities that enable men to live together, not only in patience, but in harmony, making the unity of the family produce every day, as it were, harmonious music. All these things require that men should have faith, and faith is the father of patience — that is to say, that prescience which enables a man to look forward to see that these things must be, and to wait for them, expecting them.
3. So in all the conflicts of business, the misunderstandings of men, the untrustworthiness of men, the rivalries of men, promises not fulfilled, disappointments of every kind. Ye have need of patience in all the conflicts of business. Do not give up. What if to-day is yesterday turned bottom side up, to-morrow it will turn the right way again. What if the cloud does lower to-day? The sun will strike through by and by. What if the rain has come? It has come on you that are able to bear it. A man in all these contingencies of life, in the strife for position and influence, and for wealth, whether it be large or moderate, meeting various troubles and succumbing to them, is scarcely to be called a man. But if he rises in spite of his difficulties, that man is made stronger and larger by his troubles in civil, social, or business life. Ye have need of patience, saith the apostle, that after ye have fulfilled the will of God, ye wait to receive the reward.
4. Even in higher degree do men need patience when they are workers in the moral sphere. Human nature works upward very slowly and irregularly. New truths and new views require a long time. A farmer goes out and gets his phosphate, and puts it on the seed over-night, and says, "We will see in the morning what it has done." He goes out, and says, "Well, it ain't done a bit of good." No, not in a night. Ministers sow sermons on congregations, and think they will come up in a minute. But they will not come up in a good many minutes. By and by, little by little, by those and other influences, men will rise. There is nothing in this world that is so slow as the building of a man. In the process of building him an immense amount of time is consumed. A man gives out his plan of a house to an architect, and goes to Europe. In six months' time he comes back, and thinks he is going to move right in. When he arrives at the spot, there is nothing but brick and stone, and mortar and scaffolding, and all sorts of litter, dirt, and confusion. He is amazed at it. But in proportion to the elaborateness and largeness of the dwelling is the time that is required to construct it. So it is with moral ideas in the community, educating the whole people, enabling men to look without prejudice upon truth, and bringing them forward step by step. It is very slow work, and ministers, reformers, teachers of schools, parents, and all those whose desires are set for the furtherance of the welfare of men, have need of patience, great patience. Still one thing more. "Let patience have her perfect work." Raw patience does not amount to much. Ripe patience means a great deal; not that patience which is momentary and fugitive, but that which is settled down and become chronic. How beautiful it is to see a man or woman who has come to the state of ripe patience — the serene face of the matron, on whom all sweetness and goodness wait, who is living just at the golden sunset of her life, and who has been through trials unnamed — for the great sorrows of this life never come to the surface; broken-hearted almost, yet, by her faith in God, enduring till one and another thing is removed, and her life at last is completed, and she stands in the golden light, waiting. How beautiful is the serenity of victorious age that has not been overthrown, that has gone through the rugged way, and across Jordan into the promised land! How noble, too, is the heroic patience of men willing to give their lives for their kind, without selfish ends, with noble and heroic aspirations, waiting, waiting.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.