22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving
your own selves.
22 Estote factores sermones, et non auditores solum, fallentes vos
23 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:
23 Nam si quis auditor est sermones, et non factor, hic similis
est homini consideranti faciem nativitatis suae in speculo.
24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway
forgetteth what manner of man he was.
24 Consideravit enim seipsum, et abiit, et protinus oblitus est
25 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.
25 Qui vero intuitus fuerit in legem perfectam, quae est libertatis,
et permanserit, hic non auditor obliviosus, sed factor operis, beatus in
opere suo erit.
26 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.
26 Si quis videtur religiosus esse inter vos, nec refraenat linguam
suam, sed decipits cor suum, hujus inanus est religio.
27 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.
27 Religio pura et impolluta coram Deo et Patre, haec est, Visitare
pupillos et viduas in afflictione ipsorum, inmaculatum servare se a mundo.
22. Be ye doers of the word. The doer here is not the same as
in Romans 2:13, who satisfied the law of God and fulfilled it in every
part, but the doer is he who from the heart embraces God’s word and testifies
by his life that he really believes, according to the saying of Christ,
“Blessed are they who hear God’s word and keep it,”
for he shews by the fruits what that implanting is, before mentioned.
We must further observe, that faith with all its works is included by James,
yea, faith especially, as it is the chief work which God requires from
us. The import of the whole is, that we ought to labor that the word of
the Lord should strike root in us, so that it may afterwards fructify.
23. He is like to a man. Heavenly doctrine is indeed a mirror
in which God presents himself to our view; but so that we may be transformed
unto his image, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18. But here he speaks
of the external glance of the eye, not of the vivid and efficacious meditation
which penetrates into the heart. It is a striking comparison, by which
he briefly intimates, that a doctrine merely heard and not received inwardly
into the heart avails nothing, because it soon vanishes away.
25. The perfect law of liberty. After having spoken of empty
speculation, he comes now to that penetrating intuition which transforms
us to the image of God. And as he had to do with the Jews, he takes the
word law, familiarly known to them, as including the whole truth of God.
But why he calls it a perfect law, and a law of liberty, interpreters
have not been able to understand; for they have not perceived that there
is here a contrast, which may be gathered from other passages of Scripture.
As long as the law is preached by the external voice of man, and not inscribed
by the finger and Spirit of God on the heart, it is but a dead letter,
and as it were a lifeless thing. It is, then, no wonder that the law is
deemed imperfect, and that it is the law of bondage; for as Paul teaches
in Galatians 4:24, separated from Christ, it generates to condemn and as
the same shews to us in Romans 8:13, it can do nothing but fill us with
diffidence and fear. But the Spirit of regeneration, who inscribes it on
our inward parts, brings also the grace of adoption. It is, then, the same
as though James had said, “The teaching of the law, let it no longer lead
you to bondage, but, on the contrary, bring you to liberty; let it no longer
be only a schoolmaster, but bring you to perfection: it ought to be received
by you with sincere affection, so that you may lead a godly and a holy
Moreover, since it is a blessing of the Old Testament that the law of
God should reform us, as it appears from Jeremiah 31:35, and other passages,
it follows that it cannot be obtained until we come to Christ. And, doubtless,
he alone is the end and perfection of the law; and James adds liberty,
as an inseparable associate, because the Spirit of Christ never regenerates
but that he becomes also a witness and an earnest of our divine adoption,
so as to free our hearts from fear and trembling.
And continueth. This is firmly to persevere in the knowledge of God;
and when he adds, this man shall be blessed in his deed, or work, he means
that blessedness is to be found in doing, not in cold hearing.
26. Seem to be religious. He now reproves even in those who boasted
that they were doers of the law, a vice under which hypocrites commonly
labor, that is, the wantonness of the tongue in detraction. He has before
touched on the duty of restraining the tongue, but for a different end;
for he then bade silence before God, that we might be more fitted to learn.
He speaks now of another thing, that the faithful should not employ their
tongue in evil speaking.
It was indeed needful that this vice should be condemned, when the subject
was the keeping of the law; for they who have put off the grosser vices,
are especially subject to this disease. He who is neither an adulterer,
nor a thief, nor a drunkard, but, on the contrary, seems brilliant with
some outward shew of sanctity will set himself off by defaming others,
and this under the pretense of zeal, but really through the lust of slandering.
The object here, then, was to distinguish between the true worshippers
of God and hypocrites, who are so swollen with Pharisaic pride, that they
seek praise from the defects of others. If any one, he says, seems to be
religious, that is, who has a show of sanctity, and the meantime flatters
himself by speaking evil of others, it is hence evident that he does not
truly serve God. For by saying that his religion is vain, he not only intimates
that other virtues are marred by the stain of evil-speaking, but that the
conclusion is, that the zeal for religion which appears is not sincere.
But deceiveth his own heart. I do not approve of the version of Erasmus
— “But suffers his heart to err;” for he points out the fountain of that
arrogance to which hypocrites are addicted, through which, being blinded
by an immoderate love of themselves, they believe themselves to be far
better than they really are; and hence, no doubt, is the disease of slandering,
because the wallet, as Aesop says in his Apologue, hanging behind, is not
seen. Rightly, then, has James, wishing to remove the effect, that is,
the lust of evil-speaking, added the cause, even that hypocrites flatter
themselves immoderately. For they would be ready to forgive were they in
their turn to acknowledge themselves to be in need of forgiveness. Hence
the flatteries by which they deceive themselves as to their own vices,
make them such supercilious censors of others.
27. Pure religion. As he passes by those things which are of
the greatest moment in religion, he does not define generally what religion
is, but reminds us that religion without the things he mentions is nothing;
as when one given to wine and gluttony boasts that he is temperate, and
another should object, and say that the temperate man is he who does not
indulge in excess as to wine or eating; his object is not to express the
whole of what temperance is, but to refer only to one thing, suitable to
the subject in hand. For they are in vain religious of whom he speaks,
as they are for the most part trifling pretenders.
James then teaches us that religion is not to be estimated by the pomp
of ceremonies; but that there are important duties to which the servants
of God ought to attend.
To visit in necessity is to extend a helping hand to alleviate such
as are in distress. And as there are many others whom the Lord bids us
to succor, in mentioning widows and orphans, he states a part for the whole.
There is then no doubt but that under one particular thing he recommends
to us every act of love, as though he had said, “Let him who would be deemed
religious, prove himself to be such by self denial and by mercy and benevolence
towards his neighbors.”
And he says, before God, to intimate that it appears in deed otherwise
to men, who are led astray by external masks, but that we ought to seek
what pleases him. By God and Father, we are to understand God who is a