The Book of James - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.
Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only.
This letter of James is pre-eminently ethical, practical, forceful. In it there are more references to sayings in the Sermon on the Mount than in all the other letters of the New Testament. All this is of great interest when we accept the view, which is almost beyond dispute, that the man who wrote the letter was a brother of the Lord. He had lived with Jesus in all the early years in Nazareth. While it would seem that he did not join himself outwardly to the disciples till after the Resurrection, there are evidences that in the company of Mary, these brethren were much with Jesus in the central period of His ministry. All this would suggest that looking back, and thinking of all those years, this man was impressed with the harmony there had ever been in the Lord, between His teaching and His life. Thus he argued, and rightly, that a faith which was not expressed in deeds was of no value at all. This does not mean that he was in any way ignorant of the deep spiritual mysteries of Christian life. If in these words he urges us to be doers of the Word, we must remember that the Word he refers to is that which he has just described as "the inborn word" (verse 21). He was referring, not merely to any written Word, nor to his Lord as the Word incarnate alone; but to the Word of God received into the soul through the written Word, and by the Word incarnate. That Word is only of real value as it is obeyed, as what it enjoins is done. There is no profit, but rather the reverse, in hearing, if there be no doing.
So speak ye, and so do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty.
Again the purpose of James is practical, but the arresting word here is the description of the standard of speech and action as "a law of liberty." The phrase had already been used, as a definition of "the perfect law" (1:25). Its repetition shows that it suggests an aspect of law which impressed the writer, and it is interesting to remember that the phrase is peculiar to James. He had referred a little before to the "royal law" - "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" - words taken from the law of Moses, and emphasized in the teaching of Jesus. Was it not the sum-total of the conception of life as implicated in that "royal law" that he described as a "law of liberty"? To keep that law is only possible when that which the Lord had connected with it is obeyed: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God." When that law is kept, the soul is set free from all the bondage which results from the breaking of any of the enactments of the moral law. The law of liberty is the law which defines our relationship to God and man as love-mastered. To speak and do under that impulse, is to be free indeed. If that law be disobeyed, if no mercy be shown, then judgment based upon that law will show no mercy. Love is the most vigilant and severe sentinel that watches words and works. If it be obeyed, then is life a life of liberty. If it be disobeyed, then are we in bondage every way.
The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for them that make peace.
The marginal reading of the Revised Version suggests the substitution of the word "by" for "for," and that would seem to be the real thought of the writer. He had been contrasting the wisdom from beneath with that from above. The first produces jealousy, faction, confusion. The second is first pure and then peaceable. Now carefully observe that he says much more than that peace is the fruit of righteousness. That is true, and it had already been said in the declaration that heavenly wisdom is first pure, then peaceable. But here the thought is that of the propagative power of life according to heavenly wisdom. Righteousness bears fruit after its kind, and that is peace. When this is sown, still in peace, it produces righteousness again, wherein is the further fruitage; and so ever on. Those who make peace had been declared by the Lord to be blessed, the sons of God. Here the blessedness is shown in its effect. The peacemakers are those who live by the heavenly wisdom, which is first pure and then peaceable, that is, by righteousness. These are the men who make peace. To compromise with wrong, to seek for quietness by the sacrifice of righteousness, is not to secure peace, but to make it impossible. On the other hand, to stand for righteousness, even though there must be conflict and suffering, is to sow the fruit wherefrom peace will come. The ways of God are all severe, but they are the only ways of goodness. To do right at the cost of ease, is to make peace. To seek ease at the cost of righteousness, is to make peace for ever impossible.
One only is the Lawgiver and Judge, even He Who is able to save and to destroy.
These words were written in connection with a warning against speaking against or judging a brother. They are clear and sharp and incisive, as they show the wrong of all such action. It is impossible for any man to find a final verdict against his brother. One only is able to do that, and that is the One Who makes the laws for the government of human lives. This is so because He alone knows those whom He governs, and because His laws are the result of that perfect knowledge. Therefore His laws are just, and so will His judgments be also. He only, therefore, can pass sentence of salvation or destruction. If these words thus warn us off from all judgment of our brother, what a glorious truth they reveal as to the rights of the individual soul! Every man is to be governed and judged by God. Every man has the right of final appeal from all the findings of men to the just judgment of God. To recognize that fact in all things, is to be lifted to the highest realm of life. If my judgment is to come from the Lord, then with what care I should live! But it is also true that I shall be judged with the strictest justice. Not by the seeing of the eyes, nor by the hearing of the ears, does He judge, but with righteous judgment. If that fact fills the soul with a perpetual sense of awe, it also gives it much comfort and courage; for righteous judgment passes beyond all the actions, to the underlying motives and aspirations. These can only be known to God, Who is the Lawgiver, and the Creator of that which He governs.
Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.
These words follow a stern denunciation of those prosperous men who have gained their prosperity by wronging their fellows. The ultimate in all such action had been
reached when such men had "killed the Righteous One." Thinking of the sufferings of many to whom he wrote, sufferings resulting from the oppression of such men as he had
James first reminded them that this Righteous One did not resist, and then called them to be patient, that is, long-suffering, until the Coming of the Lord. In that word his outlook on life shines out. The day of redress, when all wrongs will be righted and all oppressions cease, will be the day when the Righteous One will come again. For that day His suffering ones are to wait, and in their waiting, to be long-suffering even towards those who oppress them. The word of exhortation he then enforces by declaring that this is the attitude of God Himself, and that the reason of His patience is that He is waiting for the precious fruit of the earth. Is not this injunction to patience much needed? Too often we are inclined to become impatient as we wait. Sometimes, indeed, the very hope of the coming of the Lord has seemed to increase impatience rather than patience. To the true child of God, the Coming of the Lord is always at hand, and the glory of it sheds unceasing light upon the way. The true way of walking in that glorious light is ever that of thanking God at every morning's dawn, and evening's shadows, that He has not come, because He is still waiting for the precious fruit of the earth. Oh, to be patient in fellowship with God!