Notes of a Lecture on James 1 and 2:1-13

JAM 1-2:13  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Listen from:
I would follow with you, beloved, for a few minutes the Spirit's teachings in this Epistle.
I grant you it is not up to the level of the other Epistles-that to the Romans for instance, which teems in every part of it with dispensational truth. We get there under the band of the Spirit:-Dispensational standing—Rom. 3-5; Dispensational experience—Rom. 6-8; Dispensational knowledge—Rom. 9-11; Dispensational service—Rom. 12.
But our Epistle, though not up to this level, as we have said, is still, in the power of the Spirit, of the same high calling. The materials that we have here are common-place enough, it is true; and I love them the better because they are so; for thus it needs not that the soul be brought into any extraordinary circumstances to learn the lessons to which it is set. The Spirit looks after us, as it were, follows us into the details of every-day life, and would have us be through all its varied scenes just what we are in the Church-vessels of the Holy Ghost outside as well as inside in the activities of the new life, as much as when ministering in the Church; and it is to fix our souls emphatically on this truth, that the Spirit in Rom. 12 has so blended what may be called ecclesiastical gifts with those that find their exercise in the varied social relations, that it is impossible to say where the one order of gift ends and the other commences. It is as members of Christ we are addressed throughout, as men of the Church, whether as teaching, prophesying, or using hospitality. " Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." What you are at starting, beloved, that you are even to the end-in every relation and under every circumstance, a man of the Church. If I go out and become a man of the family, or a man of the neighborhood, or a man of business, am I to be one whit less a man of the Church? Nay, beloved, and again I would charge both you, and myself, never lay aside the Church-man. All is to be up to the level, and in the spirit of that consecration to which we are exhorted in Rom. 12:11I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1). " I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice," &c. It is this, as I judge, which gives that tone and character to the lessons to which we are set down in this Epistle, and which I would now look at for a little with you in the details.
First, then, we are set down to the lesson of trial; (2-4;) a lesson, I need not say, in the full character of the dispensation. A soul under the Solomon-glory could not be set down to such a lesson as this. It had its own proper experiences, beautiful in their day and generation, on its own proper teachings too. The law for instance, the ten commandments, very fine, in their age and generation; perfect, I need not say, but not fit for this day of grace in which the mercies of God have been revealed. And it is that which sets us down to learn lessons altogether of another order, even to count it all joy to fall into divers trials.
And what, I ask, has authority to set me down to such a lesson as this? What but this, that I am called to follow a rejected Master. I have been led into companionship with a suffering Jesus.
Our brother has been praying that we may heartily welcome all trial and discipline, through which the flesh is made to wither, and the soul is trained into deeper fellowship with the precious peculiarities of our calling; a prayer not one whit too high for such a calling, though perhaps too much for some of us; a little above, it may be, the actual experience of our poor hearts. But, oh! let us yield ourselves to the teaching, if we have any fellowship with the precious peculiarities of our dispensation. Let us never forget that companionship with a sorrowing Jesus, is to yield to the heart its best joy in a world that has rejected Him. And let us address ourselves to the little that remains of the journey, in the full power of such a calling, enduring hardness as good soldiers.
Next, we are set down to the lesson of rank and dignities. (9-11.) And here again we are in the power and spirit of the heavenly calling. Will the spirit of social order set me down to such a lesson as this? No, beloved, it is a lesson peculiar to the Church of God; to be appreciated only by those who are breathing the atmosphere peculiar to such a calling. And shall we leave the atmosphere of the Church, and go out and breathe the vitiated, inflated atmosphere in which the men of this world live, and move, and have their being? The Church has learned that all flesh is grass; what then can we do with the varied glories and distinctions, in which the flesh would fain array itself?
Then we are set down to the lesson of temptation. (12-17.) "Do not err, my beloved brethren." This is too solemn, too sacred a lesson for man's feeble, erring mind to exercise itself upon. Take heed, see to it that you trace no evil thing to a higher source than your own corrupt heart. " Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God." " Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust." And, on the other hand, be careful to trace up every good and right thing to no spring short of the blessed God Himself, even the Father of Lights, " in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning"-a fountain that cannot send forth sweet water and bitter, but whence flows every good and perfect gift.
Then we are set down to another lesson; the finest of all may we not say, if we may speak of degrees where all is divine-the lesson of " pure religion." (ver. 26, 27.) Pure religion is just this, To be imitators of the Father in His boundless and rich grace, and to track the footsteps of a rejected Master-a separated Lord. If we are separated in the mere severities of nature, it will not do; we are to be in sympathy with the largeness of the heart of God.
Then, brethren, we are to learn the lesson of glory. (2:1-9.) " Have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons." How can the faith of glory have respect to the petty distinctions recognized amongst men? The world may well cherish and value its own titles and dignities,-honors struck out of its own mint. But what has the faith of glory in common with all this? And let us remember that it is in the light of this faith that we are called to discern glory-and faith only can discern it. The world has no eye for it. And surely we do not need to be told that the whole spirit of things around us is just after the fashion of the world's way of discerning. But let us seek to walk in the light of the glory to which we are called.
The last lesson to which we are set down is the lesson of grace. It is the royal law. Is "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," up to the mark of the church's calling? No, indeed it is not. It was fine, very fine, in its generation, but not up to the measure of the grace that suits us. " So speak and so do as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty." If we learn grace from any source short of the perfect law of liberty, we shall miss of the grace that becomes us, even of that infinite grace in which we stand.
And now, beloved, may we as those who have been called by glory and virtue-who have been made partakers of the heavenly calling, set ourselves down to the study of these homely lessons-addressing ourselves to the little remnant of our journey, in the full power of that heavenly calling, in the light of that glory, and in companionship with Him, who, though rejected here, has been glorified there. And though, as we pursue our way, our poor hearts will have to learn to the full the ruin of the Church, let us ever remember that it is our privilege to learn along with it the blessed sympathies of the Spirit.