James 5


The profligate rich are in danger of God's judgments, because

of their pride, fraudulent dealings, riotous living, and

cruelty, 1-6.

The oppressed followers of God should be patient, for the

Lord's coming is nigh; and should not grudge against each

other, 7-9.

They should take encouragement from the example of the

prophets, and of Job, 10, 11.

Swearing forbidden, 12.

Directions to the afflicted, 13-16.

They should confess their faults to each other, 16.

The great prevalence of prayer instanced in Elijah, 17, 18.

The blessedness of converting a sinner from the error of his

way, 19, 20.


Verse 1. Go to now] See Clarke on Jas 4:13.

Weep and howl for your miseries] St. James seems to refer

here, in the spirit of prophecy, to the destruction that was

coming upon the Jews, not only in Judea, but in all the provinces

where they sojourned. He seems here to assume the very air and

character of a prophet; and in the most dignified language and

peculiarly expressive and energetic images, foretells the

desolations that were coming upon this bad people.

Verse 2. Your riches are corrupted] σεσηπε. Are putrefied.

The term πλουτος, riches, is to be taken here, not for gold,

silver, or precious stones, (for these could not putrefy,) but

for the produce of the fields and flocks, the different stores of

grain, wine, and oil, which they had laid up in their granaries,

and the various changes of raiment which they had amassed in their


Verse 3. Your gold and silver is cankered] Instead of helping

the poor, and thus honouring God with your substance, ye have,

through the principle of covetousness, kept all to yourselves.

The rust of them shall be a witness against you] Your

putrefied stores, your moth-eaten garments, and your tarnished

coin, are so many proofs that it was not for want of property that

you assisted not the poor, but through a principle of avarice;

loving money, not for the sake of what it could procure, but for

its own sake, which is the genuine principle of the miser. This

was the very character given to this people by our Lord himself;

he called them φιλαργυροι, lovers of money. Against this

despicable and abominable disposition, the whole of the 12th

chapter of St. Luke is levelled; but it was their easily besetting

sin, and is so to the present day.

Shall eat your flesh as it were fire.] This is a very bold and

sublime figure. He represents the rust of their coin as becoming

a canker that should produce gangrenes and phagedenous ulcers in

their flesh, till it should be eaten away from their bones.

Ye have heaped treasure together] This verse is variously

pointed. The word ως, like as, in the preceding clause, is left

out by the Syriac, and some others; and πυρ, fire, is added here

from that clause; so that the whole verse reads thus: "Your gold

and your silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a

witness against you, and shall consume your flesh. Ye have

treasured up FIRE against the last days." This is a bold and fine

image: instead of the treasures of corn, wine, and oil, rich

stuffs, with silver and gold, which ye have been laying up, ye

shall find a treasure, a magazine of fire, that shall burn up

your city, and consume even your temple. This was literally true;

and these solemn denunciations of Divine wrath were most

completely fulfilled. See the notes on Matt. 24, where all the

circumstances of this tremendous and final destruction are

particularly noted.

By the last days we are not to understand the day of judgment,

but the last days of the Jewish commonwealth, which were not long

distant from the date of this epistle, whether we follow the

earlier or later computation, of which enough has been spoken in

the preface.

Verse 4. The hire of the labourers] The law, Le 19:13, had

ordered: The wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee

all night until the morning, every day's labour being paid for as

soon as ended. This is more clearly stated in another law,

De 24:15:

At his day thou shalt give him his hire; neither shall the sun go

down upon it;-lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be

sin unto thee. And that God particularly resented this defrauding

of the hireling we see from Mal 3:5:

I will come near to you in judgment, and will be a swift witness

against those who oppress the hireling in his wages. And on these

laws and threatenings is built what we read in Synopsis Sohar,

p. 100, l. 45: "When a poor man does any work in a house, the

vapour proceeding from him, through the severity of his work,

ascends towards heaven. Wo to his employer if he delay to pay him

his wages." To this James seems particularly to allude, when he

says: The cries of them who have reaped are entered into the ears

of the Lord of hosts; and the rabbins say, "The vapour arising

from the sweat of the hard-worked labourer ascends up before God."

Both images are sufficiently expressive.

The Lord of sabaoth.] St. James often conceives in Hebrew

though he writes in Greek. It is well known that

Yehovah tsebaoth, Lord of hosts, or Lord of armies, is a frequent

appellation of God in the Old Testament; and signifies his

uncontrollable power, and the infinitely numerous means he has for

governing the world, and defending his followers, and punishing

the wicked.

Verse 5. Ye have lived in pleasure] ετρυφησατε. Ye have

lived luxuriously; feeding yourselves without fear, pampering the


And been wanton] εσπαταλησατε. Ye have lived lasciviously.

Ye have indulged all your sinful and sensual appetites to the

uttermost; and your lives have been scandalous.

Ye have nourished your hearts] εθρεψατε. Ye have fattened

your hearts, and have rendered them incapable of feeling, as in a

day of slaughter, ημερααφαγης, a day of sacrifice, where many

victims are offered at once, and where the people feast upon the

sacrifices; many, no doubt, turning, on that occasion, a holy

ordinance into a riotous festival.

Verse 6. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth

not resist you.] Several by τονδικαιον, the just one,

understand Jesus Christ, who is so called, Ac 3:14; 7:52; 22:14;

but the structure of the sentence, and the connection in which it

stands, seem to require that we should consider this as applying

to the just or righteous in general, who were persecuted and

murdered by those oppressive rich men; and their death was the

consequence of their dragging them before the judgment seats,

Jas 2:6, where, having no influence, and none to plead their

cause, they were unjustly condemned and executed.

And he doth not resist you.-In this, as in τονδικαιον, the

just, there is an enallege of the singular for the plural

number. And in the word ουκαντιτασσεται, he doth not resist, the

idea is included of defence in a court of justice. These poor

righteous people had none to plead their cause; and if they had it

would have been useless, as their oppressors had all power and all

influence, and those who sat on these judgment seats were lost to

all sense of justice and right. Some think that he doth not

resist you should be referred to GOD; as if he had said, God

permits you to go on in this way at present, but he will shortly

awake to judgment, and destroy you as enemies of truth and


Verse 7. Be patient, therefore] Because God is coming to

execute judgment on this wicked people, therefore be patient till

he comes. He seems here to refer to the coming of the Lord to

execute judgment on the Jewish nation, which shortly afterwards

took place.

The husbandman waiteth] The seed of your deliverance is

already sown, and by and by the harvest of your salvation will

take place. God's counsels will ripen in due time.

The early and latter rain.] The rain of seed time; and the

rain of ripening before harvest: the first fell in Judea, about

the beginning of November, after the seed was sown; and the second

towards the end of April, when the ears were filling, and this

prepared for a full harvest. Without these two rains, the earth

would have been unfruitful. These God had promised: I will give

you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and

the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy

wine, and thy oil, De 11:14. But for these they were not only to

wait patiently, but also to pray, Ask ye of the Lord rain in the

time of the latter rain; so shall the Lord make bright clouds, and

give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field;

Zec 10:1.

Verse 8. Be ye also patient] Wait for God's deliverance, as

ye wait for his bounty in providence.

Stablish your hearts] Take courage; do not sink under your


The coming of the Lord draweth nigh.] ηγγικε. Is at hand. He

is already on his way to destroy this wicked people, to raze their

city and temple, and to destroy their polity for ever; and this

judgment will soon take place.

Verse 9. Grudge not] μηστεναζετε. Groan not; grumble not;

do not murmur through impatience; and let not any ill treatment

which you receive, induce you to vent your feelings in

imprecations against your oppressors. Leave all this in the hands

of God.

Lest ye be condemned] By giving way to a spirit of this kind,

you will get under the condemnation of the wicked.

The judge standeth before the door.] His eye is upon every

thing that is wrong in you, and every wrong that is done to you;

and he is now entering into judgment with your oppressors.

Verse 10. Take-the prophets] The prophets who had spoken to

their forefathers by the authority of God, were persecuted by the

very people to whom they delivered the Divine message; but they

suffered affliction and persecution with patience, commending

their cause to him who judgeth righteously; therefore, imitate

their example.

Verse 11. We count them happy which endure.] According to

that saying of our blessed Lord, Blessed are ye when men shall

persecute and revile you-for so persecuted they the prophets which

were before you. Mt 5:11, 12, &c.

Ye have heard of the patience of Job] Stripped of all his

worldly possessions, deprived at a stroke of all his children,

tortured in body with sore disease, tempted by the devil, harassed

by his wife, and calumniated by his friends, he nevertheless held

fast his integrity, resigned himself to the Divine dispensations,

and charged not God foolishly.

And have seen the end of the Lord] The issue to which God

brought all his afflictions and trials, giving him children,

increasing his property, lengthening out his life, and multiplying

to him every kind of spiritual and secular good. This was God's

end with respect to him; but the devil's end was to drive him to

despair, and to cause him to blaspheme his Maker. This mention of

Job shows him to have been a real person; for a fictitious person

would not have been produced as an example of any virtue so highly

important as that of patience and perseverance. The end of the

Lord is a Hebraism for the issue to which God brings any thing

or business.

The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.] Instead of

πολυσπλαγχνος, which we translate very pitiful, and which might be

rendered of much sympathy, from πολυς, much, and σπλαγχνον,

a bowel, (because any thing that affects us with commiseration

causes us to feel an indescribable emotion of the bowels,) several

MSS. have πολυενσπλαγχνος, from παλυς, much, ευ, easily,

and σπλαγχνον, a bowel, a word not easy to be translated; but it

signifies one whose commiseration is easily excited, and whose

commiseration is great or abundant.

Verse 12. Above all things-swear not] What relation this

exhortation can have to the subject in question, I confess I

cannot see. It may not have been designed to stand in any

connection, but to be a separate piece of advice, as in the

several cases which immediately follow. That the Jews were

notoriously guilty of common swearing is allowed on all hands; and

that swearing by heaven, earth, Jerusalem, the temple, the altar,

different parts of the body, was not considered by them as binding

oaths, has been sufficiently proved. Rabbi Akiba taught that "a

man might swear with his lips, and annul it in his heart; and then

the oath was not binding." See Clarke on Mt 5:33, &c., where

the subject is considered in great detail.

Let your yea be yea, &c.] Do not pretend to say yea with your

lips, and annul it in your heart; let the yea or the nay

which you express be bona fide such. Do not imagine that any

mental reservation can cancel any such expressions of obligation

in the sight of God.

Lest ye fall into condemnation.] ιναμηυποκρισινπεσητε.

Lest ye fall under judgment. Several MSS. join υπο and κρισιν

together, υποκρισιν, and prefix εις, into, which makes a widely

different reading: Lest ye fall into hypocrisy. Now, as it is a

fact, that the Jews did teach that there might be mental

reservation, that would annul the oath, how solemnly soever it was

taken; the object of St. James, if the last reading be genuine,

and it is supported by a great number of excellent MSS., some

versions, and some of the most eminent of the fathers, was to

guard against that hypocritical method of taking an oath, which is

subversive of all moral feeling, and must make conscience itself


Verse 13. Is any among you afflicted? let him pray] The Jews

taught that the meaning of the ordinance, Le 13:45, which

required the leper to cry, Unclean! unclean! was, "that thus

making known his calamity, the people might be led to offer up

prayers to God in his behalf," Sota, page 685, ed. Wagens. They

taught also, that when any sickness or affliction entered a

family, they should go to the wise men, and implore their prayers.

Bava bathra, fol. 116, 1.

In Nedarim, fol. 40, 1, we have this relation: "Rabba, as often

as he fell sick, forbade his domestics to mention it for the first

day; if he did not then begin to get well, he told his family to

go and publish it in the highways, that they who hated him might

rejoice, and they that loved him might intercede with God for


Is any merry? let him sing psalms.] These are all general but

very useful directions. It is natural for a man to sing when he

is cheerful and happy. Now no subject can be more noble than that

which is Divine: and as God alone is the author of all that good

which makes a man happy, then his praise should be the subject of

the song of him who is merry. But where persons rejoice in

iniquity, and not in the truth, God and sacred things can never be

the subject of their song.

Verse 14. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders]

This was also a Jewish maxim. Rabbi Simeon, in Sepher Hachaiyim,

said: "What should a man do who goes to visit the sick? Ans. He

who studies to restore the health of the body, should first lay

the foundation in the health of the soul. The wise men have said,

No healing is equal to that which comes from the word of God and

prayer. Rabbi Phineas, the son of Chamma, hath said, 'When

sickness or disease enters into a man's family, let him apply to a

wise man, who will implore mercy in his behalf.'" See Schoettgen.

St. James very properly sends all such to the elders of the

Church, who had power with God through the great Mediator, that

they might pray for them.

Anointing him with oil] That St. James neither means any kind

of incantation, any kind of miracle, or such extreme unction as

the Romish Church prescribes, will be sufficiently evident from

these considerations: 1. Be was a holy man, and could prescribe

nothing but what was holy. 2. If a miracle was intended, it could

have been as well wrought without the oil, as with it. 3. It is

not intimated that even this unction is to save the sick man, but

the prayer of faith, Jas 5:15. 4. What is here recommended was

to be done as a natural means of restoring health, which, while

they used prayer and supplication to God, they were not to

neglect. 5. Oil in Judea was celebrated for its sanative

qualities; so that they scarcely ever took a journey without

carrying oil with them, (see in the case of the Samaritan,) with

which they anointed their bodies, healed their wounds, bruises,

&c. 6. Oil was and in frequently used in the east as a means of

cure in very dangerous diseases; and in Egypt it is often used in

the cure of the plague. Even in Europe it has been tried with

great success in the cure of dropsy. And pure olive oil is

excellent for recent wounds and bruises; and I have seen it tried

in this way with the best effects. 7. But that it was the custom

of the Jews to apply it as a means of healing, and that St. James

refers to this custom, is not only evident from the case of the

wounded man ministered to by the good Samaritan, Lu 10:34, but

from the practice of the Jewish rabbins. In Midrash Koheleth,

fol. 73, 1, it is said: "Chanina, son of the brother of the Rabbi

Joshua, went to visit his uncle at Capernaum; he was taken ill;

and Rabbi Joshua went to him and anointed him with oil, and he was

restored." They had, therefore, recourse to this as a natural

remedy; and we find that the disciples used it also in this way to

heal the sick, not exerting the miraculous power but in cases

where natural means were ineffectual. And they cast out many

devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed

them; Mr 6:13. On this latter place I have supposed that it

might have been done symbolically, in order to prepare the way for

a miraculous cure: this is the opinion of many commentators; but I

am led, on more mature consideration, to doubt its propriety, yet

dare not decide. In short, anointing the sick with oil, in order

to their recovery, was a constant practice among the Jews. See

Lightfoot and Wetstein on Mr 6:13. And here I am satisfied that

it has no other meaning than as a natural means of restoring

health; and that St. James desires them to use natural means while

looking to God for an especial blessing. And no wise man would

direct otherwise. 8. That the anointing recommended here by St.

James cannot be such as the Romish Church prescribes, and it is on

this passage principally that they found their sacrament of

extreme unction, is evident from these considerations: 1. St.

James orders the sick person to be anointed in reference to his

cure; but they anoint the sick in the agonies of death, when there

is no prospect of his recovery; and never administer that

sacrament, as it is called, while there is any hope of life. 2.

St James orders this anointing for the cure of the body, but they

apply it for the cure of the soul; in reference to which use of it

St. James gives no directions: and what is said of the forgiveness

of sins, in Jas 5:15,

is rather to be referred to faith and prayer, which are often the

means of restoring lost health, and preventing premature death,

when natural means, the most skillfully used, have been useless.

3. The anointing with oil, if ever used as a means or symbol in

working miraculous cures, was only applied in some cases, perhaps

very few, if any; but the Romish Church uses it in every case;

and makes it necessary to the salvation of every departing soul.

Therefore, St. James' unction, and the extreme unction of the

Romish Church, are essentially different. See below.

Verse 15. And the prayer of faith; shall save the sick] That

is, God will often make these the means of a sick man's recovery;

but there often are cases where faith and prayer are both

ineffectual, because God sees it will be prejudicial to the

patient's salvation to be restored; and therefore all faith and

prayer on such occasions should be exerted on this ground: "If it

be most for thy glory, and the eternal good of this man's soul,

let him be restored; if otherwise, Lord, pardon, purify him, and

take him to thy glory."

The Lord shall raise him up] Not the elders, how faithfully

and fervently soever they have prayed.

And if he have committed sins] So as to have occasioned his

present malady, they shall be forgiven him; for being the cause of

the affliction it is natural to conclude that, if the effect be to

cease, the cause must be removed. We find that in the miraculous

restoration to health, under the powerful hand of Christ, the sin

of the party is generally said to be forgiven, and this also

before the miracle was wrought on the body: hence there was a

maxim among the Jews, and it seems to be founded in common sense

and reason, that God never restores a man miraculously to health

till he has pardoned his sins; because it would be incongruous for

God to exert his miraculous power in saving a body, the soul of

which was in a state of condemnation to eternal death, because of

the crimes it had committed against its Maker and Judge. Here

then it is GOD that remits the sin, not in reference to the

unction, but in reference to the cure of the body, which he is

miraculously to effect.

Verse 16. Confess your faults one to another] This is a good

general direction to Christians who endeavour to maintain among

themselves the communion of saints. This social confession tends

much to humble the soul, and to make it watchful. We naturally

wish that our friends in general, and our religious friends in

particular, should think well of us; and when we confess to them

offences which, without this confession, they could never have

known, we feel humbled, are kept from self-applause, and induced

to watch unto prayer, that we may not increase our offences before

God, or be obliged any more to undergo the painful humiliation of

acknowledging our weakness, fickleness, or infidelity to our

religious brethren.

It is not said, Confess your faults to the ELDERS that they may

forgive them, or prescribe penance in order to forgive them. No;

the members of the Church were to confess their faults to each

other; therefore auricular confession to a priest, such as is

prescribed by the Romish Church, has no foundation in this

passage. Indeed, had it any foundation here it would prove more

than they wish, for it would require the priest to confess his

sins to the people, as well as the people to confess theirs to the


And pray one for another] There is no instance in auricular

confession where the penitent and the priest pray together for

pardon; but here the people are commanded to pray for each other

that they may be healed.

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.]

The words δεησιςενεργουμενη signify energetic supplication, or

such a prayer as is suggested to the soul and wrought in it by a

Divine energy. When God designs to do some particular work in his

Church he pours out on his followers the spirit of grace and

supplication; and this he does sometimes when he is about to do

some especial work for an individual. When such a power of prayer

is granted, faith should be immediately called into exercise, that

the blessing may be given: the spirit of prayer is the proof that

the power of God is present to heal. Long prayers give no

particular evidence of Divine inspiration: the following was a

maxim among the ancient Jews, the prayers of the

righteous are short. This is exemplified in almost every instance

in the Old Testament.

Verse 17. Elias was a man subject to like passions] This was

Elijah, and a consistency between the names of the same persons as

expressed in the Old and the New Testaments should be kept up.

The word ομοιοπαθης signifies of the same constitution, a human

being just as ourselves are. See the same phrase and its

explanation in Ac 14:15, and the note there. There was some

reason to apprehend that because Elijah was translated, that

therefore he was more than human, and if so, his example could be

no pattern for us; and as the design of St. James was to excite

men to pray, expecting the Divine interference whenever that

should be necessary, therefore he tells them that Elijah was a man

like themselves, of the same constitution, liable to the same

accidents, and needing the same supports.

And he prayed earnestly] προσευχηπροσηυξατο. He prayed with

prayer; a Hebraism for, he prayed fervently.

That it might not rain] See this history, 1Ki 17:1, &c.

And it rained not on the earth] επιτηςγης. On that land,

viz. the land of Judea; for this drought did not extend elsewhere.

Three years and six months.] This is the term mentioned by our

Lord, Lu 4:25; but this is not specified in the original history.

In 1Ki 18:1,

it is said, In the third year the word of the Lord came to Elijah,

that is, concerning the rain; but this third year is to be

computed from the time of his going to live at Zarephath, which

happened many days after the drought began, as is plain from this,

that he remained at the brook Cherith till it was dried up, and

then went to Zarephath, in the country of Zidon; 1Ki 17:7-9.

Therefore the three years and six months must be computed from his

denouncing the drought, at which time that judgment commenced.


Verse 18. And he prayed again] This second prayer is not

mentioned in the history in express words, but as in 1Ki 18:42,

it is said, He cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face

between his knees; that was probably the time of the second

praying, namely, that rain might come, as this was the proper

posture of prayer.

Verse 19. Err from the truth] Stray away from the Gospel of

Christ; and one convert him-reclaim him from his error, and bring

him back to the fold of Christ.

Verse 20. Let him know] Let him duly consider, for his

encouragement, that he who is the instrument of converting a

sinner shall save a soul from eternal death, and a body from ruin,

and shall hide a multitude of sins; for in being the means of his

conversion we bring him back to God, who, in his infinite mercy,

hides or blots out the numerous sins which he had committed during

the time of his backsliding. It is not the man's sins who is the

means of his conversion, but the sins of the backslider, which are

here said to be hidden. See more below.

1. MANY are of opinion that the hiding a multitude of sins is

here to be understood of the person who converts the backslider:

this is a dangerous doctrine, and what the Holy Spirit never

taught to man. Were this true it would lead many a sinner to

endeavour the reformation of his neighbour, that himself might

continue under the influence of his own beloved sins and

conversion to a particular creed would be put in the place of

conversion to God, and thus the substance be lost in the shadow.

Bishop Atterbury, (Ser. vol. i. p. 46,) and Scott, (Christian

Life, vol. i. p. 368,) contend "that the covering a multitude of

sins includes also, that the pious action of which the apostle

speaks engages God to look with greater indulgence on the

character of the person that performs it, and to be less severe in

marking what he has done amiss." See Macknight. This from such

authorities may be considered doubly dangerous; it argues however

great ignorance of God, of the nature of Divine justice, and of

the sinfulness of sin. It is besides completely antievangelical;

it teaches in effect that something besides the blood of the

covenant will render God propitious to man, and that the

performance of a pious action will induce God's justice to show

greater indulgence to the person who performs it, and to be less

severe in marking what he has done amiss. On the ground of this

doctrine we might confide that, had he a certain quantum of pious

acts, we might have all the sins of our lives forgiven,

independently of the sacrifice of Christ; for if one pious act can

procure pardon for a multitude of sins, what may not be expected

from many?

2. The Jewish doctrine, to which it is possible St. James may

allude, was certainly more sound than that taught by these

Christian divines. They allowed that the man who was the means of

converting another had done a work highly pleasing to God, and

which should be rewarded; but they never insinuate that this would

atone for sin. I shall produce a few examples:-

In Synopsis Sohzar, p. 47, n. 17, it is said: Great is his

excellence who persuades a sick person to turn from his sins.

Ibid, p. 92, n. 18: Great is his reward who brings back the

pious into the way of the blessed Lord.

Yoma, fol. 87, 1: By his hands iniquity is not committed, who

turns many to righteousness; i.e. God does not permit him to fall

into sin. What is the reason? Ans. Lest those should be found in

paradise, while their instructer is found in hell.

This doctrine is both innocent and godly in comparison of the

other. It holds out a motive to diligence and zeal, but nothing

farther. In short, if we allow any thing to cover our sins beside

the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, WE shall err most dangerously

from the truth, and add this moreover to the multitude of OUR

sins, that we maintained that the gift of God could be purchased

by our puny acts of comparative righteousness.

3. As one immortal soul is of more worth than all the material

creation of God, every man who knows the worth of his own should

labour for the salvation of others. To be the means of depriving

hell of her expectation, and adding even one soul to the Church

triumphant, is a matter of infinite moment; and he who is such an

instrument has much reason to thank God that ever he was born. He

who lays out his accounts to do good to the souls of men, will

ever have the blessing of God in his own. Besides, God will not

suffer him to labour in vain, or spend his strength for naught.

At first he may see little fruit; but the bread cast upon the

waters shall be found after many days: and if he should never see

it in this life, he may take for granted that whatsoever he has

done for God, in simplicity and godly sincerity, has been less or

more effectual.

After the last word of this epistle αμαρτιων, of sins, some

versions add his, others theirs; and one MS. and the later Syriac

have Amen. But these additions are of no authority.

The subscriptions to this epistle, in the VERSIONS, are the

following: The end of the Epistle of James the apostle.-SYRIAC.

The catholic Epistle of James the apostle is ended.-SYRIAC

PHILOXENIAN. The end.-AETHIOPIC. Praise be to God for ever and

ever; and may his mercy be upon us. Amen.-ARABIC. The Epistle of

James the son of Zebedee, is ended.-ITALA, one copy.

Nothing.-COPTIC. Nothing.-Printed VULGATE. The Epistle of James

is ended.-Bib. VULG. Edit. Eggestein. The Epistle of St. James

the apostle is ended.-Complutensian.

In the MANUSCRIPTS: Of James.-Codex Vaticanus, B. The Epistle of

James.-Codex Alexandrinus. The end of the catholic Epistle of

James.-Codex Vaticanus, 1210. The catholic Epistle of James the

apostle.-A Vienna MS. The catholic Epistle of the holy Apostle

James.-An ancient MS. in the library of the Augustins, at Rome.

The end of the Epistle of the holy Apostle James, the brother of

God.-One of Petavius's MSS., written in the thirteenth century.

The same is found in a Vatican MS. of the eleventh century. The

most ancient MSS. have little or no subscription.

Two opinions relative to the author are expressed in these MSS.

One copy of the Itala, the Codex Corbejensis, at Paris, which

contains this epistle only, attributes it to James, the son of

Zebedee; and two, comparatively recent, attribute it to James, our

Lord's brother. The former testimony, taken in conjunction with

some internal evidences, led Michaelis, and some others, to

suppose it probable that James the elder, or the son of Zebedee,

was the author. I should give it to this apostle, in preference to

the other, had I not reason to believe that a James, different

from either; was the author. But who or what he was, at this

distance of time, it is impossible to say. Having now done with

all comments on the text, I shall conclude with some particulars

relative to James, our Lord's brother, and some general

observations on the structure and importance of this epistle.

I have entered but little into the history of this James,

because I was not satisfied that he is the author of this epistle:

however, observing that the current of modern authors are decided

in their opinion that he was the author, I perceive I may be

blamed unless I be more particular concerning his life; as some of

the ancients have related several circumstances relative to him

that are very remarkable, and, indeed, singular. Dr. Lardner has

collected the whole; and, although the same authors from whom he

has taken his accounts are before me, yet, not supposing that I

can at all mend either his selections or arrangement, I shall take

the accounts as he states them.

"I should now proceed," says this learned man, "to write the

history of this person (James) from ancient authors; but that is a

difficult task, as I have found, after trying more than once, and

at distant spaces of time. I shall therefore take DIVERS passages

of Eusebius and others, and make such reflections as offer for

finding out as much truth as we can.

"Eusebius, in his chapter concerning our Saviour's disciples,

(Eccl. Hist. lib. i., cap. 12,) speaks of James, to whom our Lord

showed himself after his resurrection, 1Co 15:7, as being one

of the seventy disciples.

"The same author has another chapter, (Hist. Eccl., lib. ii.,

cap. 1,) entitled, Of Things constituted by the Apostles after our

Saviour's Ascension, which is to this purpose:-

"The first is the choice of Matthias, one of Christ's disciples,

into the apostleship, in the room of Judas; then the appointment

of the seven deacons, one of whom was Stephen, who, soon after his

being ordained, was stoned by those who had killed the Lord, and

was the first martyr for Christ; then James, called the Lord's

brother, because he was the son of Joseph, to whom the Virgin Mary

was espoused. This James, called by the ancients the just, on

account of his eminent virtue, is said to have been appointed the

first bishop of Jerusalem; and Clement, in the sixth book of his

Institutions, writes after this manner: That after our Lord's

ascension, Peter, and James, and John, though they had been

favoured by the Lord above the rest, did not contend for honour,

but chose James the just to be bishop of Jerusalem; and in the

seventh book of the same work he says, that after his resurrection

the Lord gave to James the just, and Peter, and John, the gift of

knowledge; and they gave it to the other apostles, and the other

apostles gave it to the seventy, one of whom was Barnabas: for

there were two named James, one the just, who was thrown down from

the battlement of the temple and killed by a fuller's staff; the

other is he who was beheaded. Of him who was called the just,

Paul also makes mention, saying, Other of the apostles saw I none,

save James the Lord's brother.

"I would now take a passage from Origen, in the tenth vol. of

his Commentaries upon Mt 13:55, 56:

Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary?

And his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his

sisters, are they not all with us? They thought, says Origen,

that he was the son of Joseph and Mary. The brethren of Jesus,

some say, upon the ground of tradition, and particularly of what

is said in the gospel according to Peter, or the book of James,

were the sons of Joseph by a former wife, who cohabited with him

before Mary. They who say this are desirous of maintaining the

honour of Mary's virginity to the last, (or her perpetual

virginity,) that the body chosen to fulfil what is said, The Holy

Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall

overshadow thee, Lu 1:35, might not know man after that: and

I think it very reasonable that, as Jesus was the first fruits of

virginity among men, Mary should be the same among women; for it

would be very improper to give that honour to any besides her.

This James is he whom Paul mentions in his Epistle to the

Galatians, saying, Other of the apostles, saw I none, save James

the Lord's brother. This James was in so great repute with the

people for his virtue, that Josephus, who wrote twenty books of

the Jewish antiquities, desirous to assign the reason of their

suffering such things, so that even their temple was destroyed,

says that those things were owing to the anger of God for what

they did to James, the brother of Jesus, who is called Christ.

And it is wonderful that he, who did not believe our Jesus to be

the Christ, should bear such a testimony to James. He also says

that the people thought they suffered those things on account of

James. Jude, who wrote an epistle, of a few lines indeed, but

filled with the powerful word of the heavenly grace, says, at the

beginning, Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.

Of Joses and Simon we know nothing.

"Origen, in his books against Celsus, quotes Josephus again as

speaking of James; to the like purpose; but there are not now any

such passages in Josephus, though they are quoted as from him by

Eusebius also. As the death of James has been mentioned, I shall

now immediately take the accounts of it which are in Eusebius, and

I will transcribe a large part of the twenty-third chapter of the

second book of his Ecclesiastical History: 'But when Paul had

appealed to Caesar, and Festus had sent him to Rome, the Jews

being disappointed in their design against him, turned their rage

against James, the Lord's brother, to whom the apostles had

consigned the episcopal chair of Jerusalem, and in this manner

they proceeded against him: having laid hold of him, they required

him, in the presence of all the people, to renounce his faith in

Christ; but he, with freedom and boldness beyond expectation,

before all the multitude declared our Lord and Saviour Jesus

Christ to be the Son of God. They, not enduring the testimony of

a man who was in high esteem for his piety, laid hold of the

opportunity when the country was without a governor to put him to

death; for Festus having died about that time in Judea, the

province had in it no procurator. The manner of the death of

James was shown before in the words of Clement, who said that he

was thrown off the battlement of the temple, and then beat to

death with a club. But no one has so accurately related this

transaction as Hegesippus, a man in the first succession of the

apostles, in the fifth book of his Commentaries, whose words are

to this purpose: James, the brother of our Lord, undertook

together with the apostles, the government of the Church. He has

been called the just by all, from the time of our Saviour to ours:

for many have been named James; but he was holy from his mother's

womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat any

animal food; there never came a razor upon his head; he neither

anointed himself with oil, nor did he use a bath. To him alone

was it lawful to enter the holy place. He wore no woollen, but

only linen garments. He entered into the temple alone, where he

prayed upon his knees; insomuch that his knees were become like

the knees of a camel by means of his being continually upon them,

worshipping God, and praying for the forgiveness of the people.

Upon account of his virtue he was called the just, and Oblias,

that is, the defence of the people, and righteousness. Some,

therefore, of the seven sects which were among the Jews, of whom I

spoke in the former part of these Commentaries, asked him, Which

is the gate of Jesus? or, What is the gate of salvation? and he

said, Jesus is the Saviour, or the way of salvation. Some of them

therefore believed that Jesus is the Christ. And many of the

chief men also believing, there was a disturbance among the Jews

and among the scribes and Pharisees, who said there was danger

lest all the people should think Jesus to be the Christ. Coming

therefore to James they said, We beseech thee to restrain the

error of this people; we entreat thee to persuade all who come

hither at the time of passover to think rightly concerning Jesus,

for all the people and all of us put confidence in thee. Stand

therefore on the battlement of the temple, that being placed on

high thou mayest be conspicuous, and thy words may be easily heard

by all the people; for because of the passover all the tribes are

come hither, and many Gentiles. Therefore the scribes and

Pharisees before named placed James upon the battlement of the

temple, and cried out to him and said, O Justus, whom we ought all

to believe, since the people are in an error, following Jesus, who

was crucified, tell us what is the gate of Jesus. And he answered

with a loud voice, Why do you ask me concerning the Son of man?

He even sitteth in the heaven, at the right hand of the great

Power, and will come in the clouds of heaven. And many were fully

satisfied and well pleased with the testimony of James, saying,

Hosanna to the Son of David! But the same scribes and Pharisees

said one to another, We have done wrong in procuring such a

testimony to Jesus. Let us go up and throw him down, that the

people may be terrified from giving credit to him. And they went

up presently, and cast him down, and said, Let us stone James the

just: and they began to stone him because he was not killed by the

fall. But he turning himself, kneeled, saying, I entreat thee, O

Lord God the Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

As they were stoning him, one said, Give over. What do ye? The

just man prays for you. And one of them, a fuller, took a pole,

which was used to beat clothes with, and struck him on the head.

Thus his martyrdom was completed. And they buried him in that

place; and his monument still remains near the temple. This James

was a true witness, both to Jews and Gentiles, that Jesus is the

Christ. Soon after Judea was invaded by Vespasian, and the people

were carried captive.' So writes Hegesippus at large, agreeably

to Clement. For certain, James was an excellent man, and much

esteemed by many for his virtue; insomuch that the most thoughtful

men among the Jews were of opinion that his death was the cause of

the siege of Jerusalem, which followed soon after his martyrdom:

and that it was owing to nothing else but the wickedness committed

against him. And Josephus says the same in these words: 'These

things befell the Jews in vindication of James the just, who was

brother of Jesus, called the Christ. For the Jews killed him; who

was a most righteous man.'

"The time of the death of James may be determined without much

difficulty; he was alive when Paul came to Jerusalem at the

pentecost, in the year of Christ 58, and it is likely that he was

dead when St. Paul wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews at the

beginning of the year 63. Theodoret, upon Heb 13:7 supposes the

apostle there to refer to the martyrdoms of Stephen, James the

brother of John, and James the just. According to Hegesippus, the

death of James happened about the time of passover, which might be

that of the year 62; and if Festus was then dead, and Albinus not

arrived, the province was without a governor. Such a season left

the Jews at liberty to gratify their licentious and turbulent

disposition, and they were very likely to embrace it."

I have said but little relative to the controversy concerning

the apostleship of James, our Lord's brother; for, as I am still

in doubt whether he was the author of this epistle, I do not judge

it necessary to enter into the question. I proceed now to some

general observations on the epistle itself, and the evidence it

affords of the learning and science of its author.

1. I have already conjectured that this epistle ranks among the

most ancient of the Christian writings; its total want of

reference to the great facts which distinguish the early history

of the Church, viz., the calling of the Gentiles, the disputes

between them and the Jews, the questions concerning circumcision,

and the obligation of the law in connection with the Gospel &c.,

&c., shows that it must have been written before those things took

place, or that they must have been wholly unknown to the author;

which is incredible, allowing him to have been a Christian writer.

2. The style of this epistle is much more elevated than most

other parts of the New Testament. It abounds with figures and

metaphors, at once bold, dignified, just, and impressive. Many

parts of it are in the genuine prophetic style, and much after the

manner of the Prophet Zephaniah, to whom there is a near

resemblance in several passages.

3. An attentive reader of this epistle will perceive the author

to be a man of deep thought and considerable learning. He had

studied the Jewish prophets closely, and imitated their style; but

he appears also to have read the Greek poets: his language is such

as we might expect from one who had made them his study, but who

avoided to quote them. We find a perfect Greek hexameter in

Jas 1:17, and another may be perceived in Jas 4:4; but these are

probably not borrowed, but are the spontaneous, undesigned effort

of his own well cultivated mind. His science may be noted in

several places, but particularly in Jas 1:17, on which see the

note and the diagram, and its explanation at the end of the

chapter. Images from natural history are not unfrequent; and that

in Jas 1:14, 15 is exceedingly correct and appropriate, but will

not bear a closely literal translation.

4. His constant attention and reference to the writings and

maxims of his own countrymen is peculiarly observable. Several of

his remarks tend to confirm the antiquity of the Talmud; and the

parallel passages in the different tracts of that work cast much

light on the allusions of St. James. Without constant reference

to the ancient Jewish rabbins, we should have sought for the

meaning of several passages in vain.

5. St. James is in many places obscure; this may arise partly

from his own deep and strong conceptions, and partly from

allusions to arts or maxims which are not come down to us, or

which lie yet undiscovered in the Mishna or Talmud. To elucidate

this writer I have taken more than common pains, but dare not say

that I have been always successful, though I have availed myself

of all the help within my reach. To Schoettgen's Horae Hebraicae

I am considerably indebted, as also to Dr. Macknight, Kypke,

Rosenmuller, &c., but in many cases I have departed from all

these, and others of the same class, and followed my own light.

6. On the controversy relative to the doctrine of

justification, as taught by Paul and James, I have not entered

deeply; I have produced in the proper places what appeared to me

to be the most natural method of reconciling those writers. I

believe St. James not to be in opposition to St. Paul, but to a

corrupt doctrine taught among his own countrymen relative to this

important subject. The doctrine of justification by faith in

Christ Jesus, as taught by St. Paul, is both rational and true.

St. James shows that a bare belief in the God of Israel justifies

no man; and that the genuine faith that justifies works by love,

and produces obedience to all the precepts contained in the moral

law; and that this obedience is the evidence of the sincerity of

that faith which professes to have put its possessor in the

enjoyment of the peace and favour of God.

7. This epistle ends abruptly, and scarcely appears to be a

finished work. The author probably intended to have added more,

but may have been prevented by death. James, our Lord's brother,

was murdered by the Jews, as we have already seen. James, the son

Zebedee, had probably a short race; but whether either of these

were its author we know not. The work was probably posthumous,

not appearing till after the author's death; and this may have

been one reason why it was so little known in the earliest ages of

the primitive Church.

8. The spirit of Antinomianism is as dangerous in the Church as

the spirit of Pharisaism; to the former the Epistle of James is a

most powerful antidote; and the Christian minister who wishes to

improve and guard the morals of his flock will bring its important

doctrines, in due proportion, into his public ministry. It is no

proof of the improved state of public morals that many, who call

themselves evangelical teachers, scarcely ever attempt to instruct

the public by texts selected from this epistle.

For other particulars, relative to the time of writing this

epistle, the author, his inspiration, apostleship, &c., I must

refer to Michaelis and Lardner, and to the preface.

Millbrook, Dec. 9, 1816

Finished correcting this epistle for a new edition, Dec. 31, 1831.

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