James 2* All professions of faith are vain, if not producing love andjustice to others. (1-13) The necessity of good works to provethe sincerity of faith, which otherwise will be of no moreadvantage than the faith of devils. (14-26)1-13 Those who profess faith in Christ as the Lord of glory,must not respect persons on account of mere outwardcircumstances and appearances, in a manner not agreeing withtheir profession of being disciples of the lowly Jesus. St.James does not here encourage rudeness or disorder: civilrespect must be paid; but never such as to influence theproceedings of Christians in disposing of the offices of thechurch of Christ, or in passing the censures of the church, orin any matter of religion. Questioning ourselves is of great usein every part of the holy life. Let us be more frequent in this,and in every thing take occasion to discourse with our souls. Asplaces of worship cannot be built or maintained without expense,it may be proper that those who contribute thereto should beaccommodated accordingly; but were all persons morespiritually-minded, the poor would be treated with moreattention that usually is the case in worshipping congregations.A lowly state is most favourable for inward peace and for growthin holiness. God would give to all believers riches and honoursof this world, if these would do them good, seeing that he haschosen them to be rich in faith, and made them heirs of hiskingdom, which he promised to bestow on all who love him.Consider how often riches lead to vice and mischief, and whatgreat reproaches are thrown upon God and religion, by men ofwealth, power, and worldly greatness; and it will make this sinappear very sinful and foolish. The Scripture gives as a law, tolove our neighbour as ourselves. This law is a royal law, itcomes from the King of kings; and if Christians act unjustly,they are convicted by the law as transgressors. To think thatour good deeds will atone for our bad deeds, plainly puts usupon looking for another atonement. According to the covenant ofworks, one breach of any one command brings a man undercondemnation, from which no obedience, past, present, or future,can deliver him. This shows us the happiness of those that arein Christ. We may serve him without slavish fear. God'srestraints are not a bondage, but our own corruptions are so.The doom passed upon impenitent sinners at last, will bejudgment without mercy. But God deems it his glory and joy, topardon and bless those who might justly be condemned at histribunal; and his grace teaches those who partake of his mercy,to copy it in their conduct. 14-26 Those are wrong who put a mere notional belief of thegospel for the whole of evangelical religion, as many now do. Nodoubt, true faith alone, whereby men have part in Christ'srighteousness, atonement, and grace, saves their souls; but itproduces holy fruits, and is shown to be real by its effect ontheir works; while mere assent to any form of doctrine, or merehistorical belief of any facts, wholly differs from this savingfaith. A bare profession may gain the good opinion of piouspeople; and it may procure, in some cases, worldly good things;but what profit will it be, for any to gain the whole world, andto lose their souls? Can this faith save him? All things shouldbe accounted profitable or unprofitable to us, as they tend toforward or hinder the salvation of our souls. This place ofScripture plainly shows that an opinion, or assent to thegospel, without works, is not faith. There is no way to show wereally believe in Christ, but by being diligent in good works,from gospel motives, and for gospel purposes. Men may boast toothers, and be conceited of that which they really have not.There is not only to be assent in faith, but consent; not onlyan assent to the truth of the word, but a consent to takeChrist. True believing is not an act of the understanding only,but a work of the whole heart. That a justifying faith cannot bewithout works, is shown from two examples, Abraham and Rahab.Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him forrighteousness. Faith, producing such works, advanced him topeculiar favours. We see then, ver. #24|, how that by works aman is justified, not by a bare opinion or profession, orbelieving without obeying; but by having such faith as producesgood works. And to have to deny his own reason, affections, andinterests, is an action fit to try a believer. Observe here, thewonderful power of faith in changing sinners. Rahab's conductproved her faith to be living, or having power; it showed thatshe believed with her heart, not merely by an assent of theunderstanding. Let us then take heed, for the best works,without faith, are dead; they want root and principle. By faithany thing we do is really good; as done in obedience to God, andaiming at his acceptance: the root is as though it were dead,when there is no fruit. Faith is the root, good works are thefruits; and we must see to it that we have both. This is thegrace of God wherein we stand, and we should stand to it. Thereis no middle state. Every one must either live God's friend, orGod's enemy. Living to God, as it is the consequence of faith,which justifies and will save, obliges us to do nothing againsthim, but every thing for him and to him.
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