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"A" Coming of the Lord
Commentaries on James Chapter 5

ALBERT BARNES | ADAM CLARKE | JAMES BURTON COFFMAN | MATTHEW HENRY | JAMIESON, FAUSSET & BROWN | B.W. JOHNSON | JOHN WESLEY

"He  seems here to refer to the coming of the Lord to execute judgment on the Jewish nation, which shortly afterwards took place.  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. " Adam Clarke


ALBERT BARNES
(1835)

CHAPTER V.

ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

The subjects which are introduced in this chapter are the following:--

I. An address to rich men, and a severe condemnation of the manner in which they lived, James 5:1-6. There have been various opinions in regard to the persons here referred to.

(1.) Some have supposed that the address is to unbelieving Jews, and that the punishment which the apostle threatens was that which was about to be brought on the nation by the Roman armies. But, as Benson well observes, it can hardly be presumed that the apostle supposed that his letter would be read by the Jews, and it is not probable therefore, that he would in this manner directly address them.

(2.) Another opinion has been, that this, like the rest of the epistle, is addressed to professed Christians who had been Jews, and that the design is to reprove faults which prevailed among them. It is not supposed indeed, by those who hold this opinion, that all of those who were rich among them were guilty of the sins here adverted to, nor even that they were very prevalent among them. The rebuke would be proper if the sins here referred to existed at all, and were practised by any who bore the Christian name. As to any improbability that professed Christians would be guilty of these faults, it might be remarked that the period has been rare in the church, if it has occurred at all, in which all that is here said of "rich men" would not be applicable to some members of the church. Certainly it is applicable in all those countries where slavery prevails; in countries where religion is allied to the state; in all places where the mass are poor, and the few are rich. It would be difficult now to find any extended church on earth in relation to which the denunciation here would not be applicable to some of its members. But still it can hardly be supposed that men were tolerated in the church, in the times of the apostles, who were guilty of the oppressions and wrongs here referred to, or who lived in the manner here specified. It is true, indeed, that such men have been, and are still found, in the Christian church; but we should not, without the clearest proof, suppose that such cases existed in the times of the apostles.

(3.) The correct opinion therefore seems to be, that the design of the apostle in this chapter was to encourage and strengthen poor and oppressed Christians; to impart consolation to those who, under the exactions of rich men, were suffering wrong. In doing this, nothing would be more natural than for him first to declare his views in regard to those who were guilty of these wrongs, and who made use of the power which wealth gave to injure those in the humble walks of life. This he does in the form of an address to rich men--not perhaps expecting that they would see what he had written but with a design to set before those to whom he wrote, and for whose benefit the statement is made, in a vivid manner, the nature of the wrongs under which they were suffering, and the nature of the punishment which must come upon those who oppressed them. Nothing would tend more effectually to reconcile those to whom he wrote to their own lot, or do more to encourage them to bear theft trials with patience. At the same time, nothing would do more to keep them from envying the lot of the rich, or desiring the wealth which was connected with such a mode of life.

II. The apostle exhorts those who were suffering under these wrongs to exercise patience, James 5:7-11. He encourages them with the hope that the Lord would come; he refers them to the example of the farmer, who waits long for the fruit of the earth; he cautions them against indulging in hard feelings and thoughts against others more prospered than they were; he refers them, as examples of patience, to the prophets, to the case of Job, and to the Lord Jesus himself.

III. He adverts to a fault among them on the subject of swearing, James 5:12. This subject is introduced here apparently because they were in danger, through impatience, of expressing themselves in a severe manner, and even of uttering imprecations on those who oppressed them. To guard against this, he exhorts them to control their temper, and to confine themselves in their conversation to a simple affirmative or denial.

IV. He refers to the case of those who were sick and afflicted among them, and directs them what to do, James 5:14-18. The duty of those who were sick was to employ prayer--as the duty of those who were in health and prosperity was praise. The afflicted were to pray; the sick were to call for the elders of the church, who were to pray over them, and to anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord, not as "extreme unction," or with a view to their dying, but with a view to their living. To encourage them thus to call in the aid of praying men, he refers them to an illustrious instance of the power of prayer in the case of Elijah.

V. In the close of the chapter and of the epistle, the apostle adverts to the possibility that some among them might err from the truth, and urges the duty of endeavouring to convert such, James 5:19-20. To encourage them to do this, he states the important consequences which would follow where such an effort would be successful. He who should do this, would have the satisfaction of saving a soul from death, and would hide from the universe a multitude of sins, which otherwise, in the case of the erring brother, could not but have been exposed in the great day of judgment.

Verse 1. Go to now. See Barnes "James 4:13".

Ye rich men. Not all rich men, but only that class of them who are specified as unjust and oppressive. There is no sin in merely being rich; where sin exists peculiarly among the rich, it arises from the manner in which wealth is acquired, the spirit which it tends to engender in the heart, and the way in which it is used. See Barnes "Luke 6:24" and also See Barnes "1 Timothy 6:9".

Weep and howl. Gr., "Weep howling." This would be expressive of very deep distress. The language is intensive in a high degree, showing that the calamities which were coming upon them were not only such as would produce tears, but tears accompanied with loud lamentations. In the East, it is customary to give expression to deep sorrow by loud out cries. Compare Isaiah 13:6;; 14:31;; 15:2;; 16:7;; Jeremiah 4:8;; 47:2;; Joel 1:5.

For your miseries that shall come upon you. Many expositors, as Benson, Witby, Macknight, and others, suppose that this refers to the approaching destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and to the miseries which would be brought in the siege upon the Jewish people, in which the rich would be the peculiar objects of cupidity and vengeance. They refer to passages in Josephus, which describe particularly the sufferings to which the rich were exposed; the searching of their houses by the zealots, and the heavy calamities which came upon them and their families. But there is no reason to suppose that the apostle referred particularly to those events. The poor as well as the rich suffered in that siege, and there were no such special judgements then brought upon the rich as to show that they were the marked objects of the Divine displeasure. It is much more natural to suppose that the apostle means to say that such men as he here refers to exposed themselves always to the wrath of God, and that they had great reason to weep in the anticipation of his vengeance. The sentiments here expressed by the apostle are not applicable merely to the Jews of his time. If there is any class of men which has special reason to dread the wrath of God at all times, it is just the class of men here referred to.

{+} "go to" or, "come"
{a} "ye rich men" Proverbs 11:28;; Luke 6:24
 

Verse 2. Your riches are corrupted. The word here rendered corrupted (\~shpw\~) does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It means, to cause to rot, to corrupt, to destroy. The reference here is to their hoarded treasures; and the idea is, that they had accumulated more than they needed for their own use; and that, instead of distributing them to do good to others, or employing them in any useful way, they kept them until they rotted or spoiled. It is to be remembered, that a considerable part of the treasures which a man in the East would lay up, consisted of perishable materials, as garments, grain, oil, etc. Such articles of property were often stored up, expecting that they would furnish a supply for many years, in case of the prevalence of famine or wars. Compare Luke 12:18-19. A suitable provision for the time to come cannot be forbidden; but the reference here is to cases in which great quantities had been laid up, perhaps while the poor were suffering, and which were kept until they became worthless.

Your garments are moth-eaten. The same idea substantially is expressed here in another form. As the fashions in the East did not change as they do with us, wealth consisted much in the garments that were laid up for show or for future use. See Barnes. Q. Curtius says that when Alexander the Great was going to take Persepolis, the riches of all Asia were gathered there together, which consisted not only of a great abundance of gold and silver, but also of garments, Lib. vi. c. 5. Horace tells us that when Lucullus the Roman was asked if he could lend a hundred garments for the theatre, he replied that he had five thousand in his house, of which they were welcome to take part or all. Of course, such property would be liable to be moth-eaten; and the idea here is, that they had amassed a great amount of this kind of property which was useless to them, and which they kept until it became destroyed.

{a} "Your riches are corrupted" Jeremiah 17:11
{b} "your garments are moth-eaten" Job 13:28
 

Verse 3. Your gold and silver is cankered. That is, that you have heaped together, by injustice and fraud, a large amount, and have kept it from those to whom it is due, (James 5:4,) until it has become corroded. The word rendered is cankered, (\~katiwtai\~) does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It properly means, to cause to rust; to rust out, (Passow;) to be corroded with rust, (Robinson;) to be spotted with rust. It is true that gold and silver do not properly rust, or become oxidized, and that they will not be corroded like iron and steel; but by being kept long in a damp place they will contract a dark colour, resembling rust in appearance. This seems to be the idea in the mind of the apostle. He speaks of gold and silver as they appear after having been long laid up without use; and undoubtedly the word which he uses here is one which would to an ancient have expressed that idea, as well as the mere literal idea of the rusting or oxidizing of metals. There is no reason to suppose that the word was then used in the strict chemical sense of rusting, for there is no reason to suppose that the nature of oxidization was then fully understood.

And the rust of them. Another word is used here--\~iov\~. This properly denotes something sent out or emitted, (from \~ihmi\~,) and is applied to a missile weapon, as an arrow; to poison, as emitted from the tooth of a serpent; and to rust, as it seems to be emitted from metals. The word refers to the dark discoloration which appears on gold and silver, when they have remained long without use.

Shall be a witness against you. That is, the rust or discoloration shall bear testimony against you that the money is not used as it should be, either in paying those to whom it is due, or in doing good to others. Among the ancients, the gold and silver which any one possessed was laid up in some secret and safe place. See Barnes "Isaiah 45:3". There were no banks then in which money might be deposited; there were few ways of investing money so as to produce regular interests; there were no corporations to employ money in joint operations; and it was not very common to invest money in the purchase of real estate, and stocks and mortgages were little known.

And shall eat your flesh as it were fire. This cannot be taken literally. It must mean that the effect would be as if it should corrode or consume their very flesh; that is, the fact of their laying up treasures would be followed by painful consequences. The thought is very striking, and the language in which it is conveyed is singularly bold and energetic. The effect of thus heaping up treasure will be as corroding as fire in the flesh. The reference is to the punishment which God would bring on them for their avarice and injustice--effects that will come on all now for the same offences.

Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. The day of judgment; the dosing scenes of this world. You have been heaping up treasure; but it will be treasure of a different kind from what you have supposed. It is treasure not laid up for ostentation, or luxury, or use in future life, but treasure the true worth of which will be seen at the judgment-day. So Paul speaks of "treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God," Romans 2:5. There are many who suppose they are accumulating property that may be of use to them, or that may secure them the reputation of possessing great wealth, who are in fact accumulating a most fearful treasure against the day of final retribution. Every man who is rich should examine himself closely to see whether there is anything in the manner in which he has gained his property, or in which he now holds it, that will expose him to the wrath of God in the last day. That on which he so much prides himself may yet bring down on him the vengeance of heaven; and in the day of judgment he may curse his own madness and folly in wasting his probation in efforts to amass property.

{a} "heaped treasure together" Romans 2:5
 

Verse 7. Be patient therefore, brethren. That is, under such wrongs as the apostle had described in the previous verses. Those whom he addressed were doubtless suffering under those oppressions, and his object was to induce them to bear their wrongs without murmuring and without resistance. One of the methods of doing this was by showing them, in an address to their rich oppressors, that those who injured and wronged them would be suitably punished at the day of judgment, or that their cause was in the hands of God; and another method of doing it was by the direct inculcation of the duty of patience. See Barnes "Matthew 5:38" and also through verse 45. The margin here is, be long patient, or suffer with long patience. The sense of the Greek is, "be long-suffering, or let not your patience be exhausted. Your courage, rigour, and forbearance is not to be short-lived, but is to be enduring. Let it continue as long as there is need of it, even to the coming of the Lord. Then you will be released from sufferings."

Unto the coming of the Lord. The coming of the Lord Jesus--either to remove you by death, or to destroy the city of Jerusalem and bring to an end the Jewish institutions, or to judge the world and receive his people to himself. The "coming of the Lord" in any way was an event which Christians were taught to expect, and which would be connected with their deliverance from troubles. As the time of his appearing was not revealed, it was not improper to refer to that as an event that might possibly be near; and as the removal of Christians by death is denoted by the phrase "the coming of the Lord"--that is, his coming to each one of us--it was not improper to speak of death in that view. On the general subject of the expectations entertained among the early Christians of the second advent of the Saviour, See Barnes "1 Corinthians 15:51" and also See Barnes "2 Thessalonians 2:2-3".

Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth. The farmer waits patiently for the grain to grow. It requires time to mature the crop, and he does not become impatient. The idea seems to be, that we should wait for things to develop themselves in their proper season, and should not be impatient before that season arrives. In due time we may expect the harvest to be ripened. We cannot hasten it. We cannot control the rain, the sun, the seasons; and the farmer therefore patiently waits until in the regular course of events he has a harvest. So we cannot control and hasten the events which are in God's own keeping; and we should patiently wait for the developments of his will, and the arrangements of his providence, by which we may obtain what we desire.

And hath long patience for it. That is, his patience is not exhausted. It extends through the whole time in which, by the Divine arrangements, he may expect a harvest.

Until he receive the early and latter rain. In the climate of Palestine there are two rainy seasons, on which the harvest essentially depends--the autumnal and the spring rains--called here and elsewhere in the Scriptures the early and the latter rains. . The autumnal or early rains of Scripture, usually commence in the latter half of October or the beginning of November; not suddenly, but by degrees, which gives opportunity for the husbandman to sow his fields of wheat and barley. The rains come mostly from the west or south-west, continuing for two or three days at a time, and failing especially during the nights. The wind then chops round to the north or east, and several days of fine weather succeed. During the months of November and December the rains continue to fall heavily; afterwards they return only at longer intervals, and are less heavy; but at no period during the winter do they entirely cease to occur. Snow often falls in Jerusalem, in January and February, to the depth of a foot or more, but it does not last long. Rain continues to fall more or less through the month of March, but it is rare after that period. At the present time there are not any particular periods of rain, or successions of showers, which might be regarded as distinct rainy seasons. The whole period from October to March now constitutes only one continued rainy season, without any regularly intervening time of prolonged fair weather. Unless, therefore, there has been some change in the climate since the times of the New Testament, the early and the latter rains for which the husbandman waited with longing, seem rather to have implied the first showers of autumn, which revived the parched and thirsty earth, and prepared it for the seed; and the latter showers of spring, which continued to refresh and forward the ripening crops and the vernal products of the fields. In ordinary seasons, from the cessation of the showers in spring until their commencement in October or November, rain never falls, and the sky is usually serene.--Robinson's Biblical Researches, vol. ii., pp. 96-100.

{+} "Be patient" or, "Be long patient; or Suffer with long patience"
{a} "early and latter rain"

Verse 8. Be ye also patient. As the farmer is. In due time, as he expects the return of the rain, so you may anticipate deliverance from your trials. Stablish your hearts. Let your purposes and your faith be firm and unwavering. Do not become weary and fretful; but bear with constancy all that is laid upon you, until the time of your deliverance shall come.

For the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.  It is clear, I think, from this place, that the apostle expected that that which he understood by "the coming of the Lord" was soon to occur; for it was to be that by which they would obtain deliverance from the trials which they then endured. Whether it means that he was soon to come to judgment, or to bring to an end the Jewish policy and to set up his kingdom on the earth, or that they would soon be removed by death, cannot be determined from the mere use of the language. The most natural interpretation of the passage, and one which will accord well with the time when the epistle was written, is, that the predicted time of the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24) was at hand; that there were already indications that that would soon occur; and that there was a prevalent expectation among Christians that that event would be a release from many trials of persecution, and would be followed by the setting up of the Redeemer's kingdom. Perhaps many expected that the judgment would occur at that time, and that the Saviour would set up a personal reign on the earth. But the expectation of others might have been merely--what is indeed all that is necessarily implied in the predictions on the subject--that there would be after that a rapid and extensive spread of the principles of the Christian religion in the world. The destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple would contribute to that by bringing to an end the whole system of Jewish types and sacrifices; by convincing Christians that there was not to be one central rallying-point, thus destroying their lingering prejudices in favour of the Jewish mode of worship; and by scattering them abroad through the world to propagate the new religion. The epistle was written, it is supposed, some ten or twelve years before the destruction of Jerusalem, (Intro., & 3,) and it is not improbable that there were already some indications of that approaching event.

{+} "stablish" or, "Establish"
{a} "the coming of the Lord"
 

 

ADAM CLARKE
(1816)

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.

Notes on Chapter 5

Verse 1. Go to now

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 wardrobes.

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 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 trials.

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.

ce 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">1 Corinthians 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">Matthew 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">Luke 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">Hebrews 13:7supposes 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

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">James 1:17, and another may be perceived in ; <"jas+4:4">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">James 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">James 1:14,15is 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, 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, refer to Michaelis and Lardner, and to the preface.

Millbrook, Dec. 9,1816 Finished correcting this epistle for a new edition, Dec. 31,1831.

 

JAMES BURTON COFFMAN

Verse 1
Come now, ye rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.
 

Ye rich ...
"Neither here nor elsewhere in the New Testament are the rich denounced simply because they are rich." <"4">F4 Many God-fearing souls have been wealthy, from the days of Job and Abraham until the present day; and the frequent New Testament warnings relative to riches must always be understood as reference to wealth held without regard for the kingdom of God. Yet, there is an inherent dishonesty in riches themselves, meaning not that such wealth was dishonorably procured, or even that its possessor is unmindful of God, but that wealth inherently, within itself, has an evil influence. For discussion of this, see in my Commentary on Luke, pp. 349, 350.

Weep and howl for your miseries ...
"The verb [Greek: ololuzein] (used here) means more than to wail; it means to shriek ... it depicts the frantic terror of those upon whom the judgment of God has come." <"5">F5 This supports the interpretation that what we are dealing with here is a judgment of God upon a self-hardened and rebellious people.

Which are coming upon you ...
The tense of the verbs in this paragraph is the present perfect, the traditional prophetic tense of the Old Testament, in which God's judgments are announced in the present tense, indicating that such prophesies are as certain to be fulfilled as if fulfillment had already come to pass. Gibson said that "The perfects are probably to be explained as prophetic in accordance with a common Hebrew idiom." <"6">F6

Verse 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.

All the fabulous wealth of the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem would prove utterly worthless to prevent the "miseries" coming upon them. Their great stores of oil and wheat would be turned into famine by the siege against the city. Their fine garments would prove as worthless as a moth-eaten rag. And did such miseries indeed come upon them? Alas, they did. As Gibson observed, "The Jewish historian (Josephus) was the unconscious witness of the fulfillment of the prophecies of our Lord and his apostles against Jerusalem." <"7">F7 The best commentary upon what befell Jerusalem is found in the works of Josephus, who related in detail the unspeakable horror, disaster, slaughter, famine and total ruin, not merely of the city alone, but even of the temple and everything else. All the major kinds of wealth were enumerated here by James. The riches that would be "corrupted" were supplies like those of corn and oil; fine clothing was also a standard treasure of the rich. Gold and silver would be mentioned next.

Verse 3
Your gold and your silver are rusted; and their rust shall be for a testimony against you, and shall eat your flesh as fire. Ye have laid up your treasures in the last days.

Gold ... silver ... rusted ...
The precious metals themselves did not rust, of course, and James certainly knew that; but the base alloys evil men had mixed with them did rust. The gold and silver of the Sadducean enemies were in no sense "pure," but they had been mixed with fraud, deceit, oppression, falsehood and murder; and the metaphor of rusted gold and silver is eloquent. Even the most precious assets would be of no avail when the judgment fell.

A testimony against you ...
As the blood of righteous Abel cried unto God, just so the Sadducean wealth of Jerusalem would cry to heaven for vengeance. Long centuries of God's forbearance and patient love, still spurned, still contemptuously rejected, would at last reap their inevitable harvest.

And shall eat your flesh as fire ...
This is a metaphor. The woes coming upon them were, in fact, caused by their inordinate love of that very wealth so avidly and fraudulently acquired; thus it was appropriate to say that the wicked riches unjustly extorted and wickedly abused would indeed eat their flesh as fire. Punchard declared that "The wages of the traitor, the spoil of the thief, and the wealth of the oppressor burn the hands that clasp them. Memories of the wrongs shiver through each guilty soul like fire." <"8">F8

Dummelow referred this to "the siege of Jerusalem." <"9">F9 Likewise, Carson:

The last days were already upon them. The Christian is always in the last days (<"ac+2:17">Acts 2:17; <"1jo+2:18">1 John 2:18). The reference is to the last days before the Second Advent, of which the destruction of Jerusalem was a type. <"10">F10

In the destruction of Jerusalem, the wealthy Sadduceans lost all of their wealth, and more than a million were ruthlessly murdered, fulfilling perfectly the promise of Jesus that "The king was wroth; and he sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned their city" (<"mt+22:7">Matthew 22:7). This was "the last days" of the Jewish commonwealth.

Despite the Old Testament overtones of this passage, the spirit and teaching of the New Testament also permeate it, as indicated by this reference to "the last days," and the laying up of treasures where moth and rust doth consume (<"jas+5:2">James 5:2), a plain reference to Jesus' teaching in Matthew 6:20f.

 
Verse 4 Behold the hire of the laborers who mowed your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth out: and the cries of them that reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
 

It was not merely the rejection of Christ that provoked the judgment of God upon the Jewish state, although that was sufficient; but it was their gross rebellion against the very law they pretended so much to adore. Lev. 13:13, and Deut. 24:15, and countless other passages forbade the withholding of the laborers' pay even for the space of a single day, but the evil men James denounced had withheld it altogether, defrauding them of it.

The hire of the laborers ...
This is an eloquent statement. It identifies the place of the offense cited as Jerusalem of Judaea, the rest of the civilized world of that period having all of the farm work done by slaves. "Only in Palestine would field laborers have been hired help; elsewhere in the Roman Empire the fields were worked by slaves." <"11">F11 It also means that this epistle was surely written before the destruction of Jerusalem, because after that event the slave system prevailed in Judaea also.

Lord of Sabaoth ...
Some writers seize upon this as proof of their allegation that here we have a Jewish writing; but their error is due to a failure to discern James' reason for this usage. The judgment about to fall upon Israel was due to their having rejected the teachings of the Lord of Sabaoth, as inculcated in the Law of Moses; and it was most fitting that this lapse on their part should have been mentioned in connection with this prophetic announcement of their destruction. The expression means "The Lord of Hosts," "The God of the heavenly armies," "God of the heavenly hosts (such as the sun, moon and stars)," "God of all the armies of angels arranged in an orderly host," etc., etc. It speaks of the omnipotence, glory and eternity of Almighty God. Tasker called this "One of the most majestic of all the titles of God in the Old Testament." <"12">F12 The only other New Testament usage of this title is in Rom. 9:29, where Paul quoted it from Isaiah in exactly the same context as that in which James used it here, namely, that of discussing the apostasy of Israel. How strange it is that some fail to see the same connection here.

 
Verse 5 Ye have lived delicately on the earth, and taken your pleasure; ye have nourished your hearts in a day of slaughter.
 

Nourished your hearts in a day of slaughter ...
This is a reference (a) to their delicate living and their pleasures, called here "nourishing their hearts" and (b) to the forthcoming destruction of Jerusalem, called here "a day of slaughter," the Old Testament expression meaning "the day of God's judgment" (<"isa+34:6">Isaiah 34:6; <"eze+21:15">Ezekiel 21:15); and let it be noted that the day had already arrived. Their sins continued in a day of slaughter, that is, up until the very moment of the impending judgment. As Carson put it, "They were like animals gorging themselves on the very day of their destruction." <"13">F13 As Adam Clarke said, concerning "the last days" of James 5:3, and the "day of slaughter" here, "This is not to be understood as the judgment day, but as the last days of the Jewish commonwealth." <"14">F14 Carson also said that the best exposition of this verse is "Josephus' account of the destruction of Jerusalem." <"15">F15

Verse 6
Ye have condemned, ye have killed the righteous one; he doth not resist you.
The righteous one ...
is an expression used of Christ in a number of New Testament references (<"ac+3:14">Acts 3:14; <"ac+7:52">7:52; <"ac+22:14">22:14), and this is clearly the meaning of it here. That James did not specify Christ by name is no problem, because New Testament writers generally were most reluctant to mention by name their own family; and James adhered to this rule, making only enough exceptions to identify Jesus as the Christ and Saviour. Dummelow, and many others, concede that "this may refer to the Lord," <"16">F16 and in the total absence of any reason why it should not be referred to him, this is the way we shall construe it. Ward likewise allowed that "James seems to see the condemnation of the Messiah repeated in the experience of his righteous subjects." <"17">F17 Tasker and Gibson also apply this to righteous men generally; but, while it is clear enough that it is true of righteous men generally the specific reference here must be to Christ. Our interpretation of this whole paragraph will hardly allow any other meaning. The great sin of the heartless rich being thus condemned and judged was that of murdering the Messiah. "Ye have condemned ..." indicates formal trial and passing sentence, details that were often absent from their unjust dealings with the poor. "Ye have killed ..." This, they did not generally do to the poor; but they effectively wrought the crucifixion of Christ. Barclay admitted that this verse "could be a reference to Jesus Christ," <"18">F18 though he left the question open. That this is actually the meaning will appear in the further examination of the last clause.

He doth not resist you ...
It is a well know fact that the Greek words here may be either affirmative or interrogative, the latter being in all probability correct. Hort suggested, and Ropes advocated that it be read as a question, "Doth he not resist you?" <"19">F19 Tasker explained that this would have a prophetic meaning, demanding an affirmative reply. <"20">F20 The true meaning of the clause then is, "You have killed the Christ, but will he not resist you? .... Do you really think you can escape judgment for such a crime as that?" Thus read, this verse is a powerful and dramatic conclusion of this terrible, yet magnificent, prophecy. The oppression of the poor, the persecution of the church, the cruel and heartless crucifixion of the Messiah inspired James in this sublime paragraph to announce the forthcoming judgment of God as about to fall upon the perpetrators of such wickedness.

While construing this paragraph as primarily a prophecy against entrenched Judaism, it should also be observed that it is charged with social consequences of the most extensive dimensions. As Barclay said:

One of the mysteries is how Christianity ever came to be regarded as the opium of the people. There is no book in any literature that speaks so explosively of social injustice as does the Bible. It does not condemn wealth as such, but there is no book which more strenuously insists on wealth's responsibilities, and on the perils that surround the man of wealth. <"21">F21

This passage (<"jas+5:1-6">James 5:1-6) deserves to rank alongside the greatest passages of the Bible for its tremendous social implications. Charles David Eldridge identified the Bible as the source of all social justice in these words:

The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament writers denounce the exclusive privileges of the rich, and the usurpation of the rights of the poor, and strenuously enforce their demands for righteous dealings among men. The Bible, like an unfailing arsenal, has supplied the ammunition for the age-long struggle for liberty. <"22">F22

Such qualities shine with exceptional brilliance in James' thundering denunciation in this passage.

The connection with the foregoing in the following passage (<"jas+5:7-12">James 5:7-12) is most intimate and instructive. With Lenski we deplore the blindness which has viewed these as isolated statements. "He is charged with patching heterogeneous pieces together. A redactor (!) is also mentioned." <"23">F23 It is simply incredible that men should not see how closely James followed the teachings of Jesus Christ, the writings of the New Testament authors, and the teachings of the Old Testament in this epistle. There is no need whatever to quote from apocalyptic literature, the book of Wisdom, Sirach and the intertestamental writings in an effort to understand James. The Holy Bible illuminates every word that he wrote.

The historical situation in which this epistle occurs is that of the expectancy permeating the whole church during those years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, an event which was known and anticipated throughout the world of that period. Christ had categorically predicted it in a prophecy that so inspired the church that when the city was finally destroyed, not a Christian perished in the disaster. They, having been forewarned, fled to Pella. This universal expectancy which dominated Christian thought in this period is conspicuous in the writings of Paul, who noted with consternation a flowering of conceit and gloating expectancy among the Gentile segment of Christianity, and who at Once wrote the book of Romans, addressing it specifically to that conceit (see in my Commentary on Romans, pp. 412,413). In the same manner, James in this epistle addressed that air of expectancy (especially among the poor who had made up the vast majority of Jewish Christianity), which as the years passed and Jerusalem was still standing, had tended to be alloyed with impatience. The vital, intimate and urgent connection is simply this: (1) the first six verses are a prophecy of the certain and impending overthrow of the Sadducean overlords who were notorious oppressors of the poor and the terminal heirs of that generation which had murdered the Son of God; (2) the next six verses are concerned with the proper behavior and attitude of the Christians who were destined to witness the fulfillment of the prophecy.

 
Verse 7
Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it, until it receive the early and latter rain.
 

Until the coming of the Lord ...
In Jesus' great prophetic utterances regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, as recorded in Matt. 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, our Lord blended the prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem with those of the coming of the end of the world; and, in all probability, not even the apostles and other New Testament writers understood until long afterward that the two events would be separated by a vast distance in time. Only time would reveal that the destruction of Jerusalem, which was indeed the end of the Jewish dispensation, of the Jewish state, and of Judaistic persecution of Christianity, would be only a type of the destruction of the whole world at the Second Advent. They fully understood that Jerusalem was to be destroyed before that "generation" had passed (see in my Commentary on Mark for double meaning of "generation," p. 292). "Coming of the Lord," therefore, in this place has primary reference to the destruction of Jerusalem; but in its wider reference to the Second Advent, the admonition of "patience" applies to all generations of Christians.

Be patient, therefore ...
"Patience," as used here, does not mean merely patience with respect to persons, but as Gibson noted, "It includes endurance in respect of things (that is, of events)." <"24">F24 Harper paraphrased the meaning as "Patiently accept God's delay in the timing of our Lord's return." <"25">F25

The early and latter rain ...
"The husbandman" here is a farmer who, after planting his crops, does not expect the harvest at once, but patiently waits until the early and latter rains have sprouted and matured the grain. As Wessel explained:

In Palestine, the early rain in October and November came after the crop was planted, and the latter rain in April and May when they were maturing. Both were crucial for the success of the crop. <"26">F26

Some have seen in this illustration an intimation that God in his harvest of the earth will also wait for the early rain (that prosperous era of Christianity before the destruction of Jerusalem), and the latter rain (the evangelization of the world prior to the final advent of Christ). Although interesting, it is precarious to make such an illustration the basis of any specific prophesy. However, as Carson noted, "The words naturally recall our Lord's comparison of the consummation of the age to a harvest (<"mt+13:39">Matthew 13:39)." <"27">F27 Joel also has some words in the same line of thought (<"joe+2:23">Joel 2:23).

 
Verse 8
Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
 

It is difficult not to lose patience with those commentators who receive every such reference as this as an occasion for declaiming upon the "mistake" of all the New Testament writers in expecting the "coming of the Lord" (in his final advent, of course) as an event certain to occur in their lifetime. See extended discussion of "The Speedy Return" of Christ, under 1 Thessalonians 1:10, in CT. The particular "coming of the Lord" mentioned by James here was indeed "at hand." As James would declare a little later, "The judge standeth before the doors" (<"jas+5:9">James 5:9).

 
Verse 9
Murmur not, brethren, one against another, that ye be not judged: behold, the judge standeth before the doors.
 

The judge standeth before the doors ...
It is agreed by all that "the judge" here is Christ, thus justifying the conclusion that "the judge" mentioned a moment earlier in James 4:12 is also Christ. As Roberts observed, "The clause reflects the very words of Jesus (<"mr+13:29">Mark 13:29; <"mt+24:33">Matthew 24:33). The judge is Christ." <"28">F28

Murmur not ...
This is "grudge not" in the KJV, another example of words changing their meaning. "Grudge has curiously changed its meaning from an outward murmur to an inward feeling." <"29">F29 The type of murmuring which was likely to have existed in the churches which originally received this letter was that of complaining because so many years had passed and yet the old Sadducean hypocrites were still totally in charge in Jerusalem. During the interval between the governorships of Festus and Albinus, the wicked high priest Ananus seized the opportunity to murder James the author of this epistle.

He convened the judges and brought before them James a brother of Jesus who was called Christ .... He accused him of having transgressed the law and delivered him up to be stoned. <"30">F30

Unlike many early traditions, this one is generally received as being authentic. <"31">F31 Punchard has this additional reference to it:

One of the mocking questions put to St. James by his enemies, as they hurried him to death, was "Which is the door of Jesus?" Failing to receive an answer, they said, "Let us stone this James the Just." So, they threw him from the pinnacle of the temple, after which he was beaten to death with a fuller's club. <"32">F32

Thus, it is particularly interesting that James' words in this very verse were mentioned on the occasion of his martyrdom.

Dummelow's paraphrase seems to be an accurate reflection of James' admonition in this verse: "Do not let your irritation and soreness at outside oppression vent itself in impatience and grumbling towards one another." <"33">F33

 


MATTHEW HENRY
(1706)

"In this chapter the apostle denounces the judgments of God upon those rich men who oppress the poor, showing them how great their sin and folly are in the sight of God, and how grievous the punishments would be which should fall upon themselves (v. 1-6). Hereupon, all the faithful are exhorted to patience under their trials and sufferings (v. 7-11). The sin of swearing is cautioned against (v. 12). We are directed how to act, both under affliction and in prosperity (v. 13). Prayer for the sick, and anointing with oil, are prescribed (v. 14, 15). Christians are directed to acknowledge their faults one to another, and to pray one for another, and the efficacy of prayer is proved (v. 16-18). And, lastly, it is recommended to us to do what we can for bringing back those that stray from the ways of truth.

Verses 1-11


The apostle is here addressing first sinners and then saints.

I. Let us consider the address to sinners; and here we find James seconding what his great Master had said: Woe unto you that are rich; for you have received your consolation, Lu. 6:24. The rich people to whom this word of warning was sent were not such as professed the Christian religion, but the worldly and unbelieving Jews, such as are here said to condemn and kill the just, which the Christians had no power to do; and though this epistle was written for the sake of the faithful, and was sent principally to them, yet, by an apostrophe, the infidel Jews may be well supposed here spoken to. They would not hear the word, and therefore it is written, that they might read it. It is observable, in the very first inscription of this epistle, that it is not directed, as Paul's epistles were, to the brethren in Christ, but, in general, to the twelve tribes; and the salutation is not, grace and peace from Christ, but, in general, greeting, ch. 1:1. The poor among the Jews received the gospel, and many of them believed; but the generality of the rich rejected Christianity, and were hardened in their unbelief, and hated and persecuted those who believed on Christ. To these oppressing, unbelieving, persecuting, rich people, the apostle addresses himself in the first six verses.

1. He foretels the judgments of God that should come upon them, v. 1-3. they should have miseries come upon them, and such dreadful miseries that the very apprehension of them was enough to make them weep and howl-misery that should arise from the very things in which they placed their happiness, and misery that should be completed by these things witnessing against them at the last, to their utter destruction; and they are now called to reason upon and thoroughly to weigh the matter, and to think how they will stand before God in judgment: Go to now, you rich men. (1.) "You may be assured of this that very dreadful calamities are coming upon you, calamities that shall carry nothing of support nor comfort in them, but all misery, misery in time, misery to eternity, misery in your outward afflictions, misery in your inward frame and temper of mind, misery in this world, misery in hell. You have not a single instance of misery only coming upon you, but miseries. The ruin of your church and nation is at hand; and there will come a day of wrath, when riches shall not profit men, but all the wicked shall be destroyed." (2.) The very apprehension of such miseries as were coming upon them is enough to make them weep and howl. Rich men are apt to say to themselves (and others are ready to say to them), Eat, drink, and be merry; but God says, Weep and howl. It is not said, Weep and repent, for this the apostle does not expect from them (he speaks in a way of denouncing rather than admonishing); but, "Weep and howl, for when your doom comes there will be nothing but weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth." Those who live like beasts are called howl like such. Public calamities are most grievous to rich people, who live in pleasure, and are secure and sensual; and therefore they shall weep and howl more than other people for the miseries that shall come upon them. (3.) Their misery shall arise from the very things in which they placed their happiness. "Corruption, decay, rust, and ruin, will come upon all your goodly things: Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten, v. 2. Those things which you now inordinately affect will hereafter insupportably wound you: they will be of no worth, of no use to you, but, on the contrary, will pierce you through with many sorrows; for," (4.) "They will witness against you, and they will eat your flesh as it were fire," v. 3. Things inanimate are frequently represented in scripture as witnessing against wicked men. Heaven, earth, the stones of the field, the production of the ground, and here the very rust and canker of ill-gotten and ill-kept treasures, are said to witness against impious rich men. They think to heap up treasure for their latter days, to live plentifully upon when they come to be old; but, alas! they are only heaping up treasures to become a prey to others (as the Jews had all taken from them by the Romans), and treasures that will prove at last to be only treasures of wrath, in the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Then shall their iniquities, in the punishment of them, eat their flesh as it were with fire. In the ruin of Jerusalem, many thousands perished by fire; in the last judgment the wicked shall be condemned to everlasting burnings, prepared for the devil and his angels. The Lord deliver us from the portion of wicked rich men! and, in order to this, let us take care that we do not fall into their sins, which we are next to consider.

2. The apostle shows what those sins are which should bring such miseries. To be in so deplorable a condition must doubtless be owing to some very heinous crimes. (1.) Covetousness is laid to the charge of this people; they laid by their garments till they bred moths and were eaten; they hoarded up their gold and silver till they were rusty and cankered. It is a very great disgrace to these things that they carry in them the principles of their own corruption and consumption—the garment breeds the moth that frets it, the gold and silver breeds the canker that eats it; but the disgrace falls most heavily upon those who hoard and lay up these things till they come to be thus corrupted, and cankered, and eaten. God gives us our worldly possessions that we may honour him and do good with them; but if, instead of this, we sinfully hoard them up, thorough and undue affection towards them, or a distrust of the providence of God for the future, this is a very heinous crime, and will be witnessed against by the very rust and corruption of the treasure thus heaped together. (2.) Another sin charged upon those against whom James writes is oppression: Behold, the hire of the labourers, who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth, etc., v. 4. Those who have wealth in their hands get power into their hands, and then they are tempted to abuse that power to oppress such as are under them. The rich we here find employing the poor in their labours, and the rich have as much need of the labours of the poor as the poor have of wages from the rich, and could as ill be without them; but yet, not considering this, they kept back the hire of the labourers; having power in their hands, it is probable that they made as hard bargains with the poor as they could, and even after that would not make good their bargains as they should have done. This is a crying sin, an iniquity that cries so as to reach the ears of God; and, in this case, God is to be considered as the Lord of sabaoth, or the Lord of hosts, Kyriou sabaoµth, a phrase often used in the Old-Testament, when the people of God were defenseless and wanted protection, and when their enemies were numerous and powerful. The Lord of hosts, who has all ranks of beings and creatures at his disposal, and who sets all in their several places, hears the oppressed when they cry by reason of the cruelty or injustice of the oppressor, and he will give orders to some of those hosts that are under him (angels, devils, storms, distempers, or the like) to avenge the wrongs done to those who are dealt with unrighteously and unmercifully. Take heed of this sin of defrauding and oppressing, and avoid the very appearances of it. (3.) Another sin here mentioned is sensuality and voluptuousness. You have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton, v. 5. God does not forbid us to use pleasure; but to live in them as if we lived for nothing else is a very provoking sin; and to do this on the earth, where we are but strangers and pilgrims, where we are but to continue for a while, and where we ought to be preparing for eternity—this, this is a grievous aggravation of the sin of voluptuousness. Luxury makes people wanton, as in Hos. 13:6, According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me. Wantonness and luxury are commonly the effects of great plenty and abundance; it is hard for people to have great plenty and abundance; it is hard for people to have great estates, and not too much indulge themselves in carnal, sensual pleasures: "You have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter: you live as if it were every day a day of sacrifices, a festival; and hereby your hearts are fattened and nourished to stupidity, dulness, pride, and an insensibility to the wants and afflictions of others." Some may say, "What harm is there in good cheer, provided people do not spend above what they have?" What! Is it no harm for people to make gods of their bellies, and to give all to these, instead of abounding in acts of charity and piety? Is it no harm for people to unfit themselves for minding the concerns of their souls, by indulging the appetites of their bodies? Surely that which brought flames upon Sodom, and would bring these miseries for which rich men are here called to weep and howl, must be a heinous evil! Pride, and idleness, and fullness of bread, mean the same thing with living in pleasure, and being wanton, and nourishing the heart as in a day of slaughter. (4.) Another sin here charged on the rich is persecution: You have condemned and killed the just, and he doth not resist you, v. 6. This fills up the measure of their iniquity. They oppressed and acted very unjustly, to get estates; when they had them, they gave way to luxury and sensuality, till they had lost all sense and feeling of the wants or afflictions of others; and then they persecute and kill without remorse. They pretend to act legally indeed, they condemn before they kill; but unjust prosecutions, whatever colour of law they may carry in them, will come into the reckoning when God shall make inquisition for blood, as well as massacres and downright murders. Observe here, The just may be condemned and killed: but then again observe, When such do suffer, and yield without resistance to the unjust sentence of oppressors, this is marked by God, to the honour of the sufferers and the infamy of their persecutors; this commonly shows that judgments are at the door, and we may certainly conclude that a reckoning-day will come, to reward the patience of the oppressed and to break to pieces the oppressor. Thus far the address to sinners goes.

II. We have next subjoined an address to saints. Some have been ready to despise or to condemn this way of preaching, when ministers, in their application, have brought a word to sinners, and a word to saints; but, from the apostle's here taking this method, we may conclude that this is the best way rightly to divide the word of truth. From what has been said concerning wicked and oppressing rich men, occasion is given to administer comfort to God's afflicted people: "Be patient therefore; since God will send such miseries on the wicked, you may see what is your duty, and where your greatest encouragement lies."

1. Attend to your duty: Be patient (v. 7), establish your hearts (v. 8), grudge not one against another, brethren, v. 9. Consider well the meaning of these three expressions:—(1.) "Be patient—bear your afflictions without murmuring, your injuries without revenge; and, though God should not in any signal manner appear for you immediately, wait for him. The vision is for an appointed time; at the end it will speak, and will not lie; therefore wait for it. It is but a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Let your patience be lengthened out to long suffering;" so the word here used, makrothymeµsate, signifies. When we have done our work, we have need of patience to stay for our reward. This Christian patience is not a mere yielding to necessity, as the moral patience taught by some philosophers was, but it is a humble acquiescence in the wisdom and will of God, with an eye to a future glorious recompense: Be patient to the coming of the Lord. And because this is a lesson Christians must learn, though ever so hard or difficult to the, it is repeated in v. 8, Be you also patient. (2.) "Establish your hearts—let your faith be firm, without wavering, your practice of what is good constant and continued, without tiring, and your resolutions for God and heaven fixed, in spite of all sufferings or temptations." The prosperity of the wicked and the affliction of the righteous have in all ages been a very great trial to the faith of the people of God. David tells us that his feet were almost gone, when he saw the prosperity of the wicked, Ps. 73:2, 3. Some of those Christians to whom St. James wrote might probably be in the same tottering condition; and therefore they are called upon to establish their hearts; faith and patience will establish the heart. (3.) Grudge not one against another; the words meµ stenazete signify, Groan not one against another, that is, "Do not make one another uneasy by your murmuring groans at what befalls you, nor by your distrustful groans as to what may further come upon you, nor by your revengeful groans against the instruments of your sufferings, nor by your envious groans at those who may be free from your calamities: do not make yourselves uneasy and make one another uneasy by thus groaning to and grieving one another." "The apostle seemeth to me" (says Dr. Manton) "to be here taxing those mutual injuries and animosities wherewith the Christians of those times, having banded under the names of circumcision and uncircumcision, did grieve one another, and give each other cause to groan; so that they did not only sigh under the oppressions of the rich persecutors, but under the injuries which they sustained from many of the brethren who, together with them, did profess the holy faith." Those who are in the midst of common enemies, and in any suffering circumstances, should be more especially careful not to grieve nor to groan against one another, otherwise judgments will come upon them as well as others; and the more such grudgings prevail the nearer do they show judgment to be.

2. Consider what encouragement here is for Christians to be patient, to establish their hearts, and not to grudge one against another. And, (1.) "Look to the example of the husbandman: He waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. When you sow your corn in the ground, you wait many months for the former and latter rain, and are willing to stay till harvest for the fruit of your labour; and shall not this teach you to bear a few storms, and to be patient for a season, when you are looking for a kingdom and everlasting felicity? Consider him that waits for a crop of corn; and will not you wait for a crown of glory? If you should be called to wait a little longer than the husbandman does, is it not something proportionably greater and infinitely more worth your waiting for? But," (2.) "Think how short your waiting time may possibly be: The coming of the Lord draweth nigh, v. 8; behold, the Judge standeth before the door, v. 9. Do not be impatient, do not quarrel with one another; the great Judge, who will set all to rights, who will punish the wicked and reward the good, is at hand: he should be conceived by you to stand as near as one who is just knocking at the door." The coming of the Lord to punish the wicked Jews was then very nigh, when James wrote this epistle; and, whenever the patience and other graces of his people are tried in an extraordinary manner, the certainty of Christ's coming as Judge, and the nearness of it, should establish their hearts. The Judge is now a great deal nearer, in his coming to judge the world, than when this epistle was written, nearer by above seventeen hundred years; and therefore this should have the greater effect upon us. (3.) The danger of our being condemned when the Judge appears should excite us to mind our duty as before laid down: Grudge not, lest you be condemned. Fretfulness and discontent expose us to the just judgment of God, and we bring more calamities upon ourselves by our murmuring, distrustful, envious groans and grudgings against one another, than we are aware of. If we avoid these evils, and be patient under our trials, God will not condemn us. Let us encourage ourselves with this. (4.) We are encouraged to be patient by the example of the prophets (v. 10): Take the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Observe here, The prophets, on whom God put the greatest honour, and for whom he had the greatest favour, were most afflicted: and, when we think that the best men have had the hardest usage in this world, we should hereby be reconciled to affliction. Observe further, Those who were the greatest examples of suffering affliction were also the best and greatest examples of patience: tribulation worketh patience. Hereupon James gives it to us as the common sense of the faithful (v. 11): We count those happy who endure: we look upon righteous and patient sufferers as the happiest people. See ch. 1:2-12. (5.) Job also is proposed as an example for the encouragement of the afflicted. You have hard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, etc., v. 11. In the case of Job you have an instance of a variety of miseries, and of such as were very grievous, but under all he could bless God, and, as to the general bent of his spirit, he was patient and humble: and what came to him in the end? Why, truly, God accomplished and brought about those things for him which plainly prove that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. The best way to bear afflictions is to look to the end of them; and the pity of God is such that he will not delay the bringing of them to an end when his purposes are once answered; and the tender mercy of God is such that he will make his people an abundant amends for all their sufferings and afflictions. His bowels are moved for them while suffering, his bounty is manifested afterwards. Let us serve our God, and endure our trials, as those who believe the end will crown all.
 

 

JAMIESON, FAUSSET AND BROWN
(1871)

James 5:1-20. WOES COMING ON THE WICKED RICH: BELIEVERS SHOULD BE PATIENT UNTO THE LORD'S COMING: VARIOUS EXHORTATIONS.

1. Go to now--Come now. A phrase to call solemn attention.
ye rich--who have neglected the true enjoyment of riches, which consists in doing good. James intends this address to rich Jewish unbelievers, not so much for themselves, as for the saints, that they may bear with patience the violence of the rich (<"?James 5:7), knowing that God will speedily avenge them on their oppressors [BENGEL].
miseries that shall come--literally, "that are coming upon you" unexpectedly and swiftly, namely, at the coming of the Lord James 5:7); primarily, at the destruction of Jerusalem; finally, at His visible coming to judge the world.

2. corrupted--about to be destroyed through God's curse on your oppression, whereby your riches are accumulated (<"?passage=james+5:4">James 5:4). CALVIN thinks the sense is, Your riches perish without being of any use either to others or even to yourselves, for instance, your garments which are moth-eaten in your chests.
garments . . . moth-eaten--referring to <"?passage=mt+6:19,20">Matthew 6:19,20.

3. is cankered--"rusted through" [ALFORD].
rust . . . witness against you--in the day of judgment; namely, that your riches were of no profit to any, lying unemployed and so contracting rust.
shall eat your flesh--The rust which once ate your riches, shall then gnaw your conscience, accompanied with punishment which shall prey upon your bodies for ever.
as . . . fire--not with the slow process of rusting, but with the swiftness of consuming fire.
for the last days--Ye have heaped together, not treasures as ye suppose (compare <"?passage=lu+12:19">Luke 12:19), but wrath against the last days, namely, the coming judgment of the Lord. ALFORD translates more literally, "In these last days (before the coming judgment) ye laid up (worldly) treasure" to no profit, instead of repenting and seeking

4. Behold--calling attention to their coming doom as no vain threat.
labourers--literally "workmen."
of you kept back--So English Version rightly. Not as ALFORD, "crieth out from you." The "keeping back of the hire" was, on the part OF the rich, virtually an act of "fraud," because the poor laborers were not immediately paid. The phrase is therefore not, "kept back by you," but "of you"; the latter implying virtual, rather than overt, fraud. James refers to <"?passage=de+24:14,15">Deuteronomy 24:14,15, "At this day . . . give his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it, lest he CRY against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee." Many sins "cry" to heaven for vengeance which men tacitly take no account of, as unchastity and injustice [BENGEL]. Sins peculiarly offensive to God are said to "cry" to Him. The rich ought to have given freely to the poor; their not doing so was sin. A still greater sin was their not paying their debts. Their greatest sin was not paying them to the poor, whose wages is their all.
cries of them--a double cry; both that of the hire abstractly, and that of the laborers hired.
the Lord of sabaoth--here only in the New Testament. In <"?passage=ro+9:29">Romans 9:29 it is a quotation. It is suited to the Jewish tone of the Epistle. It reminds the rich who think the poor have no protector, that the Lord of the whole hosts in heaven and earth is the guardian and avenger of the latter. He is identical with the "coming Lord" Jesus (<"?passage=james+5:7">James 5:7).

5. Translate, "Ye have luxuriated . . . and wantoned." The former expresses luxurious effeminacy; the latter, wantonness and prodigality. Their luxury was at the expense of the defrauded poor (<"?passage=james+5:4">James 5:4).
on the earth--The same earth which has been the scene of your wantonness, shall be the scene of the judgment coming on you: instead of earthly delights ye shall have punishments.
nourished . . . hearts--that is glutted your bodies like beasts to the full extent of your hearts' desire; ye live to eat, not eat to live.
as in a day of slaughter--The oldest authorities omit "as." Ye are like beasts which eat to their hearts' content on the very day of their approaching slaughter, unconscious it is near. The phrase answers to "the last days," <"?passage=james+5:3">James 5:3, which favors ALFORD'S translation there, "in," not "for."

6. Ye have condemned . . . the just--The Greek aorist expresses, "Ye are accustomed to condemn . . . the just." Their condemnation of Christ, "the Just," is foremost in James' mind. But all the innocent blood shed, and to be shed, is included, the Holy Spirit comprehending James himself, called "the Just," who was slain in a tumult. appropriateness to the expression in this verse, the same "as the righteous (just) man" (<"?passage=james+5:16">James 5:16). The justice or righteousness of Jesus and His people is what peculiarly provoked the ungodly great men of the world.
he doth not resist you--The very patience of the Just one is abused by the wicked as an incentive to boldness in violent persecution, as if they may do as they please with impunity. God doth "resist the proud" (<"?passage=james+4:6">James 4:6); but Jesus as man, "as a sheep is dumb before the shearers, so He opened not His mouth": so His people are meek under persecution. The day will come when God will resist (literally, "set Himself in array against") His foes and theirs.

7. Be patient therefore--as judgment is so near (<"?passage=james+5:1,3">James 5:1,3), ye may well afford to be "patient" after the example of the unresisting Just one (<"?passage=james+5:6">James 5:6).
brethren--contrasted with the "rich" oppressors, <"?passage=james+5:1-6">James 5:1-6.
unto the coming of the Lord--Christ, when the trial of your patience shall cease.
husbandman waiteth for--that is, patiently bears toils and delays through hope of the harvest at last. Its "preciousness" (compare <"?passage=ps+126:6">Psalms 126:6, "precious seed") will more than compensate for all the past. Compare the same image, <"?passage=ga+6:3,9">Galatians 6:3,9.
hath long patience for it--"over it," in respect to it.
until he receive--"until it receive" [ALFORD]. Even if English Version be retained, the receiving of the early and latter rains is not to be understood as the object of his hope, but the harvest for which those rains are the necessary preliminary. The early rain fell at sowing time, about November or December; the latter rain, about March or April, to mature the grain for harvest. The latter rain that shall precede the coming spiritual harvest, will probably be another Pentecost-like effusion of the Holy Ghost.

8. coming . . . draweth nigh--The Greek expresses present time and a settled state. <"?passage=1pe+4:7">1 Peter 4:7, "is at hand." We are to live in a continued state of expectancy of the Lord's coming, as an event always nigh. Nothing can more "stablish the heart" amidst present troubles than the realized expectation of His speedy coming.

 


B.W. JOHNSON
(1891)

Warnings to the Rich.

SUMMARY.--The Sins of Rich Men. The Judgments Coming Upon Them. Patience Under Affliction. The Examples of Job and Elijah. Healing the Sick. Effectual Prayer. Restoring Sinners.

      1-6. Go to now. The same expression is used in <"?version=KJV&passage=Jam+4:13">4:13. There it is a rebuke to those who haste to be rich; here to those who use riches wickedly. Ye rich men. James looks beyond the church of his day to be his nation and to the church of after time. Weep and howl. Because of coming judgments for your sins. 2. Your riches are corrupted. Even their riches in which they trusted are "corrupted," or spoiled. Much of the wealth of that period was in stores of various kinds which time or improper care would destroy. Your garments are moth-eaten. The rich gathered great stores of garments, carpets, etc. See <"?version=KJV&passage=Mt+22:11,12">Matt. 22:11, 12. These would be liable to be eaten by moths if not used. 3. Your gold and silver are cankered. Rusted from disuse. These metals do not literally rust, but do tarnish from long disuse. The idea is that they show they have been hoarded, not used. A witness against you. The tarnish shows that you have hoarded instead of using. Shall eat your flesh. They shall punish you, as though heated by fire and eating into your flesh. This hoarded wealth will curse the possessor. Ye have heaped . . . last days. Instead of laying up treasure in heaven you have continued to pile up earthly treasure to the last, a matter of extreme folly. What James then thought of as "the last days," the end of his nation, country and Jerusalem, was close at hand. 4. Behold, the hire of the laborers. These rich men are censured for two sins; viz., the improper use of wealth, and the sinful acquisition of wealth. The Bible is everywhere the friend and protector of the laborer. To keep back the hire of the laborer is denounced everywhere. See <"?version=KJV&passage=Le+19:13,De+24:14,Jer+22:13,Mal+3:5,Job+24:6">Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:14; Jer. 22:13; Mal. 3:5; Job 24:6. The cries of them. Of the defrauded laborers. God will avenge them. 5. Ye have lived in pleasure. Have spent your wealth on your own pleasures. Nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. The meaning is not entirely clear. Probably it is an allusion to the beasts which are fatted and feasted for slaughter and food. They were feasting and engaging in pleasure when the awful destruction was near. 6. Ye have condemned and killed the just. The murder of the [350] Just One, Jesus, was the crowning sin of Israel which brought upon them destruction. It was the rich and influential, not the poor, who sought his death. He doth not resist you. Compare <"?version=KJV&passage=Isa+53:7">Isaiah 53:7.

      7-9. Be patient, therefore, brethren. James now turns from the rich, wicked Jews, to his suffering brethren. Let them be patient. Unto the coming of the Lord. That would bring relief. The primary reference is to the relief from Jewish persecution which followed the Lord's coming in judgment on the Jewish nation. Behold, the husbandman. The tiller of the soil has to sow and wait long in patience for fruit. Be you like him. Early and latter rain. The early rain was the November showers which prepared the ground for the seed; the latter rain, the spring showers needed to bring the harvest to maturity. Compare <"?version=KJV&passage=De+11:14">Deut. 11:14. 8. Be ye also patient. Wait, like the husbandmen, for your harvest of joy. The coming. The relief which the Lord's coming will bring is near. See note on verse 7. 9. Grudge not. Do not bear grudges against one another. The Lord will condemn this, and the judge standeth before the door, for the "coming of the Lord is nigh."

 

JOHN WESLEY

Verses:
 
5:1 Come now, ye rich - The apostle does not speak this so much for the sake of the rich themselves, as of the poor children of God, who were then groaning under their cruel oppression. Weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you - Quickly and unexpectedly. This was written not long before the siege of Jerusalem; during which, as well as after it, huge calamities came on the Jewish nation, not only in Judea, but through distant countries. And as these were an awful prelude of that wrath which was to fall upon them in the world to come, so this may likewise refer to the final vengeance which will then be executed on the impenitent.
5:2 The riches of the ancients consisted much in large stores of corn, and of costly apparel.
5:3 The canker of them - Your perishing stores and motheaten garments. Will be a testimony against you - Of your having buried those talents in the earth, instead of improving them according to your Lord's will. And will eat your flesh as fire - Will occasion you as great torment as if fire were consuming your flesh. Ye have laid up treasure in the last days - When it is too late; when you have no time to enjoy them.
5:4 The hire of your labourers crieth - Those sins chiefly cry to God concerning which human laws are silent. Such are luxury, unchastity, and various kinds of injustice. The labourers themselves also cry to God, who is just coming to avenge their cause. Of sabaoth - Of hosts, or armies.
5:5 Ye have cherished your hearts - Have indulged yourselves to the uttermost. As in a day of sacrifice - Which were solemn feast - days among the Jews.
5:6 Ye have killed the just - Many just men; in particular, "that Just One," Acts 3:14. They afterwards killed James,surnamed the Just, the writer of this epistle. He doth not resist you - And therefore you are secure. But the Lord cometh quickly, James 5:8.
5:7 The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit - Which will recompense his labour and patience. Till he receives the former rain - Immediately after sowing. And the latter - Before the harvest.
5:8 Stablish your hearts - In faith and patience. For the coming of the Lord - To destroy Jerusalem. Is nigh - And so is his last coming to the eye of a believer.
5:9 Murmur not one against another - Have patience also with each other. The judge standeth before the door - Hearing every word, marking every thought.
5:10 Take the prophets for an example - Once persecuted like you, even for speaking in the name of the Lord. The very men that gloried in having prophets yet could not bear their message: nor did either their holiness or their high commission screen them from suffering.
5:11 We count them happy that endured - That suffered patiently. The more they once suffered, the greater is their present happiness. Ye have seen the end of the Lord - The end which the Lord gave him.
5:12 Swear not - However provoked. The Jews were notoriously guilty of common swearing, though not so much by God himself as by some of his creatures. The apostle here particularly forbids these oaths, as well as all swearing in common conversation. It is very observable, how solemnly the apostle introduces this command: above all things, swear not - As if he had said, Whatever you forget, do not forget this. This abundantly demonstrates the horrible iniquity of the crime. But he does not forbid the taking a solemn oath before a magistrate. Let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay - Use no higher asseverations in common discourse; and let your word stand firm. Whatever ye say, take care to make it good.
5:14 Having anointed him with oil - This single conspicuous gift, which Christ committed to his apostles, 6:13, remained in the church long after the other miraculous gifts were withdrawn. Indeed, it seems to have been designed to remain always; and St. James directs the elders, who were the most, if not the only, gifted men, to administer at. This was the whole process of physic in the Christian church, till it was lost through unbelief. That novel invention among the Romanists, extreme unction, practised not for cure, but where life is despaired of, bears no manner of resemblance to this.
5:15 And the prayer offered in faith shall save the sick - From his sickness; and if any sin be the occasion of his sickness, it shall be forgiven him.
5:16 Confess your faults - Whether ye are sick or in health. To one another - He does not say, to the elders: this may, or may not, be done; for it is nowhere commanded. We may confess them to any who can pray in faith: he will then know how to pray for us, and be more stirred up so to do. And pray one for another, that ye may be healed - Of all your spiritual diseases.
5:17 Elijah was a man of like passions - Naturally as weak and sinful as we are. And he prayed - When idolatry covered the land.
5:18 He prayed again - When idolatry was abolished.
5:19 As if he had said, I have now warned you of those sins to which you are most liable; and, in all these respects, watch not only over yourselves, but every one over his brother also. Labour, in particular, to recover those that are fallen. If any one err from the truth - Practically, by sin.
5:20 He shall save a soul - Of how much more value than the body! James 5:14.And hide a multitude of sins - Which shall no more, how many soever they are, be remembered to his condemnation.

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