Albert Barnes (1798-1870) – Commentary on Psalm 139.16

Commentary on Psalm 139:16
Albert Barnes (1798-1870)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Psalms 139:16

Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect – This whole verse is very obscure, but the “idea” in this expression clearly is, “Before I had shape or form thou didst see what I was to be.” The single word in the original translated “my substance, yet being unperfect,” is גלם gôlem. It occurs only in this place, though the verb – גלם gâlam – is found in 2Ki_2:8, where it is used in reference to the mantle of Elijah: And Elijah took his mantle, and “wrapped it together,” etc. That is, he rolled it up, or he folded it. The noun, then, means that which “is” rolled or wrapped together; that which is folded up, and hence, is applicable to anything folded up or undeveloped; and would thus most aptly denote the embryo, or the foetus, where all the members of the body are as yet folded up, or undeveloped; that is, before they have assumed their distinct form and proportions. This is undoubtedly the idea here. Before the embryo had any such form that its future size, shape, or proportions could be marked by the eye of man, it was clearly and distinctly known by God.

And in thy book – Where thou recordest all things. Perhaps the allusion here would be to the book of an architect or draftsman, who, before his work is begun, draws his plan, or sketches it for the direction of the workmen.

All my members were written – The words “my members” are not in the original. The Hebrew is, as in the margin, “all of them.” The reference may be, not to the members of his body, but to his “days” (see the margin on the succeeding phrase) – and then the sense would be, all my “days,” or all the periods of my life, were delineated in thy book. That is, When my substance – my form – was not yet developed, when yet an embryo, and when nothing could be determined from that by the eye of man as to what I was to be, all the future was known to God, and was written down – just what should be my form and vigor; how long I should live; what I should be; what would be the events of my life.

Which in continuance were fashioned – Margin, “What days they should be fashioned.” Literally, “Days should be formed.” DeWette renders this, “The days were determined before any one of them was.” There is nothing in the Hebrew to correspond with the phrase “in continuance.” The simple idea is, The days of my life were determined on, the whole matter was fixed and settled, not by anything seen in the embryo, but “before” there was any form – before there were any means of judging from what I then was to what I would be – all was seen and arranged in the divine mind.

When as yet there was none of them – literally, “And not one among them.” Before there was one of them in actual existence. Not one development had yet occurred from which it could be inferred what the rest would be. The entire knowledge on the subject must have been based on Omniscience.

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843): Wisdom’s House vs. Folly’s House

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843)

Copyright: Public Domain




“Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars: she hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table. She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the” city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.”(Prov. ix. 1-6.)

WISDOM here spoken of is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. This is plain—1. From his eternity, described in Prov. viii. 22, 30, 31. This is true of none but the Lord Jesus. He only was with God in the beginning, before all creatures were. 2. From his having the Holy Spirit: “Behold I will pour out my Spirit unto you.”—Prov. i. 23. But it is Christ alone who has received the Holy Spirit, and pours it out according to his will: “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications.”—Zech. xii. 10. 3. From the name given in Luke xi. 49: “Therefore also Said the Wisdom of God.” So that in this elegant Old Testament parable we have a sweet and inviting representation of the love and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I. The preparation he has made.—Verses 1, 2.

1. A house: “Wisdom hath builded her house.” This house may mean two things. (1.) The invisible Church which Christ is now building: “Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory.”—Zech. vi. 13. “Upon this rock I will build my Church.”—Matt. xvi. 18. “Whose house are we.”—Heb. iii. 6. Just as it was Solomon, the prince of peace, who built the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, so it is Christ, the great prince of peace, the king of glory, who builds up this house. His hands have laid the foundation—his hands shall also finish it. He chooses the stones, brings them out of the quarry of nature, lays them on the foundation: “I will lay thy foundations.” This is the house sinners are invited to enter. Come, and be part of “the spiritual house.” Come, and be one of the living stones. Come, before he brings out the head-stone with shoutings. (2.) The many-mansioned house: “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.”—John xiv. 2. “For we know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have  a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”—2 Cor. v. 1. “Here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”—Heb. xiii. 14. This is the house into which Christ will bring all his redeemed at last. Here we live in crazy dwellings, that will soon be a heap of smouldering ruins. But Wisdom hath builded her house, and invites poor helpless sinners to take refuge there. Come to me, and I will provide you a home for eternity— “a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

2. The pillars: “She hath hewn out her seven pillars.” Pillars in the Bible seem always to describe eminent believers—not merely stones, but stones which are used to support other stones of the temple: “For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them.”—I Sam. ii. 8. “I bear up the pillars of it.”—Ps. lXXV. 3. “I have made thee an iron pillar.”—Jer. i. 18. “James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars.”— Gal. ii. 9. And this is what all who overcome will yet be made: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God.”—Rev. iii. 12. Of these pillars there are seven—a perfect number—enough to bear up the temple of God—enough to give it perfect beauty and proportion. God will never want a sufficient number of eminent believers in the world to maintain his cause, and bear his name. He hath hewed them—they are all his own workmanship. They are the work of his own hands. By his Word, mercies, afflictions, he bath hewed them. He gives them all their beauty, grace, and stability. This is the house you are invited to enter, where patriarchs and apostles dwell, to share in the peace and joy of John and holy Paul.

3. The feast: “She hath killed her beasts.”—Verse 2. The peace, and joy, and holiness, to be had in Christ, are here described under the image of a feast. So Isa. xxv. 6: “In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast.” And in Isa. lv. 1: “Ho, every one that thirsteth.” And in Matt. xxii. 4: “Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.” So here: “She hath killed her beasts.” This clearly points to the finished atonement of Christ. Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. With dying breath he said, “It is finished.” He is the Lamb as it had been slain from the foundation of the world. It is a finished atonement that you are invited to share in. The great redemption is complete. Christ has died. Christ has not now to die. All his sufferings are past; and if any of you are willing to take him as your atonement, you are welcome. “She hath mingled her wine.” This clearly points to the gift of the Holy Spirit. “Be not filled with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is the new wine of the kingdom, “that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.” This also is free to sinners. “She hath furnished, her table” These things are not only in the house, but spread upon the table. All things are now ready. All this is free and ready for sinners now. It is spread out. There is no need of delay.

II. The messengers.

1. She hath sent forth her maidens, or young damsels. Prophets, apostles, ministers, missionaries, are here called the maidens of Wisdom.

No doubt there is a beautiful suitableness in the word with the rest of the parable. The Saviour is set forth as a queen, so that his ministers are well represented as maidens. But there are also other reasons: (1.) On account of their weakness. The ministers of Christ are not compared to wily statesmen, but to simple maidens. “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise. And God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.” God has seldom chosen to convert many by men of gigantic mind and attainments, lest we should glory in man. God often blesses weaker brethren, that he may get all the glory.

(2.) On account of the purity of their lives. Those whom Wisdom sends are in her own image. Christ first sanctifies, and then sends.

Ministers should be like him whom they preach. Hear how Paul speaks: “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblamably, we behaved ourselves among you that believe.”—1 Thess. ii. 10. And this he could say without pride or boasting. Hear how Samuel speaks: “Witness against me before the Lord and before his anointed, whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.”—1 Sam. xii. 3. Hear what Paul says to Timothy: “A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach.”—1 Tim. iii. 2. “Moreover, he must have a good report of them which are without.” Ah! pray, brethren, that your ministers may be kept humble and holy. We have more temptations than you. Satan aims most at standard-bearers.

2. She crieth upon the highest places of the city.

This is the way Christ did when he was on earth—in the days of his flesh. How often he stood by the Lake of Galilee, and cried to the multitudes that thronged the shore: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” Once he stood in the midst of the temple, and in the great day of the feast he cried: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” And his last cry over this fallen world was: “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” He crieth still. We are but the mouth-piece of Christ. He crieth by us: “God doth beseech you by us.” We are but a voice—it is Jesus that speaks. He cries in your mercies—he cries in your distresses—he cries through his ministers. He is still carrying on his grand prophetical office, and you are called to hear his voice: “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me.”

III. The persons invited.

Those who are simple, and want understanding. So in Prov. i. 22: “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?” Simple ones are those who are ignorant of their danger. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.”—Prov. xxii. 3. Those among you who do not know the weight of your sins—that do not know the plague of your own heart—that do not know that you are over the depths of hell—smiling and happy when you are treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath. Simple ones are those who are easily deceived by the devil— “who are taken captive by him at his will.” Ah! how many of you are there here who are opposed to the truth—who hate serious preaching! Why? You are taken captive. How many of you are taken up with a creature, that shuts out all the glories of eternity!

Without heart: “Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart.”—Hos. vii. 11. How many of you have no heart for Christ! You see no beauty in him— “no form nor comeliness that you should desire him.” No heart for prayer. You do not love it—you turn away from it with loathing. No heart for holiness—for the pleasures of God, and of heaven. You have a feeling of nausea at the very thought of them.

Such Jesus invites—welcomes—presses to close with him. True, Jesus invites his own: “I love them that love me”— “Come, my people, enter into thy chambers”— “0 my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock.” True, Jesus invites those who have a sense of sin: “Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”— “Ho, every one that thirsteth— “I will give to him that is athirst.” Yet it is as true that Jesus here invites simple ones—those that have no heart for divine things.

Ah, brethren! many of you are like Gallio, “who cared for none of these things.” You have no heart for preaching or praying—no heart for Christ and the eternal world. All your heart is taken up about this world—about your lusts and pleasures. Ah, silly doves! Jesus calls for you, and does not wish you to perish. You may perish—you may sink into your grave—but it will be with the voice of Jesus ringing in your ear: “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?”

IV. The invitation.

1. Forsake the foolish, and live.

If ever you are to be saved, you must forsake the foolish. Solomon tells you plainly, “A companion of fools shall be destroyed.”—Prov. xiii. 20. Hear what David said: “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for God hath heard the voice of my weeping.”—Ps. vi. 8. Even though they should be those of your own household, yet God’s command is clear: “Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house.”— Ps. xlv. 10. “He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me.” Ah! how many poor souls have been carried away captive, and led down to hell, all through foolish companions! Forsake the foolish, and live. You say you cannot. Why? Are they more precious than salvation? If you will be the friend of the world, you must be the enemy of God.

2. Come, eat of my bread.

This is explained in John vi. 53: “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” You must personally close with Christ, and live upon him—as one who eats and drinks, when hungry, really enjoys the feast. It is not the man who hears of a feast, or sees it, but he that sits down and eats and drinks—he alone enjoys it. So those only who close with Christ—who take him as their righteousness, and feed upon him as their strength and daily life—are saved through him.


1. Amazing love! that calls you to a feast, and not to hell.

2. Those of you that do not care, are the very persons called.

3. If you do not obey his call, you will soon be in the very depths of hell.



“A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing. For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city, to call passengers who go right on their ways, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.” (Prov. ix. 13-18.)

IN our first lecture from this chapter, we saw that Wisdom is the Lord Jesus Christ, that he has builded a house, and prepared a feast, and that he is inviting poor simple sinners to turn in to him and be saved. We now come to the opposite side of the picture. Another woman, but O how different! sits at the door of her house, and cries to the same passengers. She invites them to turn in and partake of “stolen waters, and bread eaten in secret.” But, ah! “her guests are in the depths of hell.” I have little doubt that this second woman represents the devil, the great enemy of God and man.

I. The name and character:

“A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing.” This is the name and character of Satan:

“Foolish, simple, knowing nothing.” Satan was once one of the brightest spirits that stood before the throne of God. He is called Lucifer, son of the morning: “How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer, son of the morning!”—Isa. xiv. 12. There is reason to think that of all the creatures, he was the likest to the Son of God. All the fallen angels were like morning stars, and Satan was the brightest of them all. When they fell, these bright spirits were darkened—they lost the Holy Spirit. They still remain full of amazing powers and faculties; but all distorted now. Satan himself has lost all his true wisdom. He is very crafty still, full of cunning and lies, but he has no wisdom. He has no true knowledge or understanding. His name is Folly—he is simple, and knoweth nothing.

I shall give three examples of his folly:—

1. In the fall of man.

It was Satan who brought about the fall. He beguiled Eve through his subtlety. He wanted to destroy the glory of God. He wanted to rob God of the praise and glory which a holy world would have given him, and he thought he had succeeded. He smiled when he saw man fall under God’s wrath and curse. But it proved the occasion of far greater glory to God than if man had stood. It proved the occasion of God manifesting his justice, his truth, his grace and love, in quite a new manner; so that God gets far more glory and far louder praise than if man had never fallen. The songs of the redeemed would never have been heard if man had not fallen. Satan thus showed his folly—he is simple, and knoweth nothing.

He wanted to make man miserable. He envied the happiness of Adam and Eve; when he saw poor dust and ashes rejoicing in the love of God, out of which he had been cast, he envied them and resolved to make them miserable. He said: “Ye shall be as gods;” but he meant it as a lie, and so he deceived them, and brought the world under the curse of God. But God turned it into a blessing to them that are saved. It was the occasion of God sending his Son in our nature, and of our becoming united to Christ, clothed with a divine righteousness, and loved with the same love with which God loves his Son. We did indeed become as gods in a sense which Satan knew nothing of. We are brought far nearer to God, and are far more happy and glorious, than if man had never fallen. He wanted to make man his slave. He wanted to make him his drudge, to do his bidding—his captive, that he might torment him. But man by this became his judge: “Know ye not that we shall judge angels?”

2. In the death of Christ.

It was Satan who stirred men up to destroy Christ. He opposed Christ from his birth to his death. He moved the Jews and Gentiles against him. He entered into Judas, and persuaded him to betray Christ. He urged on the crowd to cry, “Crucify him, crucify him;” and the soldiers to pierce his hands and his feet. By all this he destroyed himself. Christ, by his death on the cross, destroyed the dominion of the devil over all his own; and so he triumphed over the devil in his cross. By this Satan was shown to be a fool.

3. In the temptations of the saints.

Satan has great enmity against the children of God. He stands at their right hand to resist their conversion. Afterwards he tries to corrupt them from the simplicity that is in Christ. Ha shoots fiery darts at them. “He sitteth in the lurking-places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor.”—Ps. x. 8. He seeks whom he may devour, and yet he has never been able to destroy one soul that believes in Jesus: “They shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” Their temptations are made the means of keeping them in the dust, and clinging tremblingly to the arm of Jesus—thus Satan is cheated of his prey. Oh, surely ye are witnesses that Satan is simple, and knoweth. nothing.

II. Those whom Satan invites.

1. Simple ones, and without heart.

The same persons mentioned in verse 4. I showed you that Christ is caring for those that do not care for him — those who do not know their danger—those who are like Ephraim, a silly dove without heart—those who have no heart for Christ, no heart for holiness—no heart for prayer—Gallios, who care for none of these things.

It is a solemn and affecting truth, that Christ is not only loving them that love him, and seeking those who are seeking him, but he is yearning over those of you who are so much lost that you do not seek him —do not care for him. “He is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Perhaps some may say, Oh, this is very comfortable doctrine, and we shall remain in our present condition. Ah! but observe, there is another seeking you, saying, “Turn in hither.” The foolish clamorous woman sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city, crying, “Whoso is simple, turn in hither.” Yes, my brethren, Satan desires to have you, that he may sift you like wheat. Satan is striving to keep you living in your sins, till the day of grace is past and the day of reckoning has come. Every tavern you see is an open mouth of Satan’s dwelling. Every haunt of pleasure—the theatre— the dancing-room—the card-table—these are open doors into Satan’s dwelling, and he is busy inviting you in.

2. Passengers who go right on their ways.

There are none against whom Satan is so angry, or whom he so much desires to lead aside, as those who go right on their ways. When a man is awakened, and goes right on toward Jesus, crying, “What must I do to be saved?” then Satan begins to allure that man, and get him to turn quickly out of the way. When God spoke the commandments, Israel began to seek the Lord in right earnest. But Satan allured them to turn aside and make the golden calf: “They turned quickly out of the way.” So with Lot’s wife.

When a soul has come to Christ, and goes on his way rejoicing, Folly redoubles her cry, “Turn in hither.” Satan loves well to get a joyful believer to fall. “Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat.” Ah! do not say, I am on the right way, and therefore I am safe; Satan cries to passengers who go right on their ways.

III. The Invitation: “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

The pleasures of secret sin form the baits by which Satan allures and destroys thousands. It is not open sin that he first invites to. Many would shrink back if he were to propose open sin all at once. He does not say, Come and be a drunkard—Come and be an open profligate; but he invites you to secret sin. This is the way he destroys simple ones, who are without understanding. He says, Come and take a little secret sin; no one shall ever know. He does not allow you to remember that no sin is secret—that what you do in dark places is all naked and open to the eye of Him with whom you have to do—that the lusts and unclean imaginations in which you delight yourself are all open as day before the eye of God, He says, They are sweet and pleasant; but he does not tell you that at the end it biteth like an adder. He does not tell you that the end of these things is death.

This is the way he calls those who are under concern, going right on to Christ. Stop, he cries; “Stolen waters are sweet.” Are you going to leave all your pleasures—the glass, the dance, the song, the game, the pleasant companion? May you not take a little secret sin, and be saved too? You do not need to let it be known. Do it secretly, Ah, how many here have been thus turned quickly out of the way!

This is the way he calls those who are Christ’s own, going right on the way of holiness. He invites to secret sin. A skillful fisher lets his fly fall gently on the stream; if he show the line or make the fly splash the water, the fish are alarmed, and the bait is thrown in vain. But he lets it fall gently and secretly upon the stream; the sharp barbed hook is concealed beneath the shining fly, and so the silly fish is caught. So when Satan catches men, he does not show the hook. He says, Take a little secret sin; do it so that none shall see, and none shall know. The poor believer catches at the bait, and feels the iron enter into his soul.

Beware of secret sin. No sin is secret. All is naked and laid open, and all will be made known before an assembled world. Do not say you do not need to fear, for it is but a small temptation. Satan always begins with a small temptation. Take heed of going as far as you can in temptation without committing the sin. Thus fell Noah and Samson, and David and Solomon. “She hath cast down many wounded; yea, many strong men have been slain by her.”

IV. The end of Satan’s house: “He knoweth not that he dead are there, and that her guests are in the depths of hell.”

Are there many who hear the voice of Folly? Ah! look to your crowded taverns, teeming with God-defying brawlers —look to your theatres and other haunts of wicked pleasure crowded with shameless worshippers of Satan—look at your crowded steam-boats on the Sabbath, or your crowds of daring Sabbath-breakers that pollute the highway—look to the heaven-defying profanities of the Chartist meetinghouse. All those began with the “stolen waters that are sweet, and the bread eaten in secret that is pleasant.” And what becomes of all that enter there? “The dead are there”—the eternally dead. Ah! this is the end of sin. “What shall the end be of those that obey not the Gospel?’ —The depths of hell! Those who are now going right on their ways, who turn aside and die in their sin, sink into the depths of hell.

He knoweth not. Satan hides this from you. When Satan bids you enter, he shows you nothing but what is sweet and pleasant. The cup is sparkling, the lights are glancing—all that your eye can desire to see is there. But ask to see the inner chamber—ask Satan to show you the innermost room: “The dead are there, and her guests are in the depths of hell.”

LNW: Prophecies of Jesus’ Second Coming with Hyperlinks


Scripture Verse


Link (ASV)



Certainty of His Coming








For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds.

Matthew 16:27

Matthew Henry

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

John 14:3

Matthew Henry

which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? this Jesus, which was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven.

Acts 1:11

Matthew Henry

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

1 Thessalonians 4:16

Matthew Henry

and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power, in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus:

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8

Matthew Henry

so Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for him, unto salvation.

Hebrews 9:28

Matthew Henry

I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown.

Revelation 3:11

Matthew Henry

Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is.

Revelation 22:12

Matthew Henry

The Time of His Coming is Unknown

Therefore be ye also ready: for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh.

Matthew 24:44

Matthew Henry

Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour.

Matthew 25:13

Matthew Henry

But of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

Mark 13:32

Matthew Henry

Resurrection of all Dead

and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: 33 and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in; 36 naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink? 38 And when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 And when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me. 46 And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.

Matthew 25:32-46

Matthew Henry

Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done ill, unto the resurrection of judgment.

John 5:28-29

Matthew Henry


But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: 32 and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: 33 and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Matthew 25:31-33

Matthew Henry

Wherefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall each man have his praise from God.

1 Corinthians 4:5

Matthew Henry

and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power 8 in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: 9 who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all them that believed (because our testimony unto you was believed) in that day.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10

Matthew Henry

And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have ungodly wrought, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

Jude 14-15

Matthew Henry

And I saw, and behold, a white cloud; and on the cloud I saw one sitting like unto a son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.

Revelation 14:14

Matthew Henry

Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is.

Revelation 22:12

Matthew Henry

Glorification of the Saints

And then shall they see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then shall he send forth the angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

Mark 13:26-27

Matthew Henry

For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself.

Philippians 3:20-21

Matthew Henry

When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory.

Colossians 3:4

Matthew Henry

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

Matthew Henry

when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all them that believed (because our testimony unto you was believed) in that day.

2 Thessalonians 1:10

Matthew Henry

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: 8 henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day: and not only to me, but also to all them that have loved his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:7-8

Matthew Henry

Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according unto God; nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.

1 Peter 5:2-4

Matthew Henry

Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is.

1 John 3:2

Matthew Henry

Destruction of the World

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, 12 looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

2 Peter 3:10-13

Matthew Henry

Jesus Delivers the Kingdom to the Father

But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; then they that are Christ’s, at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be abolished is death. 27 For, He put all things in subjection under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put in subjection, it is evident that he is excepted who did subject all things unto him. 28 And when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all.

1 Corinthians 15:23-28

Matthew Henry

Work of Salvation Finished

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Matthew Henry

Hope of His Second Coming is the Call to Obedience and Faithfulness

and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you; 13 to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Matthew Henry

Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight. 17 Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and for ever. Amen.

2 Peter 3:14, 17-18

Matthew Henry

Remember therefore how thou hast received and didst hear; and keep it, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. 11 I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown.

Revelation 3:3, 11

Matthew Henry

The Signs of His Second Coming

And he spake to them a parable: Behold the fig tree, and all the trees: 30 when they now shoot forth, ye see it and know of your own selves that the summer is now nigh. 31 Even so ye also, when ye see these things coming to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh. 32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all things be accomplished. 33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. 34 But take heed to yourselves, lest haply your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you suddenly as a snare: 35 for so shall it come upon all them that dwell on the face of all the earth. 36 But watch ye at every season, making supplication, that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

Luke 21:29-36

Matthew Henry

Assurance of His Second Coming

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.

John 14:27

Matthew Henry

And while they were looking stedfastly into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? this Jesus, which was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven.

Acts 1:10-11

Matthew Henry

being confident of this very thing, that he which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Philippians 1:6

Matthew Henry

For ye have need of patience, that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise. 37 For yet a very little while, He that cometh shall come, and shall not tarry.

Hebrews 10:36-37

Matthew Henry

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

James 5:7-8

Matthew Henry

He which testifieth these things saith, Yea: I come quickly. Amen: come, Lord Jesus.

Revelation 22:20

Matthew Henry

His Second Coming Revealed

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he come.

1 Corinthians 11:26

Matthew Henry

LNW: Prophecies of End Times with Hyperlinks







Matthew Henry


Days of Noah & Lot Rise in spiritism & “signs & wonders”, Scoffers, Persecution, Aberrant Behavior, Self Serving Hearts.

Gen 6.1-9, Gen 19,

Luke 17.26, Jude 1

Gen 6.1-9, Gen 19,

Luke 17.26

Re-Gathered in to the Land Jews continue to pour in to Israel as God spoke in His Word.  God uses various means/ways, such as the current financial crisis or anti-Semitism!  See also Jeremiah 30.10-11.

Isaiah 43.5-7, Isaiah 54.7,

Jeremiah 16.14-15

Isaiah 43.5-7, Isaiah 54.7,

Jeremiah 16.14-15

Call Upon the Name of the LORD Isaiah 44.3-5 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and streams upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up among the grass, as willows by the watercourses. One shall say, I am Jehovah’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto Jehovah, and surname himself by the name of Israel.

Joel 2:32  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be delivered; for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape, as Jehovah hath said, and among the remnant those whom Jehovah doth call.

Isaiah 44.3-5, Joel 2.28-29

Isaiah 44.3-5, Joel 2.28-29

Gog & Magog Preparation and preparedness of Russia and her allies for completion of Ezekiel 38.16.  (see Table of Nations)

Ezekiel 38.7-8

Table of Nations

Ezekiel 38.7-8

Increase in Knowledge & Travel Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. Look at the technological advances just in the last 10 years.

Daniel 12.4b

Daniel 12.4b

Jerusalem a Cup of Trembling Nations that try to bring about “peace” in the Middle-East between Israel & her enemies, dividing the land and even Jerusalem, favoring Israel’s enemies, will wish they had not gotten involved.

Zech 12.1-9, Joel 3.2, 12

Zech 12.1-9, Joel 3.2, 12

Rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem It is inferred through scripture such as the return to animal sacrifices, and reference to Daniel (11.31  & 12.11)

Matt 24.15, Mark 13.14

Matt 24.15, Mark 13.14

Temple Rebuilt Rebuilt Temple is implied through the scriptures referencing the abomination of desolation – you can not have this unless you have a Temple.

Matt 24.15;

Mark 13.14; Daniel 9:27

Matt 24:15;

Mark 13:14; Daniel 9:27

Apostasy & Falling Away Many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other. Look how the apostate church is growing, as well as the dislike for Christians in general.

Matt 24:10, 2 Thes 2:3

Matt 24:10, 2 Thes 2:3

Birth Pangs / Nations in Perplexity Many lead astray, wars/rumors of war, famines, pestilences & earthquakes, Christian persecution, apostasy, excessive wickedness, terrors & great signs in the heavens, perilous times, personal stress and sorrows.

Matt 24.4-14, Mark 13,

Luke 21.5-36

Matt 24.4-14, Mark 13,

Luke 21.5-36

Jerusalem Encompassed by Armies Matthew 24.15/Daniel 9.27 “desolating sacrilege”, Daniel 11.44, Revelation 9.13-21, 16.12 (and Israel (the woman) who flee to a place prepared by God (Rev 12.6)). It is noteworthy today (February 2016) how Israel has become surrounded by armies.

Luke 21.20

Luke 21.20

Peace and Safety 1Th 5:3  For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

1 Thes 5.3

1 Thes 5.3

Lovers of Self Men will love themselves, money, and pleasure, but not God. The world is becoming very hedonistic.

2 Tim 3:1-5

2 Tim 3:1-5

One World Government Global Governance/Control of ALL Financial/Economic systems (keep an eye on biometric technologies), Initial European Ten Nation federation leading to all nations under one World Leader (Antichrist). See also Matt 24.4-5 and John 5.43.

Rev 6.2 & 13.1-8, Dan 2.41-44,

Dan 7.7-8, Dan 8.9-17, 23-25

Rev 6.2 & 13.1-8, Dan 2.41-44,

Dan 7.7-8, Dan 8.9-17, 23-25

White Horse – Conqueror Though this being is given a crown & bow, this is not Jesus; Some think Antichrist, some think regime change to bring about global democracy. (see Andrew Bonar’s Development of Antichrist)

Rev 6.2

Rev 6.2

Red Horse – Violence / War This would follow the white horse’s purpose of ruling by conquering through force if necessary such as regime change. Could also be a means (global wars) to promote the acceptance of the antichrist by world’s cry for peace at any cost.

Rev. 6.3-4

Rev. 6.3-4

Black Horse – Inflation & Famine Famine can be the result of Inflation and/or high unemployment, a means (economic) through which to conquer.

Rev 6.5-6

Rev 6.5-6

Pale Horse – Death and Hell Sword (war/violent crime), Famine & Pestilence (disease)

Rev 6.7-8

Rev 6.7-8

Kings of the East This could be Iran, China, India, etc. (Kings that are East of the Euphrates River).

Rev 16.12

Rev 16.12

Fall of Babylon If Revelation refers to a literal Babylon, then it stands to reason that it is rebuilt in the last days and becomes very prosperous by means of global trade. Yet, perhaps the city where Antichrist makes his “seat of government”.

Rev. 16.19, Rev 18.2, 10,21

Rev. 16.19, Rev 18.2, 10,21

THE GOSPEL of SATAN By AW Pink (1886-1952)

THE GOSPEL of SATAN By AW Pink (1886-1952)Copyright

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LNW Note: To get the most out of Commentaries that incorporate the Hebrew and Greek spellings, use an interlinear Bible.

Satan is the arch-counterfeiter. As we have seen, the Devil is now busy at work in the same field in which the Lord sowed the good seed. He is seeking to prevent the growth of the wheat by another plant, the tares, which closely resembles the wheat in appearance. In a word, by a process of imitation he is aiming to neutralize the Word of Christ. Therefore, as Christ has a Gospel, Satan has a gospel too; the latter being a clever counterfeit of the former. So closely does the gospel of Satan resemble that which it parades, multitudes of the unsaved are deceived by it.

It is to this gospel of Satan the apostle refers when he says to the Galatians “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ” (1:6,7). This false gospel was being heralded even in the days of the apostle, and a most awful curse was called down upon those who preached it. The apostle continues, “But though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” By the help of God we shall now endeavor to expound, or rather, expose, false gospel.

The gospel of Satan is not a system of revolutionary principles, nor yet a program of anarchy. It does not promote strife and war, but aims at peace and unity. It seeks not to set the mother against her daughter nor the father against his son, but fosters the fraternal, spirit whereby the human race is regarded as one great “brotherhood”. It does not seek to drag down the natural man, but to improve and uplift him. It advocates education and cultivation and appeals to “the best that is within us”. It aims to make this world such a congenial and comfortable habitat that Christ’s absence from it will not be felt and God will not be needed. It endeavors to occupy man so much with this world that he has no time or inclination to think of the world to come. It propagates the principles of self-sacrifice, charity and benevolence, and teaches us to live for the good of others, and to be kind to all. It appeals strongly to the carnal mind and is popular with the masses, because it ignores the solemn facts that by nature man is a fallen creature, alienated from the life of God, and dead in trespasses and sins, and that his only hope lies in being born again.

In contradistinction to the Gospel of Christ, the gospel of Satan teaches salvation by works. It inculcates justification before God on the ground of human merits. Its sacramental phrase is “Be good and do good”; but it fails to recognize that in the flesh there dwelleth no good thing. It announces salvation by character, which reverses the order of God’s Word—character by, as the fruit of, salvation. Its various ramifications and organizations are manifold. Temperance, Reform movements, “Christian Socialist Leagues”, ethical culture societies, “Peace Congresses” are all employed (perhaps unconsciously) in proclaiming this gospel of Satan—salvation by works. The pledge-card is substituted for Christ; social purity for individual regeneration, and politics and philosophy for doctrine and godliness. The cultivation of the old man is considered more practical” than the creation of a new man in Christ Jesus; whilst universal peace is looked for apart from the interposition and return of the Prince of Peace.

The apostles of Satan are not saloon-keepers and white slave traffickers, but are or the most part ordained ministers. Thousands of those who occupy our modern pulpits are no longer engaged in presenting the fundamentals of the Christian Faith, but have turned aside from the Truth and have given heed unto fables. Instead of magnifying the enormity of sin and setting forth its eternal consequences, they minimize it by declaring that sin is merely ignorance or the absence of good. Instead of warning their hearers to “flee from the wrath to come” they make God a liar by declaring that He is too loving and merciful to send any of His own creatures to eternal torment.

Instead of declaring that “without shedding of blood is no remission”, they merely hold up Christ as the great Examplar and exhort their followers to “follow in His step”. Of them it must be said, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). Their message may sound very plausible and they appear very praiseworthy, yet we read of them, “for such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves (imitating) into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing (not to be wondered at) if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:13-15).

In addition to the fact that today hundreds of churches are without a leader who faithfully declares the whole counsel of God and presents His way of salvation, we also have to face the additional fact that the majority of people in these churches are very unlikely to learn the Truth for themselves. The family altar, where a portion of God’s Word was wont to be read daily is now, even in the homes of nominal Christians, largely a thing of the past. The Bible is not expounded in the pulpit and it is not read in the pew. The demands of this rushing age are so numerous that the multitudes have little time and still less inclination to make preparation for their meeting with God. Hence the majority who are too indolent to search for themselves are left at the mercy of those whom they pay to search for them; many of which betray their trust by studying and expounding economic and social problems rather than the Oracles of God . . . .

And now, my reader, where do you stand? Are you in the way which “seemeth right”, but which ends in death? Or are you in the Narrow Way which leadeth unto life? Have you truly forsaken the Broad Road that leadeth to death? Has the love of Christ created in your heart a hatred and horror of all that is displeasing to Him? Are, you desirous that He should “reign over” (Luke 19:14) you? Are you relying wholly on His righteousness and blood for your acceptance with God? . . . .

A yet more specious form of Satan’s gospel is to move preachers to present the atoning sacrifice of Christ and then tell their hearers that all God requires from them is to “believe” in His Son. Thereby thousands of impenitent souls are deluded into thinking that they have been saved. But Christ said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). To “repent” is to hate sin, to sorrow over, to turn from it. It is the result of the Spirit’s making the heart contrite before God. None except a broken heart can savingly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Again; thousands are deceived into supposing that they have “accepted Christ” as their “personal Saviour”, who have not first received Him as their LORD. The Son of God did not come here to save people in their sins, but “from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). To be saved from sins, is to be saved from ignoring and despising the authority of God, it is to abandon the course of self-will and self-pleasing, it is to “forsake our way” (Isa. 55:7). It is to surrender to God’s authority, to yield to His dominion, to give ourselves over to be ruled by Him. The one who has never taken Christ’s “yoke” upon him, who is not truly and diligently seeking to please Him in all the details of his life, and yet supposes that he is “resting on the Finished Work of Christ” is deluded by the Devil. In the seventh chapter of Matthew there are two scriptures which give us approximate results of Christ’s Gospel and Satan’s counterfeit. First, in verses 13 and 14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate. For, wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life and few there be that find it.” Second, in verses 22 and 23, “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesized (preached) in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out demons, and in Thy name have done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Yes, my reader, it is possible to work in the name of Christ, and even to preach in His name, and though the world knows us, and the Church knows us, yet to be unknown to the Lord! How necessary it is then to find out where we really are; to examine ourselves to see whether we be in the faith; to measure ourselves by the Word of God and see if we are being deceived by our subtle Enemy; to find out whether we are building our house upon the sand, or whether it is erected on the Rock which is Christ Jesus. May the Holy Spirit search our hearts, break our wills, slay our enmity against God, work in us a deep and true repentance, and direct our gaze to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.

John Calvin (1509-1564) – Epistle of James

John Calvin (1509-1564)
Copyright – Public Domain

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It appears from the writings of Jerome and Eusebius, that this Epistle was not formerly received by many Churches without opposition. There are also at this day some who do not think it entitled to authority. I, however, am inclined to receive it without controversy, because I see no just cause for rejecting it. For what seems in the second chapter to be inconsistent with the doctrine of free justification, we shall easily explain in its own place. Though he seems more sparing in proclaiming the grace of Christ than it behooved an Apostle to be, it is not surely required of all to handle the same arguments. The writings of Solomon differ much from those of David; while the former was intent on forming the outward man and teaching the precepts of civil life, the latter spoke continually of the spiritual worship of God, peace of conscience, God’s mercy and gratuitous promise of salvation. But this diversity should not make us to approve of one, and to condemn the other. Besides, among the evangelists themselves there is so much difference in setting forth the power of Christ, that the other three, compared with John, have hardly sparks of that full brightness which appears so conspicuous in him, and yet we commend them all alike.

It is enough to make men to receive this Epistle, that it contains nothing unworthy of an Apostle of Christ. It is indeed full of instruction on various subjects, the benefit of which extends to every part of the Christian life; for there are here remarkable passages on patience, prayer to God, the excellency and fruit of heavenly truth, humility, holy duties, the restraining of the tongue, the cultivation of peace, the repressing of lusts, the contempt of the world, and the like things, which we shall separately discuss in their own places.

But as to the author, there is somewhat more reason for doubting. It is indeed certain that he was not the Son of Zebedee, for Herod killed him shortly after our Lord’s resurrection. The ancients are nearly unanimous in thinking that he was one of the disciples named Oblias and a relative of Christ, who was set over the Church at Jerusalem; and they supposed him to have been the person whom Paul mentioned with Peter and John, who he says were deemed pillars, (Gal 2:9.) But that one of the disciples was mentioned as one of the three pillars, and thus exalted above the other Apostles, does not seem to me probable. I am therefore rather inclined to the conjecture, that he of whom Paul speaks was the son of Alpheus. I do not yet deny that another was the ruler of the Church at Jerusalem, and one indeed from the college of the disciples; for the Apostles were not tied to any particular place. But whether of the two was the writer of this Epistle, it is not for me to say. That Oblias was actually a man of great authority among the Jews, appears even from this, that as he had been cruelly put to death by the faction of an ungodly chief-priest, Josephus hesitated not to impute the destruction of the city in part to his death.

James 1:1

1 To the twelve tribes. When the ten tribes were banished, the Assyrian king placed them in different parts. Afterwards, as it usually happens in the revolutions of kingdoms (such as then took place,) it is very probable that they moved here and there in all directions. And the Jews had been scattered almost unto all quarters of the world. He then wrote and exhorted all those whom he could not personally address, because they had been scattered far and wide. But that he speaks not of the grace of Christ and of faith in him, the reason seems to be this, because he addressed those who had already been rightly taught by others; so that they had need, not so much of doctrine, as of the goads of exhortations. (98)

(98) The salutation is peculiar; but in the same form with the letter sent to Antioch by the Apostles, (of whom James was one,) and the church at Jerusalem, Act 15:23. It is therefore apostolic, although adopted from a form commonly used by the heathen writers. See Act 23:26. John in Joh 2:10 and Joh 2:11 uses the verb χαίρειν in a similar sense; and it means properly to rejoice. It being an infinitive, the verb λέγω, to say or to bid, is put before it by John, and is evidently understood here. Hence the salutation may thus be rendered, —

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, bids, (or sends, or wishes) joy to the twelve tribes who are in their dispersion.”

There had been an eastern and a western dispersion, the first at the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity, and the second during the predominancy of the Grecian power, which commenced with Alexander the Great. As this epistle was written in Greek, it was no doubt intended more especially for those of the latter dispersion. But the benefit of the eastern dispersion was soon consulted, as the very first version of the New Testament was made into this language, that is, the Syriac; and this was done at the beginning of the second century.

James 1:2

2 All joy. The first exhortation is, to bear trials with a cheerful mind. And it was especially necessary at that time to comfort the Jews, almost overwhelmed as they were with troubles. For the very name of the nation was so infamous, that they were hated and despised by all people wherever they went; and their condition as Christians rendered them still more miserable, because they held their own nation as their most inveterate enemies. At the same time, this consolation was not so suited to one time, but that it is always useful to believers, whose life is a constant warfare on earth.

But that we may know more fully what he means, we must doubtless take temptations or trials as including all adverse things; and they are so called, because they are the tests of our obedience to God. He bids the faithful, while exercised with these, to rejoice; and that not only when they fall into one temptation, but into many, not only of one kind, but of various kinds. And doubtless, since they serve to mortify our flesh, as the vices of the flesh continually shoot up in us, so they must necessarily be often repeated. Besides, as we labor under diseases, so it is no wonder that different remedies are applied to remove them.

The Lord then afflicts us in various ways, because ambition, avarice, envy, gluttony, intemperance, excessive love of the world, and the innumerable lusts in which we abound, cannot be cured by the same medicine.

When he bids us to count it all joy, it is the same as though he had said, that temptations ought to be so deemed as gain, as to be regarded as occasions of joy. He means, in short, that there is nothing in afflictions which ought to disturb our joy. And thus, he not only commands us to bear adversities calmly, and with an even mind, but shews us that this is a reason why the faithful should rejoice when pressed down by them.

It is, indeed, certain, that all the senses of our nature are so formed, that every trial produces in us grief and sorrow; and no one of us can so far divest himself of his nature as not to grieve and be sorrowful whenever he feels any evil. But this does not prevent the children of God to rise, by the guidance of the Spirit, above the sorrow of the flesh. Hence it is, that in the midst of trouble they cease not to rejoice.

James 1:3

3 Knowing this, that the trying. We now see why he called adversities trials or temptations, even because they serve to try our faith. And there is here a reason given to confirm the last sentence. For it might, on the other hand, be objected, “How comes it, that we judge that sweet which to the sense is bitter?” He then shews by the effect that we ought to rejoice in afflictions, because they produce fruit that ought to be highly valued, even patience. If God then provides for our salvation, he affords us an occasion of rejoicing. Peter uses a similar argument at the beginning of his first Epistle, “That the trial of your faith, more precious than gold, may be,” etc. [1Pe 1:7.] We certainly dread diseases, and want, and exile, and prison, and reproach, and death, because we regard them as evils; but when we understand that they are turned through God’s kindness unto helps and aids to our salvation, it is ingratitude to murmur, and not willingly to submit to be thus paternally dealt with.

Paul says, in Rom 5:3, that we are to glory in tribulations; and James says here, that we are to rejoice. “We glory,” says Paul, “in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience.” What immediately follows seems contrary to the words of James; for he mentions probation in the third place, as the effect of patience, which is here put first as though it were the cause. But the solution is obvious; the word there has an active, but here a passive meaning. Probation or trial is said by James to produce patience; for were not God to try us, but leave us free from trouble, there would be no patience, which is no other thing than fortitude of mind in bearing evils. But Paul means, that while by enduring we conquer evils, we experience how much God’s help avails in necessities; for then the truth of God is as it were in reality manifested to us. Hence it comes that we dare to entertain more hope as to futurity; for the truth of God, known by experience, is more fully believed by us. Hence Paul teaches that by such a probation, that is, by such an experience of divine grace, hope is produced, not that hope then only begins, but that it increases and is confirmed. But both mean, that tribulation is the means by which patience is produced.

Moreover, the minds of men are not so formed by nature, that affliction of itself produces patience in them. But Paul and Peter regard not so much the nature of men as the providence of God through which it comes, that the faithful learn patience from troubles; for the ungodly are thereby more and more provoked to madness, as the example of Pharaoh proves. (99)

(99) The word used by James is δοχίμιον, trial, the act of testing, and by Paul δοχιμὴ, the result of testing, experience. James speaks of probation, and Paul of the experience gained thereby.

James 1:4

4 But let patience have her perfect work. As boldness and courage often appear in us and soon fail, he therefore requires perseverance. “Real patience,” he says, “is that which endures to the end.” For work here means the effort not only to overcome in one contest, but to persevere through life. His perfection may also be referred to the sincerity of the soul, that men ought willingly and not feignedly to submit to God; but as the word work is added, I prefer to explain it of constancy. For there are many, as we have said, who shew at first an heroic greatness, and shortly after grow weary and faint. He therefore bids those who would be perfect and entire, (100) to persevere to the end. But what he means by these two words, he afterwards explains of those who fail not, or become not wearied: for they, who being overcome as to patience, be broken down, must, by degrees, be necessarily weakened, and at length wholly fail.

(100) “Perfect, τέλειοι,” fully grown, mature; “entire, ὁλόχληζοι, ” complete, no part wanting. The first refers to the maturity of grace; and the second to its completeness, no grace being wanting. They were to be like men full grown, and not maimed or mutilated, but having all their members complete.

James 1:5

5 If any of you lack wisdom. As our reason, and all our feelings are averse to the thought that we can be happy in the midst of evils, he bids us to ask of the Lord to give us wisdom. For wisdom here, I confine to the subject of the passage, as though he had said, “If this doctrine is higher than what your minds can reach to, ask of the Lord to illuminate you by his Spirit; for as this consolation alone is sufficient to mitigate all the bitterness of evils, that what is grievous to the flesh is salutary to us; so we must necessarily be overcome with impatience, except we be sustained by this kind of comfort.” Since we see that the Lord does not so require from us what is above our strength, but that he is ready to help us, provided we ask, let us, therefore, learn, whenever he commands anything, to ask from him the power to perform it.

Though in this place to be wise is to submit to God in the endurance of evils, under a due conviction that he so orders all things as to promote our salvation; yet the sentence may be generally applied to every branch of right knowledge.

But why does he say If any one, as though all of them did not want wisdom. To this I answer, that all are by nature without it; but that some are gifted with the spirit of wisdom, while others are without it. As, then, all had not made such progress as to rejoice in affliction, but few there were to whom this had been given, James, therefore, referred to such cases; and he reminded those who were not as yet fully convinced that by the cross their salvation was promoted by the Lord, that they were to ask to be endued with wisdom. And yet there is no doubt, but that necessity reminds us all to ask the same thing; for he who has made the greatest progress, is yet far off from the goal. But to ask an increase of wisdom is another thing than to ask for it at first.

When he bids us to ask of the Lord, he intimates, that he alone can heal our diseases and relieve our wants.

That giveth to all men liberally. By all, he means those who ask; for they who seek no remedy for their wants, deserve to pine away in them. However, this universal declaration, by which every one of us is invited to ask, without exception, is very important; hence no man ought to deprive himself of so great a privilege.

To the same purpose is the promise which immediately follows; for as by this command he shews what is the duty of every one, so he affirms that they would not do in vain what he commands; according to what is said by Christ,

“Knock, and it shall be opened.” (Mat 7:7; Luk 11:9.)

The word liberally, or freely, denotes promptitude in giving. So Paul, in Rom 12:8, requires simplicity in deacons. And in 2Co 8:0 and 2Co 9:0, when speaking of charity or love, he repeats the same word several times. The meaning, then, is, that God is so inclined and ready to give, that he rejects none, or haughtily puts them off, being not like the niggardly and grasping, who either sparingly, as with a closed hand, give but little, or give only a part of what they were about to give, or long debate with themselves whether to give or not. (101)

And upbraideth not. This is added, lest any one should fear to come too often to God. Those who are the most liberal among men, when any one asks often to be helped, mention their formal acts of kindness, and thus excuse themselves for the future. Hence, a mortal man, however open-handed he may be, we are ashamed to weary by asking too often. But James reminds us, that there is nothing like this in God; for he is ready ever to add new blessings to former ones, without any end or limitation.

(101) The literal meaning of ἁπλῶς is simply without any mixture; the noun, ἁπλότης, is used in the sense of sincerity, which has no mixture of hypocrisy or fraud, (2Co 1:12.) and in the sense of liberality, or disposition free from what is sordid or parsimonious, having no mixture of niggardliness, (2Co 8:2.) This latter is evidently the meaning here, so that “liberally,” according to our version, is the best word.

James 1:6

6 But let him ask in faith. He shews here, first the right way of praying; for as we cannot pray without the word, as it were, leading the way, so we must believe before we pray; for we testify by prayer, that we hope to obtain from God the grace which he has promised. Thus every one who has no faith in the promises, prays dissemblingly. Hence, also, we learn what is true faith; for James, after having bidden us to ask in faith, adds this explanation, nothing wavering, or, doubting nothing. Then faith is that which relies on God’s promises, and makes us sure of obtaining what we ask. It hence follows, that it is connected with confidence and certainty as to God’s love towards us. The verb διακρίνεσθαι, which he uses, means properly to inquire into both sides of a question, after the manner of pleaders. He would have us then to be so convinced of what God has once promised, as not to admit a doubt whether he shall be heard or not.

He that wavereth, or doubteth. By this similitude he strikingly expresses how God punishes the unbelief of those who doubt his promises; for, by their own restlessness, they torment themselves inwardly; for there is never any calmness for our souls, except they recumb on the truth of God. He, at length, concludes, that such are unworthy to receive anything from God.

This is a remarkable passage, fitted to disprove that impious dogma which is counted as an oracle under the whole Papacy, that is, that we ought to pray doubtingly, and with uncertainty as to our success. This principle, then, we hold, that our prayers are not heard by the Lord, except when we have a confidence that we shall obtain. It cannot indeed be otherwise, but that through the infirmity of our flesh we must be tossed by various temptations, which are like engines employed to shake our confidence; so that no one is found who does not vacillate and tremble according to the feeling of his flesh; but temptations of this kind are at length to be overcome by faith. The case is the same as with a tree, which has struck firm roots; it shakes, indeed, through the blowing of the wind, but is not rooted up; on the contrary, it remains firm in its own place.

James 1:8

8 A double-minded man, or, a man of a double mind. This sentence may be read by itself, as he speaks generally of hypocrites. It seems, however, to me to be rather the conclusion of the preceding doctrine; and thus there is an implied contrast between the simplicity or liberality of God, mentioned before, and the double-mindedness of man; for as God gives to us with a stretched out hand, so it behooves us in our turn to open the bosom of our heart. He then says that the unbelieving, who have tortuous recesses, are unstable; because they are never firm or fixed, but at one time they swell with the confidence of the flesh, at another they sink into the depth of despair. (102)

(102) “The double-minded,” or the man with two souls, δίψυχος, means here no doubt the man who hesitates between faith and unbelief, because faith is the subject of the passage. When again used, in Jas 4:8, it means a hesitation between God and the world.

James 1:9

9 Let the brother of low degree. As Paul, exhorting servants submissively to bear their lot, sets before them this consolation, that they were the free-men of God, having been set free by his grace from the most miserable bondage of Satan, and reminds them, though free, yet to remember that they were the servants of God; so here James in the same manner bids the lowly to glory in this, that they had been adopted by the Lord as his children; and the rich, because they had been brought down into the same condition, the world’s vanity having been made evident to them. Thus the first thing he would have to do is to be content with their humble and low state; and he forbids the rich to be proud. Since it is incomparably the greatest dignity to be introduced into the company of angels, nay, to be made the associates of Christ, he who estimates this favor of God aright, will regard all other things as worthless. Then neither poverty, nor contempt, nor nakedness, nor famine nor thirst, will make his mind so anxious, but that he will sustain himself with this consolation. “Since the Lord has conferred on me the principal thing, it behooves me patiently to bear the loss of other things, which are inferior.”

Behold, how a lowly brother ought to glory in his elevation or exaltation; for if he be accepted of God, he has sufficient consolation in his adoption alone, so as not to grieve unduly for a less prosperous state of life.

James 1:10

10 But the rich, in that he is made low, or, in his lowness. He has mentioned the particular for the general; for this admonition pertains to all those who excel in honor; or in dignity, or in any other external thing. He bids them to glory in their lowness or littleness, in order to repress the haughtiness of those who are usually inflated with prosperity. But he calls it lowness, because the manifested kingdom of God ought to lead us to despise the world, as we know that all the things we previously greatly admired, are either nothing or very little things. For Christ, who is not a teacher except of babes, checks by his doctrine all the haughtiness of the flesh. Lest, then, the vain joy of the world should captivate the rich, they ought to habituate themselves to glory in the casting down of their carnal excellency. (103)

As the flower of the grass. Were any one to say that James alludes to the words of Isaiah, I would not much object; but I cannot allow that he quotes the testimony of the Prophet, who speaks not only of the things of this life and the fading character of the world, but of the whole man, both body and soul; [Isa 40:6;] but here what is spoken of is the pomp of wealth or of riches. And the meaning is, that glorying in riches is foolish and preposterous, because they pass away in a moment. The philosophers teach the same thing; but the song is sung to the deaf, until the ears are opened by the Lord to hear the truth concerning the eternity of the celestial kingdom. Hence he mentions brother; intimating that there is no place for this truth, until we are admitted into the order of God’s children.

(103) The opinion of Macknight and some others, that the reference is to the lowness to which the rich were reduced by persecution, does not comport with the passage, for the Apostle afterwards speaks of the shortness of man’s life and its uncertainty, and not of the fading nature of riches, which would have been most suitable, had he in view to comfort the rich at the loss of property. The Christian state was “lowness” according to the estimation of the world.

James 1:11

Though the received reading is ἐν ταῖς πορείαις, yet I agree with Erasmus, and read the last word, πορίαις, without the diphthong “in his riches,” or, with his riches; and the latter I prefer. (104)

(104) The received text is regarded as the best reading; the other is found in very few copies.

James 1:12

12 Blessed is the man. After having applied consolation, he moderated the sorrow of those who were severely handled in this world, and again humbled the arrogance of the great. He now draws this conclusion, that they are happy who magnanimously endure troubles and other trials, so as to rise above them. The word temptation may indeed be otherwise understood, even for the stings of lusts which annoy the soul within; but which is here commended, as I think, is fortitude of mind in enduring adversities. It is, however, a paradox, that they are not happy to whom all things come according to their wishes, but such as are not overcome with evils.

For when he is tried. He gives a reason for the preceding sentence; for the crown follows the contest. If, then, it be our chief happiness to be crowned in the kingdom of God, it follows, that the contests with which the Lord tries us, are aids and helps to our happiness. Thus the argument is from the end or the effect: hence we conclude, that the faithful are harassed by so many evils for this purpose, that their piety and obedience may be made manifest, and that they may be thus at length prepared to receive the crown of life.

But they reason absurdly who hence infer that we by fighting merit the crown; for since God has gratuitously appointed it for us, our fighting only renders us fit to receive it.

He adds, that it is promised to those who love God. By speaking thus, he means not that the love of man is the cause of obtaining the crown, (for God anticipates us by his gratuitous love;) but he only intimates that the elect who love him are alone approved by God. He then reminds us that the conquerors of all temptations are those who love God, and that we fail not in courage when we are tried, for no other cause than because the love of the world prevails in us.

James 1:13

13 Let no man, when he is tempted. Here, no doubt, he speaks of another kind of temptation. It is abundantly evident that the external temptations, hitherto mentioned, are sent to us by God. In this way God tempted Abraham, (Gen 22:1,) and daily tempts us, that is, he tries us as to what are we by laying before us an occasion by which our hearts are made known. But to draw out what is hid in our hearts is a far different thing from inwardly alluring our hearts by wicked lusts.

He then treats here of inward temptations which are nothing else than the inordinate desires which entice to sin. He justly denies that God is the author of these, because they flow from the corruption of our nature.

This warning is very necessary, for nothing is more common among men than to transfer to another the blame of the evils they commit; and they then especially seem to free themselves, when they ascribe it to God himself. This kind of evasion we constantly imitate, delivered down to us as it is from the first man. For this reason James calls us to confess our own guilt, and not to implicate God, as though he compelled us to sin.

But the whole doctrine of scripture seems to be inconsistent with this passage; for it teaches us that men are blinded by God, are given up to a reprobate mind, and delivered over to filthy and shameful lusts. To this I answer, that probably James was induced to deny that we are tempted by God by this reason, because the ungodly, in order to form an excuse, armed themselves with testimonies of Scripture. But there are two things to be noticed here: when Scripture ascribes blindness or hardness of heart to God, it does not assign to him the beginning of this blindness, nor does it make him the author of sin, so as to ascribe to him the blame: and on these two things only does James dwell.

Scripture asserts that the reprobate are delivered up to depraved lusts; but is it because the Lord depraves or corrupts their hearts? By no means; for their hearts are subjected to depraved lusts, because they are already corrupt and vicious. But since God blinds or hardens, is he not the author or minister of evil? Nay, but in this manner he punishes sins, and renders a just reward to the ungodly, who have refused to be ruled by his Spirit. (Rom 1:26.) It hence follows that the origin of sin is not in God, and no blame can be imputed to him as though he took pleasure in evils. (Gen 6:6.)

The meaning is, that man in vain evades, who attempts to cast the blame of his vices on God, because every evil proceeds from no other fountain than from the wicked lust of man. And the fact really is, that we are not otherwise led astray, except that every one has his own inclination as his leader and impeller. But that God tempts no one, he proves by this, because he is not tempted with evils (105) For it is the devil who allures us to sin, and for this reason, because he wholly burns with the mad lust of sinning. But God does not desire what is evil: he is not, therefore, the author of doing evil in us.

(105) Literally, “untemptable by evils,” that is, not capable of being tempted or seduced by evils, by things wicked and sinful. He is so pure, that he is not influenced by any evil propensities, that he is not subject to any evil suggestions. It hence follows that he tempts or seduces no man to what is sinful. Being himself unassailable by evils, he cannot seduce others to what is evil. As God cannot be tempted to do what is sinful, he cannot possibly tempt others to sin. The words may thus be rendered, —

13. “Let no one, when seduced, say, ‘By God I am seduced;’ for God is not capable of being seduced by evils, and he himself seduceth no one.”

James 1:14

14 When he is drawn away by his own lust. As the inclination and excitement to sin are inward, in vain does the sinner seek an cause from an external impulse. At the same time these two effects of lust ought to be noticed — that it ensnares us by its allurements, and that it does us away; each of which is sufficient to render us guilty. (106)

(106) The words are very striking, — “But every one is tempted (or, seduced) when, by his own lust, he is drawn away, (that is, from what is good,) and is caught by a bait (or, ensnared.)”

He is in the first drawn off from the line of duty, and then he is caught by something that is pleasing and plausible, but like the bait, it has in it a deadly hook.

James 1:15

15 Then when lust hath conceived. He first calls that lust which is not any kind of evil affection or desire, but that which is the fountain of all evil affections; by which, as he shews, are conceived vicious broods, which at length break forth into sins. It seems, however, improper, and not according to the usage of Scripture, to restrict the word sin to outward works, as though indeed lust itself were not a sin, and as though corrupt desires, remaining closed up within and suppressed, were not so many sins. But as the use of a word is various, there is nothing unreasonable if it be taken here, as in many other places, for actual sin.

And the Papists ignorantly lay hold on this passage, and seek to prove from it that vicious, yea, filthy, wicked, and the most abominable lusts are not sins, provided there is no assent; for James does not shew when sin begins to be born, so as to be sin, and so accounted by God, but when it breaks forth. For he proceeds gradually and shews that the consummation of sin is eternal death, and that sin arises from depraved desires, and that these depraved desires or affections have their root in lust. It hence follows that men gather fruit in eternal perdition, and fruit which they have procured for themselves.

By perfected sin, therefore, I understand, not any one act of sin perpetrated, but the completed course of sinning. For though death is merited by every sin whatever, yet it is said to be the reward of an ungodly and wicked life. Hence is the dotage of those confuted who conclude from these words, that sin is not mortal until it breaks forth, as they say, into an external act. Nor is this what James treats of; but his object was only this, to teach that there is in us the root of our own destruction.

James 1:16

16 Do not err. This is an argument from what is opposite; for as God is the author of all good, it is absurd to suppose him to be the author of evil. To do good is what properly belongs to him, and according to his nature; and from him all good things come to us. Then, whatever evil he does, is not agreeable to his nature. But as it sometimes happens, that he who quits himself well through life, yet in some things fails, he meets this doubt by denying that God is mutable like men. But if God is in all things and always like himself, it hence follows that well-doing is his perpetual work.

James 1:17

This reasoning is far different from that of Plato, who maintained that no calamities are sent on men by God, because he is good; for though it is just that the crimes of men should be punished by God, yet it is not right, with regard to him, to regard among evils that punishment which he justly inflicts. Plato, indeed, was ignorant; but James, leaving to God his right and office of punishing, only removes blame from him. This passage teaches us, that we ought to be so affected by God’s innumerable blessings, which we daily receive from his hand, as to think of nothing but of his glory; and that we should abhor whatever comes to our mind, or is suggested by others, which is not compatible with his praise.

God is called the Father of lights, as possessing all excellency and the highest dignity. And when he immediately adds, that there is in him no shadow of turning, he continues the metaphor; so that we may not measure the brightness of God by the irradiation of the sun which appears to us. (107)

(107) This verse must be taken in connection with what as gone before. When he mentions “every good gift,” it is in opposition to the evil of which he says God is not the author. See Mat 7:11. And “every perfect free-gift,” as δώρημα means, has a reference to the correction of the evil which arises from man himself. And he calls free-gift perfect, because it has no mixture of evil, what he throughout denies that God is the author of. Then the latter part of the verse bears a correspondence with the first. He calls God “the Father of Lights.” Light in the language of scripture means especially two things, the light of truth, divine knowledge and holiness. God is the father, the parent, the origin, the source of these lights. Hence from him descends every good, useful, necessary gift, to deliver men from evil, from ignorance and delusion, and every perfect free-gift to free men from their evil lusts, and to render them holy and happy. And to shew that God is ever the same, he adds, “with whom there is no variableness or the shadow (or shade, of the slightest appearance) of a change;” that is, who never varies in his dealings with men, and shews no symptom of any change, being the author and giver of all good, and the author of no evil, that is, of no sin.

James 1:18

18 Of his own will. He now brings forward a special proof of the goodness of God which he had mentioned, even that he has regenerated us unto eternal life. This invaluable benefit every one of the faithful feels in himself. Then the goodness of God, when known by experience, ought to remove from them all a contrary opinion respecting him.

When he says that God of his own will, or spontaneously, hath begotten us, he intimates that he was induced by no other reason, as the will and counsel of God are often set in opposition to the merits of men. What great thing, indeed, would it have been to say that God was not constrained to do this? But he impresses something more, that God according to his own goodwill hath begotten us, and has been thus a cause to himself. It hence follows that it is natural to God to do good.

But this passage teaches us, that as our election before the foundation of the world was gratuitous, so we are illuminated by the grace of God alone as to the knowledge of the truth, so that our calling corresponds with our election. The Scripture shews that we have been gratuitously adopted by God before we were born. But James expresses here something more, that we obtain the right of adoption, because God does also call us gratuitously. (Eph 1:4.) Farther, we hence learn, that it is the peculiar office of God spiritually to regenerate us; for that the same thing is sometimes ascribed to the ministers of the gospel, means no other thing than this, that God acts through them; and it happens indeed through them, but he nevertheless alone doeth the work.

The word begotten means that we become new men, so that we put off our former nature when we are effectually called by God. He adds how God begets us, even by the word of truth, so that we may know that we cannot enter the kingdom of God by any other door.

That we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. The word τινὰ, “some,” has the meaning of likeness, as though he had said, that we are in a manner firstfruits. But this ought not to be restricted to a few of the faithful; but it belongs to all in common. For as man excels among all creatures, so the Lord elects some from the whole mass and separates them as a holy offering, to himself. (108) It is no common nobility into which God extols his own children. Then justly are they said to be excellent as firstfruits, when God’s image is renewed in them.

(108) The firstfruits being a part and a pledge of the coming harvest, to retain the metaphor, we must regard “creatures” here as including all the saved in future ages. Hence their opinion is to be preferred, who regard the first converts, who were Jews, as the firstfruits.

James 1:19

19 Let every man. Were this a general sentence, the inference would be farfetched; but as he immediately adds a sentence respecting the word of truth suitable to the last verse, I doubt not but that he accommodates this exhortation peculiarly to the subject in hand. Having then set before us the goodness of God, he shews how it becomes us to be prepared to receive the blessing which he exhibits towards us. And this doctrine is very useful, for spiritual generation is not a work of one moment. Since some remnants of the old man ever abide in us, we must necessarily be through life renewed, until the flesh be abolished; for either our perverseness, or arrogance, or sloth, is a great impediment to God in perfecting in us his work. Hence, when James would have us to be swift to hear, he commends promptitude, as though he had said, “When God so freely and kindly presents himself to you, you also ought to render yourselves teachable, lest your slowness should cause him to desist from speaking.”

But inasmuch as we do not calmly hear God speaking to us, when we seem to ourselves to be very wise, but by our haste interrupt him when addressing us, the Apostle requires us to be silent, to be slow to speak. And, doubtless, no one can be a true disciple of God, except he hears him in silence. He does not, however, require the silence of the Pythagorean school, so that it should not be right to inquire whenever we desire to learn what is necessary to be known; but he would only have us to correct and restrain our forwardness, that we may not, as it commonly happens, unseasonably interrupt God, and that as long as he opens his sacred mouth, we may open to him our hearts and our ears, and not prevent him to speak.

Slow to wrath. Wrath also, I think, is condemned with regard to the hearing which God demands to be given to him, as though making a tumult it disturbed and impeded him, for God cannot be heard except when the mind is calm and sedate. Hence, he adds, that as long as wrath bears rule there is no place for the righteousness of God. In short, except the heat of contention be banished, we shall never observe towards God that calm silence of which he has just spoken.

James 1:21

21 Wherefore lay apart. He concludes by saying how the word of life is to be received. And first, indeed, he intimates that it cannot be rightly received except it be implanted, or strike roots in us. For the expression, to receive the implanted word, ought to be thus explained, “to receive it, that it may be really implanted.” For he alludes to seed often sown on and ground, and not received into the moist bosom of the earth; or to plants, which being cast on the ground, or laid on dead wood, soon wither. He then requires that it should be a living implanting, by which the word becomes as it were united with our heart.

He at the same time shews the way and manner of this reception, even with meekness. By this word he means humility and the readiness of a mind disposed to learn, such as Isaiah describes when he says,

“On whom does my Spirit rest, except on the humble and meek?” (Isa 57:15.)

Hence it is, that so far profit in the school of God, because hardly one in a hundred renounces the stubbornness of his own spirit, and gently submits to God; but almost all are conceited and refractory. But if we desire to be the living plantation of God, we must subdue our proud hearts and be humble, and labor to become like lambs, so as to suffer ourselves to be ruled and guided by our Shepherd.

But as men are never thus tamed, so as to have a calm and meek heart, except they are purged from depraved affections, so he bids us to lay aside uncleanness and redundancy of wickedness. And as James borrowed a comparison from agriculture, it was necessary for him to observe this order, to begin by rooting up noxious weeds. And since he addressed all, we may hence conclude that these are the innate evils of our nature, and that they cleave to us all; yea, since he addresses the faithful, he shews that we are never wholly cleansed from them in this life, but that they are continually sprouting up, and therefore he requires that care should be constantly taken to eradicate them. As the word of God is especially a holy thing; to be fitted to receive it, we must put off the filthy things by which we have been polluted.

Under the word κακία, he comprehends hypocrisy and obstinacy as well as unlawful desires or lusts. Not satisfied with specifying the seat of wickedness as being in the soul of man, he teaches us that so abounding is the wickedness that dwells there, that it overflows, or that it rises up as it were into a heap; and doubtless, whosoever will well examine himself will find that there is within him an immense chaos of evils. (109)

Which is able to save. It is a high eulogy on heavenly truth, that we obtain through it a sure salvation; and this is added, that we may learn to seek and love and magnify the word as a treasure that is incomparable. It is then a sharp goad to chastise our idleness, when he says that the word which we are wont to hear so negligently, is the means of our salvation, though for this purpose the power of saving is not ascribed to the word, as if salvation is conveyed by the external sound of the word, or as if the office of saving is taken away from God and transferred elsewhere; for James speaks of the word which by faith penetrates into the hearts of men, and only intimates that God, the author of salvation, conveys it by his Gospel.

(109) What renders this passage unsatisfactory is the meaning given to περισσεία, rendered by some “superfluity,” and by others “redundancy.” The verb περισσεύω means not only to abound, but also to be a residue, to remain, to be a remnant. See Mat 14:20; Luk 9:17. And its derivative περίσσευμα is used in the sense of a remnant or a remainder, Mar 8:8; and this very word is used in the Sept., for יתר which means a residue, a remnant, or what remains, Eze 6:8. Let it have this meaning here, and the sense will not only be clear, but very striking. James was addressing those who were Christians; and he exhorted them to throw away every uncleanness and remnant of wickedness, or evil, as the word κακία more properly means. See Act 8:22; 1Pe 2:16

Every uncleanness,” or filthiness, means every kind of uncleanness arising from lustful and carnal indulgences; and the “remnant of wickedness,” in thought and in deed, most suitably follows.

James 1:22

22 Be ye doers of the word. The doer here is not the same as in Rom 2:13, who satisfied the law of God and fulfilled it in every part, but the doer is he who from the heart embraces God’s word and testifies by his life that he really believes, according to the saying of Christ,

“Blessed are they who hear God’s word and keep it,” (Luk 11:28;)

for he shews by the fruits what that implanting is, before mentioned. We must further observe, that faith with all its works is included by James, yea, faith especially, as it is the chief work which God requires from us. The import of the whole is, that we ought to labor that the word of the Lord should strike root in us, so that it may afterwards fructify. (110)

(110) Calvin takes no notice of the last sentence, “deceiving yourselves.” The participle means deceiving by false reasoning.; it may be rendered with Doddridge, “sophistically deceiving yourselves.”

James 1:23

23 He is like to a man. Heavenly doctrine is indeed a mirror in which God presents himself to our view; but so that we may be transformed unto his image, as Paul says in 2Co 3:18. But here he speaks of the external glance of the eye, not of the vivid and efficacious meditation which penetrates into the heart. It is a striking comparison, by which he briefly intimates, that a doctrine merely heard and not received inwardly into the heart avails nothing, because it soon vanishes away.

James 1:25

25 The perfect law of liberty. After having spoken of empty speculation, he comes now to that penetrating intuition which transforms us to the image of God. And as he had to do with the Jews, he takes the word law, familiarly known to them, as including the whole truth of God.

But why he calls it a perfect law, and a law of liberty, interpreters have not been able to understand; for they have not perceived that there is here a contrast, which may be gathered from other passages of Scripture. As long as the law is preached by the external voice of man, and not inscribed by the finger and Spirit of God on the heart, it is but a dead letter, and as it were a lifeless thing. It is, then, no wonder that the law is deemed imperfect, and that it is the law of bondage; for as Paul teaches in Gal 4:24, separated from Christ, it generates to condemn and as the same shews to us in Rom 8:13, it can do nothing but fill us with diffidence and fear. But the Spirit of regeneration, who inscribes it on our inward parts, brings also the grace of adoption. It is, then, the same as though James had said, “The teaching of the law, let it no longer lead you to bondage, but, on the contrary, bring you to liberty; let it no longer be only a schoolmaster, but bring you to perfection: it ought to be received by you with sincere affection, so that you may lead a godly and a holy life.”

Moreover, since it is a blessing of the Old Testament that the law of God should reform us, as it appears from Jer 31:33, and other passages, it follows that it cannot be obtained until we come to Christ. And, doubtless, he alone is the end and perfection of the law; and James adds liberty, as an inseparable associate, because the Spirit of Christ never regenerates but that he becomes also a witness and an earnest of our divine adoption, so as to free our hearts from fear and trembling.

And continueth. This is firmly to persevere in the knowledge of God; and when he adds, this man shall be blessed in his deed, or work, he means that blessedness is to be found in doing, not in cold hearing. (111)

(111) It may be rendered thus, — “The same shall be blessed in (or by) the doing of it,” that is, the work. The very doing of the law of liberty, of what the gospel prescribes, makes a man blessed or happy.

James 1:26

26 Seem to be religious. He now reproves even in those who boasted that they were doers of the law, a vice under which hypocrites commonly labor, that is, the wantonness of the tongue in detraction. He has before touched on the duty of restraining the tongue, but for a different end; for he then bade silence before God, that we might be more fitted to learn. He speaks now of another thing, that the faithful should not employ their tongue in evil speaking.

It was indeed needful that this vice should be condemned, when the subject was the keeping of the law; for they who have put off the grosser vices, are especially subject to this disease. He who is neither an adulterer, nor a thief, nor a drunkard, but, on the contrary, seems brilliant with some outward shew of sanctity will set himself off by defaming others, and this under the pretense of zeal, but really through the lust of slandering.

The object here, then, was to distinguish between the true worshippers of God and hypocrites, who are so swollen with Pharisaic pride, that they seek praise from the defects of others. If any one, he says, seems to be religious, that is, who has a show of sanctity, and the meantime flatters himself by speaking evil of others, it is hence evident that he does not truly serve God. For by saying that his religion is vain, he not only intimates that other virtues are marred by the stain of evil-speaking, but that the conclusion is, that the zeal for religion which appears is not sincere.

But deceiveth his own heart. I do not approve of the version of Erasmus — “But suffers his heart to err;” for he points out the fountain of that arrogance to which hypocrites are addicted, through which, being blinded by an immoderate love of themselves, they believe themselves to be far better than they really are; and hence, no doubt, is the disease of slandering, because the wallet, as Aesop says in his Apologue, hanging behind, is not seen. Rightly, then, has James, wishing to remove the effect, that is, the lust of evil-speaking, added the cause, even that hypocrites flatter themselves immoderately. For they would be ready to forgive were they in their turn to acknowledge themselves to be in need of forgiveness. Hence the flatteries by which they deceive themselves as to their own vices, make them such supercilious censors of others.

James 1:27

27 Pure religion. As he passes by those things which are of the greatest moment in religion, he does not define generally what religion is, but reminds us that religion without the things he mentions is nothing; as when one given to wine and gluttony boasts that he is temperate, and another should object, and say that the temperate man is he who does not indulge in excess as to wine or eating; his object is not to express the whole of what temperance is, but to refer only to one thing, suitable to the subject in hand. For they are in vain religious of whom he speaks, as they are for the most part trifling pretenders.

James then teaches us that religion is not to be estimated by the pomp of ceremonies; but that there are important duties to which the servants of God ought to attend.

To visit in necessity is to extend a helping hand to alleviate such as are in distress. And as there are many others whom the Lord bids us to succor, in mentioning widows and orphans, he states a part for the whole. There is then no doubt but that under one particular thing he recommends to us every act of love, as though he had said, “Let him who would be deemed religious, prove himself to be such by self denial and by mercy and benevolence towards his neighbors.”

And he says, before God, to intimate that it appears in deed otherwise to men, who are led astray by external masks, but that we ought to seek what pleases him. By God and Father, we are to understand God who is a father.

James 2:1

This reproof seems at first sight to be hard and unreasonable; for it is one of the duties of courtesy, not to be neglected, to honor those who are elevated in the world. Further, if respect of persons be vicious, servants are to be freed from all subjection; for freedom and servitude are deemed by Paul as conditions of life. The same must be thought of magistrates. But the solution of these questions is not difficult, if what James writes is not separated. For he does not simply disapprove of honor being paid to the rich, but that this should not be done in a way so as to despise or reproach the poor; and this will appear more clearly, when he proceeds to speak of the rule of love.

Let us therefore remember that the respect of persons here condemned is that by which the rich is so extolled, wrong is done to the poor, which also he shews clearly by the context and surely ambitions is that honor, and full of vanity, which is shewn to the rich to the contempt of the poor. Nor is there a doubt but that ambition reigns and vanity also, when the masks of this world are alone in high esteem. We must remember this truth, that he is to be counted among the heirs of God’s kingdom, who disregards the reprobate and honors those who fear God. (Psa 15:4.)

Here then is the contrary vice condemned, that is, when from respect alone to riches, anyone honors the wicked, and as it has been said, dishonors the good. If then thou shouldest read thus, “He sins who respects the rich,” the sentence would be absurd; but if as follows, “He sins who honors the rich alone and despises the poor, and treats him with contempt,” it would be a pious and true doctrine.

1 Have not the faith, etc. , with respect of persons. He means that the respect of persons is inconsistent with the faith of Christ, so that they cannot be united together, and rightly so; for we are by faith united into one body, in which Christ holds the primacy. When therefore the pomps of the world become preeminent so as to cover over what Christ is, it is evident that faith hath but little vigor.

In rendering τὢς δόξης, “on account of esteem,” (ex opinione ,) I have followed Erasmus; though the old interpreter cannot be blamed, who has rendered it “glory,” for the word means both; and it may be fitly applied to Christ, and that according to the drift of the passage. For so great is the brightness of Christ, that it easily extinguishes all the glories of the world, if indeed it irradiates our eyes. It hence follows, that Christ is little esteemed by us, when the admiration of worldly glory lays hold on us. But the other exposition is also very suitable, for when the esteem or value of riches or of honors dazzles our eyes, the truth is suppressed, which ought alone to prevail. To sit becomingly means to sit honorably.

James 2:4

4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves? or, are ye not condemned in yourselves. This may be read affirmatively as well as interrogatively, but the sense would be the same, for he amplifies the fault by this, that they took delight and indulged themselves in so great a wickedness. If it be read interrogatively, the meaning is, “Does not your own conscience hold you convicted, so that you need no other judge?” If the affirmative be preferred, it is the same as though he had said, “This evil also happens, that ye think not that ye sin, nor know that your thoughts are so wicked as they are.” (112)

(112) It is commonly admitted to be an interrogatory sentence: “And do ye not make a difference among (or, in) yourselves, and become judges, having evil thoughts?” literally, “judges of evil thoughts,” it being, as they say, the genitive case of possession. Or the words may be rendered, “and become judges of evil (or, false) reasonings?” or as Beza renders the sentence, “and become judges, reasoning falsely,” concluding that the rich man was good and the poor man bad.

It is said by Beza and others, that διακρίνομαι never means to be judged or condemned, but to distinguish, to discriminate, to make a difference, and also to contend and to doubt. The difference made here was the respect of persons that was shewn, and they made this difference in themselves, in their own minds, through the perverse or false thoughts or reasonings which they entertained. But it appears that these preferences were shewn, not to the members of the Church, but to such strangers as might happen to come to their assemblies.

James 2:5

5 Hearken, my beloved brethren. He proves now by a two-fold argument, that they acted preposterously, when for the sake of the rich they despised the poor: The first is, that it is unbecoming and disgraceful to cast down those whom God exalts, and to treat reproachfully those whom he honors. As God honors the poor, then every one who repudiates them, reverses the order of God. The other argument is taken from common experience; for since the rich are for the most part vexatious to the good and innocent, it is very unreasonable to render such a reward for the wrongs they do, so that they should be more approved by us than the poor, who aid us more than they wrong us. We shall now see how he proceeds with these two points.

Hath not God chosen the poor of this world? Not indeed alone, but he wished to begin with them, that he might beat down the pride of the rich. This is also what Paul says, that God hath chosen, not many noble, not many mighty in the world, but those who are weak, that he might make ashamed such as are strong (1Co 1:25.) In short, though God pours forth his grace on the rich in common with the poor, yet his will is to prefer these to those, that the mighty might learn not to flatter themselves, and that the ignoble and the obscure might ascribe in what they are to the mercy of God, and that both might be trained up to meekness and humility.

The rich in faith are not those who abound in the greatness of faith, but such as God has enriched with the various gifts of his Spirit, which we receive by faith. For, doubtless, since the Lord deals bountifully with all, every one becomes partaker of his gifts according to the measure of his own faith. If, then, we are empty or needy, that proves the deficiency of our faith; for if we only enlarge the bosom of faith, God is always ready to fill it.

He says, that a kingdom is promised to those who love God: not that the promise depends on love; but he reminds us that we are called by God unto the hope of eternal life, on this condition and to this end, that we may love him. Then the end, and not the beginning, is here pointed out.

James 2:6

6 Do not the rich. He seems to instigate them to vengeance by bringing forward the unjust rule of the rich, in order that they who were unjustly treated, might render like for like: and yet we are everywhere bid to do good to those who injure us. But the object of James was another; for he only wished to shew that they were without reason or judgment who through ambition honored their executioners, and in the meantime injured their own friends, at least those from whom they never suffered any wrong. For hence appeared more fully their vanity, that they were induced by no acts of kindness: they only admired the rich, because they were rich; nay, they servilely flattered those whom they found, to their own loss, to be unjust and cruel.

There are, indeed, some of the rich who are just, and meek, and hate all unrighteousness; but few of such men are to be found. James, then, mentions what for the most part usually happens, and what daily experience proves true. For as men commonly exercise their power in doing what is wrong, it hence happens, that the more power any one has, the worse he is, and the more unjust towards his neighbors. The more careful then ought the rich to be, lest they should contract any of the contagion which everywhere prevails among those of their own rank.

James 2:7

7 Worthy, or good name. I doubt not but that he refers here to the name of God and of Christ. And he says, by, or, on, the which ye are called; not in prayer, as Scripture is wont sometimes to speak, but by profession; as the name of a father, in Gen 48:16, is said to be called on his offspring, and in Isa 4:1, the name of a husband is called on the wife. It is, then, the same as though he had said, “The good name in which ye glory, or which ye deem it an honor to be called by; but if they proudly calumniate the glory of God, how unworthy are they of being honored by Christians!”

James 2:8

Now follows a plainer declaration; for he expressly points out the cause of the last reproof, for they were officiously attentive to the rich, not from love, but on the contrary, from a vain desire of attaining their favor: And it is in anticipation, by which he obviated an excuse on the other side; for they might have objected and said, that he ought not to be blamed, who humbly submiteth himself to the unworthy. James, indeed, concedes that this is true, but he shews that it was falsely pretended by them, because they shewed this submission of homage, not from love to their neighbors, but from respect of persons.

In the first clause, then, he acknowledges as right and praiseworthy, as the duties of love which we perform towards our neighbors. In the second, he denies that the ambitious respect of persons ought to be deemed as of this kind, for it widely differs from what the law prescribes. And the hinge of this answer turns on the words “neighbor” and “respect of persons,” as though he had said, “If you pretend that there is a sort of love in what you do, this may be easily disproved; for God bids us to love our neighbors, and not to shew respect of persons.” Besides, this word “neighbor” includes all mankind: he, then, who says, that a very few, according to his own fancy, ought to be honored, and others passed by, does not keep the law of God, but yields to the depraved desires of his own heart. God expressly commends to us strangers and enemies, and all, even the most contemptible. To this doctrine the respect of persons is wholly contrary. Hence, rightly does James assert, that respect of persons is inconsistent with love.

8 If ye fulfill the royal law. The law here I take simply as the rule of life; and to fulfill, or perform it, is to keep it with real integrity of heart, and as they say, roundly, (rotunde ;) and he sets such a keeping in opposition to a partial observance of it. It is said, indeed, to be a royal law, as it is the royal way, or road; that is, plain, straight, and level, which, by implication, is set in opposition to sinuous by-paths and windings.

Allusion however is made, as I think, to servile obedience which they rendered to the rich, when they might, by serving in sincerity their neighbors, be not only free men, but live as kings.

James 2:9

When, in the second place, he says, that those who had respect of persons were convinced, or reproved by the law, the law is taken according to its proper meaning. For since we are bidden by God’s command to embrace all mortals, every one who, with a few exceptions, rejects all the rest, breaks the bond of God, and inverts also his order, and is, therefore, rightly called a transgressor of the law.

James 2:10

10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law. What alone he means is, that God will not be honored with exceptions, nor will he allow us to cut off from his law what is less pleasing to us. At the first view, this sentence seems hard to some, as though the apostle countenanced the paradox of the Stoics, which makes all sins equal, and as though he asserted that he who offends in one thing ought to be punished equally with him whose whole life has been sinful and wicked. But it is evident from the context that no such thing entered into his mind.

For we must always observe the reason anything is said. He denies that our neighbors are loved when a part only of them is through ambition chosen, and the rest neglected. This he proves, because it is no obedience to God, when it is not rendered equally according to his command. Then as the rule of God is plain and complete or perfect, so we ought to regard completeness; so that none of us should presumptuously separate what he has joined together. Let there be, therefore, a uniformity, if we desire rightly to obey God. As, for instance, were a judge to punish ten thefts, and leave one man unpunished, he would betray the obliquity of his mind, for he would thus shew himself indignant against men rather than against crimes; because what he condemns in one he absolves in another.

We now, then, understand the design of James, that is, that if we cut off from God’s law what is less agreeable to us, though in other parts we may be obedient, yet we be come guilty of all, because in one particular thing we violate the whole law. And though he accommodates what is said to the subject in hand, it is yet taken from a general principle, — that God has prescribed to us a rule of life, which it is not lawful for us to mutilate. For it is not said of a part of the law, “This is the way, walk ye in it;” nor does the law promise a reward except to universal obedience.

Foolish, then, are the schoolmen, who deem partial righteousness, as they call it, to be meritorious; for this passage and many others, clearly shew that there is no righteousness except in a perfect obedience to the law.

James 2:11

11 For he that said, or he who hath said. This is a proof of the former verse; because the Lawgiver is to be considered rather than each particular precept apart. The righteousness of God, as an indivisible body, is contained in the law. Whosoever, then, transgresses one article of the Law, destroys, as far as he can, the righteousness of God. Besides, as in one part, so in every part, God’s will is to try our obedience. Hence a transgressor of the law is every one who offends as to any one of its commandments according to this saying,

“Cursed is he who fulfills not all things.” (Deu 27:26.)

We further see, that the transgressor of the law, and the guilty of all, mean the same according to James.

James 2:12

12 So speak ye. Some give this explanation, that as they flattered themselves too much, they are summoned to the right tribunal; for men absolve themselves according to their own notions, because they withdraw themselves from the judgment of the divine law. He then reminds them that all deeds and words are there to be accounted for, because God will judge the world according to his law. As, however, such a declaration might have smitten them with immoderate terror, to correct or mitigate what they might have thought severe, he adds, the law of liberty. For we know what Paul says,

“Whosoever are under the law are under a curse.” (Gal 3:10.)

Hence the judgment of the law in itself is condemnation to eternal death; but he means by the word liberty, that we are freed from the rigor of the law.

This meaning is not altogether unsuitable, though if one examines more minutely what immediately follows, he will see that James meant another thing; the sense is as though he had said, “Except ye wish to undergo the rigor of the law, ye must be less rigid towards your neighbors; for the law of liberty is the same as the mercy of God, which delivers us from the curse of the law” And so this verse ought to be read with what follows, where he speaks of the duty of bearing with infirmities. And doubtless the whole passage thus reads well: “Since none of us can stand before God, except we be delivered and freed from the strict rigor of the law, we ought so to act, that we may not through too much severity exclude the indulgence or mercy of God, of which we all have need to the last.”

James 2:13

13 For he shall have judgment. This is an application of the last verse to the subject in hand, which confirms altogether the second explanation which I have mentioned: for he shews, that since we stand through God’s mercy alone, we ought to shew that to those whom the Lord himself commends to us. It is, indeed, a singular commendation of kindness and benevolence, that God promises that he will be merciful to us, if we be so to our brethren: not that our mercy, how ever great it may be, shewn towards men, merits the mercy of God; but that God would have those whom he has adopted, as he is to them a kind and an indulgent Father, to bear and exhibit his image on the earth, according to the saying of Christ,

“Be ye merciful, as your heavenly Father is merciful.” (Mat 5:7.)

We must notice, on the other hand, that he could denounce nothing on them more severe or more dreadful than the judgment of God. It hence follows, that all they are miserable and lost who flee not to the asylum of pardon.

And mercy rejoiceth. As though he had said, “God’s mercy alone is that which delivers us from the dread and terror of judgment.” he takes rejoicing or glorying in the sense of being victorious or triumphant; for the judgment of condemnation is suspended over the whole world, and nothing but mercy can bring relief.

Hard and forced is the explanation of those who regard mercy as put here for the person, for men cannot properly be said to rejoice or glory against the judgment of God; but mercy itself in a manner triumphs, and alone reigns when the severity of judgment gives way; though I do not deny but that hence arises confidence in rejoicing, that is, when the faithful know that the wrath of God in a manner yields to mercy, so that being relieved by the latter, they are not overwhelmed by the former.

James 2:14

14 What doth it profit. He proceeds to commend mercy. And as he had threatened that God would be a severe Judge to us, and at the same time very dreadful, except we be kind and merciful towards our neighbors, and as on the other hand hypocrites objected and said, that faith is sufficient to us, in which the salvation of men consists, he now condemns this vain boasting. The sum, then, of what is said is, that faith without love avails nothing, and that it is therefore wholly dead.

But here a question arises, Can faith be separated from love? It is indeed true that the exposition of this passage has produced that common distinction of the Sophists, between unformed and formed faith; but of such a thing James knew nothing, for it appears from the first words, that he speaks of false profession of faith: for he does not begin thus, “If any one has faith;” but, “If any says that he has faith;” by which he certainly intimates that hypocrites boast of the empty name of faith, which really does not belong to them.

That he calls it then faith, is a concession, as the Rhetoricians say; for when we discuss a point, it does no harm, nay, it is sometimes expedient, to concede to an adversary what he demands, for as soon as the thing itself is known, what is conceded may be easily taken away from him. James then, as he was satisfied that it was a false pretext by which hypocrites covered themselves, was not disposed to raise a dispute about a word or an expression. Let us, however, remember that he does not speak according to the impression of his own mind when he mentions faith, but that on the contrary he disputes against those who made a false pretense as to faith, of which they were wholly destitute.

Can faith save him? This is the same as though he had said, that we do not attain salvation by a frigid and bare knowledge of God, which all confess to be most true; for salvation comes to us by faith for this reason, because it joins us to God. And this comes not in any other way than by being united to the body of Christ, so that, living through his Spirit, we are also governed by him. There is no such thing as this in the dead image of faith. There is then no wonder that James denies that salvation is connected with it. (113)

(113) When he says “Can faith save him?” his meaning is “Can the faith which he says he has save him?” that is, faith which is dead and produces no works; for that is the faith clearly intended here, as it appears from what follows. To make the meaning more evident, Macknight renders the sentence thus, — “Can this faith save him?” that is, the faith that has not works.

James 2:15

15 If a brother, or, For if a brother. He takes an example from what was connected with his subject; for he had been exhorting them to exercise the duties of love. If any one, on the contrary, boasted that he was satisfied with faith without works, he compares this shadowy faith to the saying of one who bids a famished man to be filled without supplying him with the food of which he is destitute. As, then, he who sends away a poor man with words, and offers him no help, treats him with mockery, so they who devise for themselves faith without works, and without any of the duties of religion, trifle with God. (114)

(114) This is adduced as an illustration: as the saying of a man to the naked, “Be ye clothed,” when he does nothing, effects no good, is wholly useless, so is that faith that produces no works; it being as it were dead, it cannot save.

James 2:17

17 Is dead, being alone. He says that faith is dead, being by itself, that is, when destitute of good works. We hence conclude that it is indeed no faith, for when dead, it does not properly retain the name. The Sophists plead this expression and say, that some sort of faith is found by itself; but this frivolous caviling is easily refuted; for it is sufficiently evident that the Apostle reasons from what is impossible, as Paul calls an angel anathema, if he attempted to subvert the gospel. (Gal 1:8.)

James 2:18

18 Yea, a man may say. Erasmus introduces here two persons as speakers; one of whom boasts of faith without works, and the other of works without faith; and he thinks that both are at length confuted by the Apostle. But this view seems to me too forced. He thinks it strange, that this should be said by James, Thou hast faith, who acknowledges no faith without works. But in this he is much mistaken, that he does not acknowledge an irony in these words. Then ἀλλὰ I take for “nay rather;” and τὶς for “any one;” for the design of James was to expose the foolish boasting of those who imagined that they had faith when by their life they shewed that they were unbelievers; for he intimates that it would be easy for all the godly who led a holy life to strip hypocrites of that boasting with which they were inflated. (115)

Shew me. Though the more received reading is, “by works,” yet the old Latin is more suitable, and the reading is also found in some Greek copies. I therefore hesitated not to adopt it. Then he bids to shew faith without works, and thus reasons from what is impossible, to prove what does not exist. So he speaks ironically. But if any one prefers the other reading, it comes to the same thing, “Shew me by works thy faith;” for since it is not an idle thing, it must necessarily be proved by works. The meaning then is, “Unless thy faith brings forth fruits, I deny that thou hast any faith.” (116)

But it may be asked, whether the outward uprightness of life is a sure evidence of faith? For James says, “I will shew thee my faith by my works. ” To this I reply, that the unbelieving sometimes excel in specious virtues, and lead an honorable life free from every crime; and hence works apparently excellent may exist apart from faith. Nor indeed does James maintain that every one who seems good possesses faith. This only he means, that faith, without the evidence of good works, is vainly pretended, because fruit ever comes from the living root of a good tree.

(115) I would render the verse thus:

“But one may say, Thou hast faith, I also have works; shew me thy faith that is without works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”

It is the same as though he had said, “Thou hast faith only, I have also works in addition to my faith; now, prove to me that you have true faith without having works connected with it, (which was impossible, hence he is called a ‘vain man,’ or empty-headed, in Jas 2:20,) and I will prove my faith by its fruits, even good works.

(116) Griesbach and others regard χωρὶς as the true reading, countenanced by most MSS., and found in the Syr. and Vulg.

This verse is a key to the meaning of James: faith is to be proved by works; then faith properly justifies and saves, and works prove its genuineness. When he says that a man is justified by works, the meaning according to this verse is, that a man is proved by his works to be justified, his faith thereby being shewn to be a living and not a dead faith. We may well be surprised, as Doddridge was, that any, taking a view of this whole passage, should ever think that there is any contrariety in what is here said to be the teaching of Paul. The doctrine of Paul, that man is justified by faith and not by works, that is, by a living faith, which works by love, is perfectly consistent with what James says, that is, that a man is not justified by a dead faith but by that faith which proves its living power by producing good works, or by rendering obedience to God. The sum of what James says is, that a dead faith cannot save, but a living faith, and that a living faith is a working faith — a doctrine taught by Paul as well as by James.

James 2:19

19Thou believest that there is one God. From this one sentence it appears evident that the whole dispute is not about faith, but of the common knowledge of God, which can no more connect man with God, than the sight of the sun carry him up to heaven; but it is certain that by faith we come nigh to God. Besides, it would be ridiculous were any one to say, that the devils have faith; and James prefers them in this respect to hypocrites. The devil trembles, he says, at the mention of God’s name, because when he acknowledges his own judge he is filled with the fear of him. He then who despises an acknowledged God is much worse.

Thou doest well, is put down for the purpose of extenuating, as though he had said, “It is, forsooth! a great thing to sink down below the devils.” (117)

(117) The design of alluding to the faith of devils seems to have been this, to shew that though a good man may believe and tremble, yet if he does not obey God and do good works, he has no true evidence of faith. Obedient faith is that which saves, and not merely that which makes us tremble. The connection with the preceding verse seems to be as follows, —

In the former verse the boaster of mere faith is challenged to prove that his faith is right and therefore saving; the challenger would prove by his works. Then, in this verse, a test is applied — the very first article of faith is mentioned: “Be it that you believe this, yet this faith will not save you: the devils have this faith, and instead of being saved they tremble.

James 2:20

20 But wilt thou know. We must understand the state of the question, for the dispute here is not respecting the cause of justification, but only what avails a profession of faith without works, and what opinion we are to form of it. Absurdly then do they act who strive to prove by this passage that man is justified by works, because James meant no such thing, for the proofs which he subjoins refer to this declaration, that no faith, or only a dead faith, is without works. No one will ever understand what is said, nor judge wisely of words, except he who keeps in view the design of the writer.

James 2:21

21 Was not Abraham. The Sophists lay hold on the word justified, and then they cry out as being victorious, that justification is partly by works. But we ought to seek out a right interpretation according to the general drift of the whole passage. We have already said that James does not speak here of the cause of justification, or of the manner how men obtain righteousness, and this is plain to every one; but that his object was only to shew that good works are always connected with faith; and, therefore, since he declares that Abraham was justified by works, he is speaking of the proof he gave of his justification.

When, therefore, the Sophists set up James against Paul, they go astray through the ambiguous meaning of a term. When Paul says that we are justified by faith, he means no other thing than that by faith we are counted righteous before God. But James has quite another thing in view, even to shew that he who professes that he has faith, must prove the reality of his faith by his works. Doubtless James did not mean to teach us here the ground on which our hope of salvation ought to rest; and it is this alone that Paul dwells upon. (118)

That we may not then fall into that false reasoning which has deceived the Sophists, we must take notice of the two fold meaning, of the word justified. Paul means by it the gratuitous imputation of righteousness before the tribunal of God; and James, the manifestation of righteousness by the conduct, and that before men, as we may gather from the preceding words, “Shew to me thy faith,” etc. In this sense we fully allow that man is justified by works, as when any one says that a man is enriched by the purchase of a large and valuable chest, because his riches, before hid, shut up in a chest, were thus made known.

(118) It is justly observed by Scott, that there is the same difficulty in reconciling James with himself as with Paul. And this difficulty at once vanishes, when we take a view of the whole passage, and not confine ourselves to single expressions.

James 2:22

22 By works was faith made perfect (119) By this he again shews, that the question here is not respecting the cause of our salvation, but whether works necessarily accompany faith; for in this sense it is said to have been perfected by works, because it was not idle. It is said to have been perfected by works, not because it received thence its own perfection, but because it was thus proved to be true. For the futile distinction which the Sophists draw from these words, between formed and unformed faith, needs no labored refutation; for the faith of Abram was formed and therefore perfected before he sacrificed his son. And this work was not as it were the finishing, or last work. Formerly things afterwards followed by which Abraham proved the increase of his faith. Hence this was not the perfection of his faith, nor did it then for the first time put on its form. James then understood no other thing, than that the integrity of his faith then appeared, because it brought forth that remarkable fruit of obedience.

(119) The previous sentence is hardly intelligible in our version or in Calvin’s. “Seest thou how faith wrought (co-operated, by C.) with his works?” The verb is συνεργέω, which means properly to work together, to co-operate; and it means also, as the effect of co-operating, to aid, to help. “Seest thou how faith aided him in his works?” Schleusner gives this paraphrase, “Thou sees that Abraham was aided by his faith to do his remarkable works.” Beza’s version is, “Thou seest that faith was the assistant (administer) of his works.” Some give the idea of combining to co-operating, “Thou seest that faith co-operated with his works,” that is, in justification. It has been said, that if this combination had been intended, it ought to have been said that works co-operated with his faith, as faith, according to the testimony of scripture and the nature of things, is the primary and the principal thing, and as there can be no good works without faith. But the first explanation is the most consonant with the words and with the drift of the passage.

James 2:23

23 And the Scripture was fulfilled. They who seek to prove from this passage of James that the works of Abraham were imputed for righteousness, must necessarily confess that Scripture is perverted by him; for however they may turn and twist, they can never make the effect to be its own cause. The passage is quoted from Moses. (Gen 15:6.) The imputation of righteousness which Moses mentions, preceded more than thirty years the work by which they would have Abraham to have been justified. Since faith was imputed to Abraham fifteen years before the birth of Isaac, this could not surely have been done through the work of sacrificing him. I consider that all those are bound fast by an indissoluble knot, who imagine that righteousness was imputed to Abraham before God, because he sacrificed his son Isaac, who was not yet born when the Holy Spirit declared that Abraham was justified. It hence necessarily follows that something posterior is pointed out here.

Why then does James say that it was fulfilled? Even because he intended to shew what sort of faith that was which justified Abraham; that is, that it was not idle or evanescent, but rendered him obedient to God, as also we find in Heb 11:8. The conclusion, which is immediately added, as it depends on this, has no other meaning. Man is not justified by faith alone, that is, by a bare and empty knowledge of God; he is justified by works, that is, his righteousness is known and proved by its fruits.

James 2:25

25 Likewise also was not Rahab. It seems strange that he connected together those who were so unlike. Why did he not rather choose some one from so large a number of illustrious fathers, and join him to Abraham? Why did he prefer a harlot to all others? he designedly put together two persons so different in their character, in order more clearly to shew, that no one, whatever may have been his or her condition, nation, or class in society, has ever been counted righteous without good works. He had named the patriarch, by far the most eminent of all; he now includes under the person of a harlot, all those who, being aliens, were joined to the Church. Whosoever, then, seeks to be counted righteous, though he may even be among the lowest, must yet shew that he is such by good works.

James, according to his manner of speaking, declares that Rahab was justified by works; and the Sophists hence conclude that we obtain righteousness by the merits of works. But we deny that the dispute here is concerning the mode of obtaining righteousness. We, indeed, allow that good works are required for righteousness; we only take away from them the power of conferring righteousness, because they cannot stand before the tribunal of God. (120)

(120) The last verse is left unnoticed, — Jas 2:26 “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works (or, having no works) is dead.”

The meaning is not, that works are to faith what the spirit is to the body, for that would make works to be the life of faith, the reverse of the fact; but the meaning is, that faith having no works is like a dead carcass without life.

James 3:1

1 Be not many masters. The common and almost universal interpretation of this passage is, that the Apostle discourages the desire for the office of teaching, and for this reason, because it is dangerous, and exposes one to a heavier judgment, in case he transgresses: and they think that he said, Be not many masters, because there ought to have been some. But I take masters not to be those who performed a public duty in the Church, but such as took upon them the right of passing judgment upon others: for such reprovers sought to be accounted as masters of morals. And it has a mode of speaking usual among the Greeks as well as Latins, that they were called masters who superciliously animadverted on others.

And that he forbade them to be many, it was done for this reason, because many everywhere did thrust in themselves; for it is, as it were, an innate disease in mankind to seek reputation by blaming others. And, in this respect, a twofold vice prevails — though few excel in wisdom, yet all intrude indiscriminately into the office of masters; and then few are influenced by a right feeling, for hypocrisy and ambition stimulate them, and not a care for the salvation of their brethren. For it is to be observed, that James does not discourage those brotherly admonitions, which the Spirit so often and so much recommends to us, but that immoderate desire to condemn, which proceeds from ambition and pride, when any one exalts himself against his neighbor, slanders, carps, bites, and malignantly seeks for what he may turn to a sinister purpose: for this is usually done when impertinent censors of this kind insolently boast themselves in the work of exposing the vices of others.

From this outrage and annoyance James recalls us; and he adds a reason, because they who are thus severe towards others shall undergo a heavier judgment: for he imposes a hard law on himself, who tries the words and deeds of others according to the rule of extreme rigor; nor does he deserve pardon, who will pardon none. This truth ought to be carefully observed, that they who are too rigid towards their brethren, provoke against themselves the severity of God.

James 3:2

2 For in many things we offend all. This may be taken as having been said by way of concession, as though he had said, “Be it that thou findest what is blamable in thy brethren, for no one is free from sins; but dost thou think that thou art perfect who usest a slanderous and virulent tongue?” But James seems to me to exhort us by this argument to meekness, since we are ourselves also surrounded with many infirmities; for he acts unjustly who denies to others the pardon he needs himself. So also Paul says, when he bids the fallen to be reproved kindly, and in the spirit of meekness; for he immediately adds,

“considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Gal 6:1.)

For there is nothing which serves more to moderate extreme rigor than the knowledge of our own infirmity.

If any man offend not in word. After having said that there is no one who does not sin in many things, he now shews that the disease of evil-speaking is more odious than other sins; for by saying that he who offends not with his tongue is perfect, he intimates that the restraining of the tongue is a great virtue, and one of the chief virtues. Hence they act most perversely who curiously examine every fault, even the least, and yet so grossly indulge themselves.

He then indirectly touches here on the hypocrisy of censors, because in examining themselves they omitted the chief thing, and that was of great moment even their evil-speaking; for they who reproved others pretended a zeal for perfect holiness, but they ought to have begun with the tongue, if they wished to be perfect. As they made no account of bridling the tongue, but, on the contrary, did bite and tear others, they exhibited only a fictitious sanctity. It is hence evident that they were the most reprehensible of all, because they neglected a primary virtue. This connection renders the meaning of the Apostle plain to us.

James 3:3

3 We put bits in the horses’ mouths. By these two comparisons he proves that a great part of true perfection is in the tongue, and that it exercises dominion, as he has just said, over the whole life. He compares the tongue, first, to a bridle, and then to a helm of a ship. Though a horse be a ferocious animal, yet he is turned about at the will of its rider, because he is bridled; no less can the tongue serve to govern man. So also with regard to the helm of a ship, which guides a large vessel and surmounts the impetuosity of winds. Though the tongue be a small member, yet it avails much in regulating the life of man.

James 3:5

And boasteth great things. The verb μεγαλαυχεῖν means to boast one’s self, or to vaunt. But James in this passage did not intend to reprove ostentation so much as to show that the tongue is the doer of great things; for in this last clause he applies the previous comparisons to his subject; and vain boasting is not suitable to the bridle and the helm. He then means that the tongue is endued with great power.

I have rendered what Erasmus has translated the impetuosity, the inclination, of the pilot or guide; for ὁρμὴ means desire. I indeed allow that among the Greeks it designates those lusts which are not subservient to reason. But here James simply speaks of the will of the pilot.

James 3:6

He now explains the evils which proceed from the neglect of restraining the tongue, in order that we may know that the tongue may do much good or much evil, — that if it be modest and well regulated, it becomes a bridle to the whole life, but that if it be petulant and violent, like a fire it destroys all things.

He represents it as a small or little fire, to intimate that this smallness of the tongue will not be a hindrance that its power should not extend far and wide to do harm.

6 By adding that it is a world of iniquity, it is the same as though he had called it the sea or the abyss. And he suitably connects the smallness of the tongue with the vastness of the world; according to this meaning, A slender portion of flesh contains in it the whole world of iniquity.

So is the tongue. He explains what he meant by the term world, even because the contagion of the tongue spreads through every part of life; or rather he shews what he understood by the metaphor fire, even that the tongue pollutes the whole man. He however immediately returns to the fire, and says, that the whole course of nature is set on fire by the tongue. And he compares human life to a course or a wheel: and γένεσις, as before, he takes for nature, (Jas 1:23.)

The meaning is, that when other vices are corrected by age or by the succession of time, or when at least then do not possess the whole man, the vice of the tongue spreads and prevails over every part of life; except one prefers to take setting on fire as signifying a violent impulse, for we call that fervid which is accompanied with violence. And thus Horace speaks of wheels, for he calls chariots in battle fervid, on account of their rapidity. The meaning then would be, that the tongue is like untamed horses; for as these draw violently the chariots, so the tongue hurries a man headlong by its own wantonness. (121)

When he says that it is set on fire by hell, it is the same as though he had said, that the outrageousness of the tongue is the flame of the infernal fire. (122) For as heathen poets imagined that the wicked are tormented by the torches of the Furies; so it is true, that Satan by the fans of temptations kindles the fire of all evils in the world: but James means, that fire, sent by Satan, is most easily caught by the tongue, so that it immediately burns; in short, that it is a material fitted for receiving or fostering and increasing the fire of hell.

(121) “The course of nature,” or the compass of nature, that is, all that is included in nature, means evidently the same with “the whole body” in the preceding clause. There is no sense, compatible with the passage, in what some have suggested, “the whole course of life;” for what idea is conveyed, when we say that the tongue inflames or sets in a flame the whole course of life? But there is an intelligible meaning, when it is said, that the tongue sets in a flame the whole machinery of our nature, every faculty that belongs to man.

(122) “A bad tongue is the organ of the devil.” — Estius.

James 3:7

7 For every kind of beasts. This is a confirmation of the last clause; for that Satan by the tongue rules most effectively he proves by this — that it can by no means be brought to due order; and he amplifies this by comparisons. For he says that there is no animal so savage or fierce, which is not tamed by the skill of man, — that fishes, which in a manner inhabit another world, — that birds, which are so quick and roving — and that serpents, which are so inimical to mankind, are sometimes tamed. Since then the tongue cannot be restrained, there must be some secret fire of hell hidden in it.

What he says of wild beasts, of serpents, and of other animals, is not to be understood of them all; it is enough that the skill of man should subdue and tame some of the most ferocious of them, and also that serpents are sometimes tamed. He refers to present and to past time: the present regards power and capacity, and the past, usage or experience. He hence justly concludes that the tongue is full of deadly poison.

Though all these things most suitably refer in the first place to the subject of this passage — that they claim an unreasonable command over others, who labor under a worse vice; yet a universal doctrine may be understood as taught here, — that if we desire to form our life aright, we must especially strive to restrain the tongue, for no part of man does more harm.

James 3:9

9 Therewith, or, by it, bless we God. It is a clear instance of its deadly poison, that it can thus through a monstrous levity transform itself; for when it pretends to bless God, it immediately curses him in his own image, even by cursing men. For since God ought to be blessed in all his works, he ought to be so especially as to men, in whom his image and glory peculiarly shine forth. It is then a hypocrisy not to be borne, when man employs the same tongue in blessing God and in cursing men. There can be then no calling on God, and his praises must necessarily cease, when evil-speaking prevails; for it is impious profanation of God’s name, which the tongue is virulent towards our brethren and pretends to praise him. That he may therefore rightly praise God, the view of evil speaking as to our neighbor must especially be corrected.

James 3:10

This particular truth ought also to be borne in mind, that severe censors discover their own virulence, which they suddenly vomit forth against their brethren whatever curses they can imagine, after having in sweet strains offered praises to God. Were any one to object and say, that the image of God in human nature has been blotted out by the sin of Adam; we must, indeed, confess that it has been miserably deformed, but in such a way that some of its lineaments still appear. Righteousness and rectitude, and the freedom of choosing what is good, have been lost; but many excellent endowments, by which we excel the brutes, still remain. He, then, who truly worships and honors God, will be afraid to speak slanderously of man.

James 3:11

11 Doth a fountain. He adduces these comparisons in order to shew that a cursing tongue is something monstrous, contrary to all nature, and subverts the order everywhere established by God. For God hath so arranged things which are contrary, that inanimate things ought to deter us from a chaotic mixture, sure as is found in a double tongue. (123)

(123) There is a different reading at the end of the Jas 3:12, adopted by Griesbach, though rejected by Mill and others: οὕτως οὔτε ἁλυχὸν γλυχὺ ποιὢσαι ὕδωρ, “So neither can salt water produce sweet.” This reading is favored by the Syr. and Vulg., though the words are somewhat different.

James 3:13

13 Who is a wise man. As the lust of slandering arises mostly from pride, and as the false conceit of wisdom for the most part generates pride, he therefore speaks here of wisdom. It is usual with hypocrites to exalt and shew off themselves by criminating all others, as the case was formerly with many of the philosophers, who sought glory for themselves by a bitter abuse of all other orders. Such haughtiness as slanderous men swell with and are blinded by, James checked, by denying that the conceit of wisdom, with which men flatter themselves, has in it anything divine; but, on the contrary, he declares that it proceeds from the devil.

Then the meaning is, that supercilious censors, who largely indulge themselves, and at the same time spare none, seem to themselves to be very wise, but are greatly mistaken; for the Lord teaches his people far otherwise, even to be meek, and to be courteous to others. They, then, are alone wise in the sight of God, who connect this meekness with an honest conversation; for they who are severe and inexorable, though they may excel others in many virtues, do not yet follow the right way of wisdom. (124)

(124) “Who is wise and intelligent among you?” let him by a good conduct shew his works in meekness of wisdom.”

The arrangement here is according to what is common in scripture: Wisdom the effect first, then knowledge the cause or what precedes it. In what follows the order is reversed; knowledge distinguishes between good and bad works, and the good ought to be exhibited with that meekness which wisdom dictates.

James 3:14

14 But if ye have bitter envying. He points out the fruits which proceed from that extreme austerity which is contrary to meekness; for immoderate rigor necessarily begets mischievous emulations, which presently break forth into contentions. It is, indeed, an improper mode of speaking, to place contentions in the heart; but this affects not the meaning; for the object was to shew that the evil disposition of the heart is the fountain of these evils.

He has called envying, or emulation, bitter; for it prevails not, except when minds are so infected with the poison of malignity, that they turn all things into bitterness. (125)

That we may then really glory that we are the children of God, he bids us to act calmly and meekly towards our brethren; otherwise he declares that we are lying in assuming the Christian name. But it is not without reason that he has added the associate of envying, even strife, or contention, for contests and quarrels ever arise from malignity and envy.

(125) A similar order as to the words is found here as in the former verse: bitter envying is occasioned by strife of contention. There may be envying without contention, but it is contention that commonly makes it bitter.

James 3:15

15 This wisdom descendeth not. As hypocrites with difficulty give way, he sharply checked their haughtiness, denying that to be true wisdom with which they were inflated, while they were extremely morose in searching out the vices of others. Conceding to them, however, the term wisdom, he shews by the words he applies to it its true character, and says that it is earthly, sensual, devilish, or demoniac, while true wisdom must be heavenly, spiritual, divine; which three things are directly contrary to the three preceding ones. For James takes it as granted, that we are not wise, except when we are illuminated by God from above through his Spirit. However, then, the mind of man may enlarge itself, all its acuteness will be vanity; and not only so, but being at length entangled in the wiles of Satan, it will become wholly delirious. (126)

Sensual, or animal, is in opposition to what is spiritual, as in 1Co 2:14, where Paul says that the sensual or animal man receives not the things of God. And the pride of man could not have been more effectually cast down, than when thus is condemned whatever wisdom he has from himself, without the Spirit of God; nay, when from himself a transition is made to the devil. For it is the same as though he had said, that men, following their own sense, or minds, or feelings, soon became a prey to the delusions of Satan.

(126) Scott considers that this wisdom was called “earthly,” because it sought earthly distinctions, and was of earthly origin, — “sensual,” or rather “natural,” as the word is rendered in 1Co 2:14, because it was the result of such principles as natural men are actuated by, such as envy and ambition, — “and devilish,” because it came first from the devil, and constituted the image of his pride, ambition, malignity, and falsehood.

The word “sensual” has led some to suppose that the reference is to sensuality, the gratification of carnal lusts: but there is nothing in the passage that favors this view. The only things mentioned are envy and a contentious spirit, things which belong to natural man.

James 3:16

16 For where envying is. It is an argument from what is contrary; for envying, by which hypocrites are influenced, produces effects contrary to wisdom. For wisdom requires a state of mind that is calm and composed, but envying disturbs it, so that in itself it becomes in a manner tumultuous, and boils up immoderately against others.

Some render ἀκαταστασία inconstancy, and sometimes it means this, but as it signifies also sedition and tumult, perturbation seems the most suitable to this passage. For James meant to express something more than levity, even that the malignant and the slanderer does everything confusedly and rashly, as though he were beside himself; and hence he adds, every evil work

James 3:17

17 But the wisdom which is from above. He now mentions the effects of celestial wisdom which are wholly contrary to the former effects. He says first that it is pure; by which term he excludes hypocrisy and ambition. (127) He, in the second place, calls it peaceable, to intimate that it is not contentious. In the third place, he calls itkind or humane, that we may know that it is far away from that immoderate austerity which tolerates nothing in our brethren. He also calls it gentle or tractable; by which he means that it widely differs from pride and malignity. In the last place, he says that it is full of mercy, etc., while hypocrisy is inhuman and inexorable. By good fruits he generally refers to all those duties which benevolent men perform towards their brethren; as though he had said, it is full of benevolence. It hence follows, that they lie who glory in their cruel austerity.

But though he had sufficiently condemned hypocrisy, when he said that wisdom is pure or sincere; he makes it more clear by repeating the same thing at the end. We are hence reminded, that for no other reason are we beyond measure morose or austere, but this, because we too much spare ourselves, and connive at our own vices.

But what he says, without discerning (sine dijudicatione ,) seems strange; for the Spirit of God does not take away the difference between good and evil; nor does he render us so senseless as to be so void of judgment as to praise vice, and regard it as virtue. To this I reply, that James here, by discerning or distinguishing refers to that overanxious and overscrupulous inquiry, such as is commonly carried on by hypocrites, who too minutely examine the sayings and doings of their brethren, and put on them the worst construction. (128)

(127) “Pure,” ἁγνή, is to be understood according to what the context contains. It means what is free from taint or pollution: the kind of taint must be learnt from the passage. The wisdom from above is contrasted with the wisdom from below: the latter has envy and contention; the former is “pure,” being free from envy, and is “peaceable.”

(128) The word ἀδιύκριτος is found only here, and has been variously rendered, because the verb from which it comes has various meanings, — to discern, to make a difference, to judge, to examine, to contend or litigate, and to doubt. It is rendered by the Vulg., as “not judging” — uncensorious; by Beza, “without contending” — incontroversial; by Erasmus, “making no difference” — impartial; and by Hammond, “not doubting,” i.e., as to the faith. “Uncensorious,” or, “impartial;” seems the most suitable rendering; not given to rashness in judging of others, or not shewing respect of persons, previously condemned in Jas 2:1. Then follows “undissembling,” not saying one thing and meaning another.

There seems to be a complete contrast between the two kinds of wisdom. The wisdom from above is not envious, but pure; is not contentious, but peaceable; does not create confusion, but is patient and conciliatory; and instead of producing “every evil work,” it is full of mercy or benevolence, and of the fruits of benevolence, being not censorious or partial in judgment, and not dissembling, or acting dishonestly. By this comparison, we see what were some of the things included in “every evil work;” they were the reverse of mercy or benevolence, and its fruits, even censoriousness or partiality, and dissimilation. And yet those who exhibited all those evil things thought that they had wisdom! and even gloried in it!

James 3:18

18 And the fruit of righteousness. This admits of two meanings, — that fruit is sown by the peaceable, which afterwards they gather, — or, that they themselves, though they meekly tolerate many things in their neighbors, do not yet cease to sow righteousness. It is, however, an anticipation of an objection; for they who are carried away to evil speaking by the lust of slandering, have always this excuse, “What! can we then remove evil by our courteousness?” Hence James says, that those who are wise according to God’s will, are so kind, meek, and merciful, as yet not to cover vices nor favor them; but on the contrary in such a way as to strive to correct them, and yet in a peaceable manner, that is, in moderation, so that union is preserved. And thus he testifies that what he had hitherto said tends in no degree to do away with calm reproofs; but that those who wish to be physicians to heal vices ought not to be executioners.

He therefore adds, by those who make peace; which ought to be thus explained: they who study peace, are nevertheless careful to sow righteousness; nor are they slothful or negligent in promoting and encouraging good works; but they moderate their zeal with the condiment of peace, while hypocrites throw all things into confusion by a blind and furious violence.

James 4:1

1 From whence come wars. As he had spoken of peace, and had reminded them that vices are to be exterminated in such a way as to preserve peace, he now comes to their contentions, by which they created confusion among themselves; and he shews that these arose from their invidious desires and lusts, rather than from a zeal for what was just and right; for if every one observed moderation, they would not have disturbed and annoyed one another. They had their hot conflicts, because their lusts were allowed to prevail unchecked.

It hence appears, that greater peace would have been among them, had every one abstained from doing wrong to others; but the vices which prevailed among them were so many attendants armed to excite contentions. He calls our faculties members. He takes lusts as designating all illicit and lustful desires or propensities which cannot be satisfied without doing injury to others.

James 4:2

2 Ye lust, or covet, and have not. He seems to intimate that the soul of man is insatiable, when he indulges wicked lusts; and truly it is so; for he who suffers his sinful propensities to rule uncontrolled, will know no end to his lust. Were even the world given to him, he would wish other worlds to be created for him. It thus happens, that men seek torments which exceed the cruelty of all executioners. For that saying of Horace is true:

The tyrants of Sicily found no torment greater than envy. (129)

Some copies have φονεύετε, “ye kill;” but I doubt not but that we ought to read, φθονεῖτε, “ye envy,” as I have rendered it; for the verb, to kill, does in no way suit the context. (130) Ye fight: he does not mean those wars and fightings, which men engage in with drawn swords, but the violent contentions which prevailed among them. They derived no benefit from contentions of this kind, for he affirms that they received the punishment of their own wickedness. God, indeed, whom they owned not as the author of blessings, justly disappointed them. For when they contended in ways so unlawful, they sought to be enriched through the favor of Satan rather than through the favor of God. One by fraud, another by violence, one by calumnies, and all by some evil or wicked arts, strove for happiness. They then sought to be happy, but not through God. It was therefore no wonder that they were frustrated in their efforts, since no success can be expected except through the blessings of God alone.

(129) Invidia Siculi non invenere tyranni Majus tormentum. — EPIST. Lib. I. 2:58.

(130) There is no MS. nor version in favor of φθονεῖτε. When it is said, “ye kill,” the meaning is, that they did so as to the hatred or envy they entertained, for hatred is the root of murder, and arises often from envy. What has evidently led Calvin and others to conjecture a mistake here, has been the difficulty arising from the order of the words, “Ye kill and ye envy;” but this order is wholly consonant with the style of Scripture, where often the greater evil or good is mentioned first, and then that which precedes or leads to it. It is the same here as though the copulative, and, were rendered causatively, “ye kill because ye envy.” Envy is murder in the sight of God.

The language of the whole passage is highly metaphorical. He calls their contentions “wars and fightings;” for the whole tenor of the passage is opposed to the supposition that he refers to actual wars. He adopts a military term as to inward lusts or ambitious desires, that they “carried on war” in their members; the expedition for their contests was prepared within, mustered in their hearts. Then the character of this war is more plainly defined, “Ye covet,” not, ye lust; “ye kill,” or commit murder, for “ye envy;” when ye cannot attain your objects, “ye wage war and fight,” that is, ye wrangle and quarrel. Avarice and ambition were the two prevailing evils, but especially avarice; and avarice too for the purpose of gratifying the lusts and propensities of their sinful nature, as it appears from the third verse.

James 4:3

3 Ye seek and receive not. He goes farther: though they sought, yet they were deservedly denied; because they wished to make God the minister of their own lusts. For they set no bounds to their wishes, as he had commanded; but gave unbridled license to themselves, so as to ask those things of which man, conscious of what is right, ought especially to be ashamed. Pliny somewhere ridicules this impudence, that men so wickedly abuse the ears of God. The less tolerable is such a thing in Christians, who have had the rule of prayer given them by their heavenly Master.

And doubtless there appears to be in us no reverence for God, no fear of him, in short, no regard for him, when we dare to ask of him what even our own conscience does not approve. James meant briefly this, — that our desires ought to be bridled: and the way of bridling them is to subject them to the will of God. And he also teaches us, that what we in moderation wish, we ought to seek from God himself; which if it be done, we shall be preserved from wicked contentions, from fraud and violence, and from doing any injury to others.

James 4:4

4 Ye adulterers. I connect this verse with the foregoing verses: for he calls them adulterers, as I think, metaphorically; for they corrupted themselves with the vanities of this world, and alienated themselves from God; as though he had said, that they had become degenerated, or were become bastards. We know how frequent, in Holy Scripture, is that marriage mentioned which God forms with us. He would have us, then, to be like a chaste virgin, as Paul says, (2Co 11:2.) This chastity is violated and corrupted by all impure affections towards the world. James, then, does not without reason compare the love of the world to adultery.

They, then, who take his words literally, do not sufficiently observe the context: for he goes on still to speak against the lusts of men, which lead away those entangled with the world from God, as it follows, —

The friendship of the world. He calls it the friendship of the world when men surrender themselves to the corruptions of the world, and become slaves to them. For such and so great is the disagreement between the world and God, that as much as any one inclines to the world, so much he alienates himself from God. Hence the Scripture bids us often to renounce the world, if we wish to serve God.

James 4:5

5 Do ye think. He seems to adduce from Scripture the next following sentence. Hence interpreters toil much, because none such, at least none exactly alike, is found in Scripture. But nothing hinders the reference to be made to what has been already said, that is, that the friendship of the world is adverse to God. Moreover; it has been rightly said, that this is a truth which occurs everywhere in Scripture. And that he has omitted the pronoun, which would have rendered the sentence clearer, is not to be wondered at, for, as it is evident, he is everywhere very concise.

The Spirit, or, Does the Spirit? Some think that the soul of man is meant, and therefore read the sentence affirmatively, and according to this meaning, — that the spirit of man, as it is malignant, is so infected with envy, that it has ever a mixture of it. They, however, think better who regard the Spirit of God as intended; for it is he that is given to dwell in us. (131) I then take the Spirit as that of God, and read the sentence as a question; for it was his object to prove, that because they envied they were not ruled by the Spirit of God; because he teaches the faithful otherwise; and this he confirms in the next verse, by adding that he giveth more grace

For it is an argument arising from what is contrary. Envy is a proof or sign of malignity; but the Spirit of God proves himself to be bountiful by the affluence of his blessings. There is then nothing more repugnant to his nature than envy. In short, James denies that the Spirit of God rules where depraved lusts prevail, which excite to mutual contention; because it is peculiarly the office of the Spirit to enrich men more and more continually with new gifts.

I will not stop to refute other explanations. Some give this meaning that the Spirit lusteth against envy; which is too harsh and forced. Then they say that God gives more grace to conquer and subdue lust. But the meaning I have given is more suitable and simple, — that he restores us by his bounty from the power of malignant emulation. The continuative particle δὲ is to be taken adversatively, for ἀλλὰ or ἀλλά γε; so have I rendered it quin , but.

(131) There are wagon-loads of interpretations, says Erasmus, on this passage. The one given by Calvin, and adopted by Whitby, Doddridge, Scholefield, and others, is the most satisfactory, and what alone enables us to see a meaning in the words, “more grace,” in the following verse. The Spirit dwells in God’s people, and he dwells there to give more or increasing grace, according to the tenor of what is said in Isa 57:15, where God is said to “dwell with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit,” and for this purpose, “to revive the spirit of the humble,” etc.

5, 6 “Do ye think that the scripture speaketh thus in vain? Doth the Spirit who dwells in us lust to envy? nay, but he giveth more (or increasing) grace: he therefore saith, God sets himself in array against the insolent, but gives grace to the humble.”

The humble are those who are made so by grace; but God promises to give them more grace, to perfect that which had begun.

James 4:7

7 Submit yourselves. The submission which he recommends is that of humility; for he does not exhort us generally to obey God, but requires submission; for the Spirit of God rests on the humble and the meek. (Isa 57:15.) On this account he uses the illative particle. For as he had declared that God’s Spirit is bountiful in increasing his gifts, he hence concludes that we ought to lay aside envy, and to submit to God.

Many copies have introduced here the following sentence: “Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” But in others it is not found. Erasmus suspects that it was first a note in the margin, and afterwards crept into the text. It may have been so, though it is not unsuitable to the passage. For what some think, that it is strange that what is found only in Peter, should be quoted as Scripture, may be easily disposed of. But I rather conjecture that this sentence which accords with the common doctrine of Scripture, had become then a sort of proverbial saying common among the Jews. And, indeed, it is no more than what is found in Psa 18:27,

“The humble O Lord, thou wilt save; and the eyes of the proud wilt thou cast down:” and similar sentences are found in many other passages. (132)

Resist the devil. He shews what that contention is which we ought to engage in, as Paul says, that our contest is not with flesh and blood, but he stimulates us to a spiritual fight. Then, after having taught us meekness towards men, and submission towards God, he brings before us Satan as our enemy, whom it behooves us to fight against.

However, the promise which he adds, respecting the fleeing of Satan, seems to be refuted by daily experience; for it is certain, that the more strenuously any one resists, the more fiercely he is urged. For Satan, in a manner, acts playfully, when he is not in earnest repelled; but against those who really resist him, he employs all the strength he possesses. And further, he is never wearied with fighting; but when conquered in one battle, he immediately engages in another. To this I reply, that fleeing is to be taken here for putting to flight, or routing. And, doubtless, though he repeats his attacks continually, he yet always departs vanquished.

(132) The passage is found in all MSS. and versions: there is, therefore, no ground to think it an interpolation. And it is taken literally from Pro 3:34, according to the Sept.; though the first clause differs from the Hebrew in words, yet it is substantially the same. To “scorn the scorners,” and to “resist (or, to stand in array against) the proud” or insolent, mean the same thing.

James 4:8

8 Draw nigh to God. He again reminds us that the aid of God will not be wanting to us, provided we give place to him. For when he bids us to draw nigh to God, that we may know him to be near to us, he intimates that we are destitute of his grace, because we withdraw from him. But as God stands on our side, there is no reason to fear succumbing. But if any one concludes from this passage, that the first part of the work belongs to us, and that afterwards the grace of God follows, the Apostle meant no such thing; for though we ought to do this, yet it does [not] immediately follow that we can. And the Spirit of God, in exhorting us to our duty, derogates nothing from himself, or from his own power; but the very thing he bids us to do, he himself fulfills in us.

In short, James meant no other thing in this passage, than that God is never wanting to us, except when we alienate ourselves from him. He is like one who brings the hungry to a table and the thirsty to a fountain. There is this difference, that our steps must be guided and sustained by the Lord, for our feet fail us. But what some cavil at, and say, that God’s grace is secondary to our preparation, and as it were the waiting-maid, is only frivolous; for we know that it is no new thing that he adds now to former graces and thus enriches more and more those to whom he has already given much.

Cleanse your hands. He here addresses all those who were alienated from God and he does not refer to two sorts of men, but he calls the same sinners and double-minded Nor does he understand every kind of sinners, but the wicked and those of a corrupt life. It is said in Joh 9:3,

“God does not hear sinners;”

in the same sense a woman is called a sinner by Luke. (Luk 7:39.) It is said by the same and the other evangelists, “He drinketh and eateth with sinners.” He, therefore, does not smite all indiscriminately to that sort of repentance mentioned here, but those who are wicked and corrupt in heart, and whose life is base and flagitious or at least wicked; it is from these he requires a purity of heart and outward cleanliness.

We hence learn what is the true character of repentance. It is not only an outward amendment of life, but its beginning is the cleansing of the heart. It is also necessary on the other hand that the fruits of inward repentance should appear in the brightness of our works. (133)

(133) In the seventh verse he seems still to continue military terms, “Set yourselves, therefore, in array under God: stand up against the devil, and he will flee from you.” It is especially to be observed, that the first thing is to be under the banner and protection of God, and then we can successfully stand up against the devil: apart from God, we have no power to resist him.

The order in the following verse, the eighth, is worthy of notice, as an example of what is very common in Scripture. The main thing is first stated, to draw nigh to God: and then the things which are previously necessary, to cleanse their hands and to purify their hearts — an allusion probably to the practice among the priests of the law, of washing themselves before they engaged in the service of the temple. They were to wash their hands as though they had been stained with blood, as the crime of murder had been imputed to them in Jas 4:2 : and they were to purify their hearts from the covetings and ambitious desires which they had entertained. Except those things were done they could not draw nigh to God. And further, to draw nigh to God was necessary before they could set themselves in array under his authority, so that there is a connection between this verse and the former: the ultimate object, stated first, was submission to God, and to be under his protection; and all that follows was necessary for that purpose. The regular order would be, Purify your hearts, cleanse your hands, draw nigh to God, and be subject to him. But this mode of statement, by going backward instead of forward, is to be met with in all parts of Scripture. See on this subject the Preface to the third volume of Calvin’s Commentaries on Jeremiah.

James 4:9

9 Be afflicted and mourn. Christ denounces mourning on those who laugh, as a curse, (Luk 6:25;) and James, in what shortly follows, alluding to the same words, threatens the rich with mourning. But here he speaks of that salutary mourning or sorrow which leads us to repentance. He addresses those who, being inebriated in their minds, did not perceive God’s judgment. Thus it happened that they flattered themselves in their vices. That he might shake off from them this deadly torpor, he admonishes them to learn to mourn, that being touched with sorrow of conscience they might cease to flatter themselves and to exult on the verge of destruction. Then laughter is to be taken as signifying the flattering with which the ungodly deceive themselves, while they are infatuated by the sweetness of their sins and forget the judgment of God.

James 4:10

10 Humble yourselves, or, be ye humbled. The conclusion of what is gone before is, that the grace of God then be ready to raise us up when he sees that our proud spirits are laid aside. We emulate and envy, because we desire to be eminent. This is a way wholly unreasonable, for it is God’s peculiar work to raise up the lowly, and especially those who willingly humble themselves. Whosoever, then, seeks a firm elevation, let him be cast down under a sense of his own infirmity, and think humbly of himself. Augustine well observes somewhere, As a tree must strike deep roots downwards, that it may grow upwards, so every one who has not his soul fixed deep in humility, exalts himself to his own ruin.

James 4:11

11 Speak not evil, or, defame not. We see how much labor James takes in correcting the lust for slandering. For hypocrisy is always presumptuous, and we are by nature hypocrites, fondly exalting ourselves by calumniating others. There is also another disease innate in human nature, that every one would have all others to live according to his own will or fancy. This presumption James suitably condemns in this passage, that is, because we dare to impose on our brethren our rule of life. He then takes detraction as including all the calumnies and suspicious works which flow from a malignant and perverted judgment. The evil of slandering takes a wide range; but here he properly refers to that kind of slandering which I have mentioned, that is, when we superciliously determine respecting the deeds and sayings of others, as though our own morosity were the law, when we confidently condemn whatever does not please us.

That such presumption is here reproved is evident from the reason that is immediately added, He that speaketh evil of, or defames his brother, speaketh evil of, or defames the law. He intimates, that so much is taken away from the law as one claims of authority over his brethren. Detraction, then, against the law is opposed to that reverence with which it behooves us to regard it.

Paul handles nearly the same argument in Rom 14:0, though on a different occasion. For when superstition in the choice of meats possessed some, what they thought unlawful for themselves, they condemned also in others. He then reminded them, that there is but one Lord, according to whose will all must stand or fall, and at whose tribunal we must all appear. Hence he concludes that he who judges his brethren according to his own view of things, assumes to himself what peculiarly belongs to God. But James reproves here those who under the pretense of sanctity condemned their brethren, and therefore set up their own morosity in the place of the divine law. He, however, employs the same reason with Paul, that is, that we act presumptuously when we assume authority over our brethren, while the law of God subordinates us all to itself without exception. Let us then learn that we are not to judge but according to God’s law.

Thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. This sentence ought to be thus explained: “When thou claimest for thyself a power to censure above the law of God thou exemptest thyself from the duty of obeying the law.” He then who rashly judges his brother; shakes off the yoke of God, for he submits not to the common rule of life. It is then an argument from what is contrary; because the keeping of the law is wholly different from this arrogance, when men ascribe to their conceit the power and authority of the law. It hence follows, that we then only keep the law, when we wholly depend on its teaching alone and do not otherwise distinguish between good and evil; for all the deeds and words of men ought to be regulated by it.

Were any one to object and say, that still the saints will be the judges of the world, (1Co 6:2,) the answer is obvious, that this honor does not belong to them according to their own right, but inasmuch as they are the members of Christ; and that they now judge according to the law, so that they are not to be deemed judges because they only obediently assent to God as their own judge and the judge of all. With regard to God he is not to be deemed the doer of the law, because his righteousness is prior to the law; for the law has flown from the eternal and infinite righteousness of God as a river from its fountain.

James 4:12

12 There is one lawgiver (134) Now he connects the power of saying and destroying with the office of a lawgiver, he intimates that the whole majesty of God is forcibly assumed by those who claim for themselves the right of making a law; and this is what is done by those who impose as a law on others their own nod or will. And let us remember that the subject here is not civil government, in which the edicts and laws of magistrates have place, but the spiritual government of the soul, in which the word of God alone ought to bear rule. There is then one God, who has consciences subjected by right to his own laws, as he alone has in his own hand the power to save and to destroy.

It hence appears what is to be thought of human precepts, which cast the snare of necessity on consciences. Some indeed would have us to shew modesty, when we call the Pope antichrist, who exercises tyranny over the souls of men, making himself a lawgiver equal to God. But we learn from this passage something far more, even that they are the members of Antichrist, who willingly submit to be thus ensnared, and that they thus renounce Christ, when they connect themselves with a man that is not only a mortal, but who also extols himself against him. It is, I say, a prevaricating obedience, rendered to the devil, when we allow any other than God himself to be a lawgiver to rule our souls.

Who art thou. Some think that they are admonished here to become reprovers of their own vices, in order that they might begin to examine themselves, and that by finding out that they were not purer than others, they might cease to be so severe. I think that their own condition is simply suggested to men, so that they may think how much they are below that dignity which they assumed, as Paul also says, “Who art thou who judgest another?” (Rom 14:4.)

(134) Griesbach adds καὶ κριτη ́ς, “and judge,” a reading favored by many MSS. and the versions; and doubtless it makes the passage more complete, especially as what follows belongs to the judge rather than to the lawgiver, that is, to save or to destroy.

James 4:13

13 Go to now. He condemns here another kind of presumption, that many, who ought to have depended on God’s providence, confidently settled what they were to do, and arranged their plans for a long time, as though they had many years at their own disposal, while they were not sure, no not even of one moment. Solomon also sharply ridicules this kind of foolish boasting, when he says that

“men settle their ways in their heart, and the Lord in the mean time rules the tongue.” (Pro 16:1.)

And it is a very insane thing to undertake to execute what we cannot pronounce with our tongue. James does not reprove the form of speaking, but rather the arrogance of mind, that men should forget their own weakness, and speak thus presumptuously; for even the godly, who think humbly of themselves, and acknowledge that their steps are guided by the will of God, may yet sometimes say, without any qualifying clause, that they will do this or that. It is indeed right and proper, when we promise anything as to future time, to accustom ourselves to such words as these, “If it shall please the Lord,” “If the Lord will permit.” But no scruple ought to be entertained, as though it were a sin to omit them; for we read everywhere in the Scriptures that the holy servants of God spoke unconditionally of future things, when yet they had it as a principle fixed in their minds, that they could do nothing without the permission of God. Then as to the practice of saying, “If the Lord will or permit,” it ought to be carefully attended to by all the godly.

But James roused the stupidity of those who disregarded God’s providence, and claimed for themselves a whole year, though they had not a single moment in their own power; the gain which was afar off they promised to themselves, though they had no possession of that which was before their feet.

James 4:14

14 For what is your life? He might have checked this foolish license in determining things to come by many other reasons; for we see how the Lord daily frustrates those presumptuous men who promise what great things they will do. But he was satisfied with this one argument, who has promised to thee a life for tomorrow? Canst thou, a dying man, do what thou so confidently resolvest to do? For he who remembers the shortness of his life, will have his audacity easily checked so as not to extend too far his resolves. Nay, for no other reason do ungodly men indulge themselves so much, but because they forget that they are men. By the similitude of vapor, he strikingly shews that the purposes which are founded only on the present life, are altogether evanescent.

James 4:15

15 If the Lord will. A twofold condition is laid down, “If we shall live so long,” and, “If the Lord will;” because many things may intervene to upset what we may have determined; for we are blind as to all future events. (135) By will he means not that which is expressed in the law, but God’s counsel by which he governs all things.

(135) The words may be rendered thus, “If the Lord will, we shall both live and do this or that.” So that living and doing are both dependent on God’s will.

James 4:16

16 But now ye rejoice, or, glory. We may learn from these words that James condemned something more than a passing speech.Ye rejoice, or, glory, he says, in your empty boastings. Though they robbed God of his government, they yet flattered themselves; not that they openly set themselves up as superior to God, though they were especially inflated with confidence in themselves, but that their minds were inebriated with vanity so as to disregard God. And as warnings of this kind are usually received with contempt by ungodly men — nay, this answer is immediately given, “known to ourselves is what is offered to us, so that there is no need of such a warning;” — he alleges against them this knowledge in which they gloried, and declares that they sinned the more grievously, because they did not sin through ignorance, but through contempt.

James 5:1

1 Go to now. They are mistaken, as I think, who consider that James here exhorts the rich to repentance. It seems to me to be a simple denunciation of God’s judgment, by which he meant to terrify them without giving them any hope of pardon; for all that he says tends only to despair. He, therefore, does not address them in order to invite them to repentance; but, on the contrary, he has a regard to the faithful, that they, hearing of the miserable and of the rich, might not envy their fortune, and also that knowing that God would be the avenger of the wrongs they suffered, they might with a calm and resigned mind bear them. (136)

But he does not speak of the rich indiscriminately, but of those who, being immersed in pleasures and inflated with pride, thought of nothing but of the world, and who, like inexhaustible gulfs, devoured everything; for they, by their tyranny, oppressed others, as it appears from the whole passage.

Weep and howl, or, Lament, howling. Repentance has indeed its weeping, but being mixed with consolation, it does not proceed to howling. Then James intimates that the heaviness of God’s vengeance will be so horrible and severe on the rich, that they will be constrained to break forth into howling, as though he had said briefly to them, “Woe to you!” But it is a prophetic mode of speaking: the ungodly have the punishment which awaits them set before them, and they are represented as already enduring it. As, then, they were now flattering themselves, and promising to themselves that the prosperity in which they thought themselves happy would be perpetual, he declared that the most grievous miseries were nigh at hand.

(136) Many commentators, such as Grotius, Doddridge, Macknight, and Scott, consider that the Apostle refers at the beginning of this chapter, not to professing Christians, but to unbelieving Jews. There is nothing said that can lead to such an opinion: and if the two preceding chapters were addressed (as admitted by all) to those whoprofessed the faith, there is no reason why this should not have been addressed to them; the sins here condemned are not worse than those previously condemned. Indeed, we find by the Epistles of Peter, and by that of Jude, that there were men professing religion at that time, who were not a whit better (if not worse) than many who profess religion in our age.

Besides, it was not unusual, in addresses to Christians, to address unbelievers. Indeed, Paul expressly says, “What have I to do to judge them that are without?”

That there were rich men professing the gospel at that time, is evident from Jas 1:10.

James 5:2

2 Your riches. The meaning may be twofold: — that he ridicules their foolish confidence, because the riches in which they placed their happiness, were wholly fading, yea, that they could be reduced to nothing by one blast from God — or that he condemns as their insatiable avarice, because they heaped together wealth only for this, that they might perish without any benefit. This latter meaning is the most suitable. It is, indeed, true that those rich men are insane who glory in things so fading as garments, gold, silver, and such things, since it is nothing else than to make their glory subject to rust and moths; and well known is that saying “What is ill got is soon lost;” because the curse of God consumes it all, for it is not right that the ungodly or their heirs should enjoy riches which they have snatched, as it were, by violence from the hand of God.

But as James enumerates the vices of which the rich brought on themselves the calamity which he mentions, the context requires, as I think, that we should say, that what he condemns here is the extreme rapacity of the rich, in retaining everything they could lay hold on, that it might rot uselessly in their chests. For thus it was, that what God had created for the use of men, they destroyed, as though they were the enemies of mankind. (137)

But it must be observed, that the vices which he mentions here do not belong to all the rich; for some of them indulge themselves in luxury, some spend much in show and display, and some pinch themselves, and live miserably in their own filth. Let us, then, know that he here reproves some vices in some, and some vices in others. However, all those are generally condemned who unjustly accumulate riches, or who foolishly abuse them. But what James now says, is not only suitable to the rich of extreme tenacity, (such as Euclio of Plautus,) but to those also who delight in pomp and luxury, and yet prefer to heap up riches rather than to employ them for necessary purposes. For such is the malignity of some, that they grudge to others the common sun and air.

(137) Reference is made here to three sorts of riches, — stores of corn, which rotted, — garments, which were moth-eaten, — and precious metals, money, and jewels, etc., which rusted.

James 5:3

3 A witness against you. He confirms the explanation I have already given. For God has not appointed gold for rust, nor garments for moths; but, on the contrary, be has designed them as aids and helps to human life. Therefore, even spending without benefit is a witness of inhumanity. The rusting of gold and silver will be, as it were, the occasion of inflaming the wrath of God, so that it will, like fire, consume them.

Ye have heaped treasure together: These words may also admit of two explanations: — that the rich, as they would always live, are never satisfied, but weary themselves in heaping together what may be sufficient to the end of the world, — or, that they heap together the wrath and curse of God for the last day; and this second view I embrace. (138)

(138) By “last days” are commonly meant the days of the gospel. The day of judgment is often called by John, in his Gospel, “the last day;” and the same seems to be called here “the last days.” The reference made by some, to the destruction of Jerusalem, has nothing in the passage to favor it. To “heap treasure,” or to lay up a store, has an evident reference to the day of judgment, as Paul makes use of the same expression in Rom 2:5, only he adds “wrath” to it, which is also added here by the Vulg. The whole verse is conminatory, and in this sentence the rich are reminded of the issue, the final issue of their conduct. The character of the store is to be learnt from the preceding part of the verse. In treasuring dishonest wealth, they were treasuring wrath for themselves.

James 5:4

4 Behold, the hire. He now condemns cruelty, the invariable companion of avarice. But he refers only to one kind, which, above all others, ought justly to be deemed odious. For if a humane and a just man, as Solomon says in Pro 12:10, regards the life of his beast, it is a monstrous barbarity, when man feels no pity towards the man whose sweat he has employed for his own benefit. Hence the Lord has strictly forbidden, in the law, the hire of the laborer to sleep with us (Deu 24:15). Besides, James does not refer to laborers in common, but, for the sake of amplifying, he mentions husbandmen and reapers. For what can be more base than that they, who supply us with bread by their labor should be pined through want? And yet this monstrous thing is common; for there are many of such a tyrannical disposition, that they think that the rest of mankind live only for their benefit alone.

But he says that this hire crieth, for whatever men retain either by fraud or by violence, of what belongs to another; it calls for vengeance as it were by a loud voice. We ought to notice what he adds, that the cries of the poor come to the ears of God, so that we may know that the wrong done to them shall not be unpunished. They, therefore, who are oppressed by the unjust ought resignedly to sustain their evils, because they will have God as their defender. And they who have the power of doing wrong ought to abstain from injustice, lest they provoke God against them, who is the protector and patron of the poor. And for this reason also he calls God the Lord of Sabaoth, or of hosts, intimating thereby his power and his might, by which he renders his judgment more dreadful.

James 5:5

5 In pleasure. He comes now to another vice, even luxury and sinful gratifications; for they who abound in wealth seldom keep within the bounds of moderation, but abuse their abundance by extreme indulgences. There are, indeed, some rich men, as I have said, who pine themselves in the midst of their abundance. For it was not without reason that the poets have imagined Tantalus to be hungry near a table well furnished. There have ever been Tantalians in the world. But James, as it has been said, does not speak of all rich men. It is enough that we see this vice commonly prevailing among the rich, that they are given too much to luxuries, to pomps and superfluities.

And though the Lord allows them to live freely on what they have, yet profusion ought to be avoided and frugality practiced. For it was not in vain that the Lord by his prophets severely reproved those who slept on beds of ivory, who used precious ointments, who delighted themselves at their feasts with the sound of the harp, who were like fat cows in rich pastures. For all these things have been said for this end, that we may know that moderation ought to be observed, and that extravagance is displeasing to God.

Ye have nourished your hearts. He means that they indulged themselves, not only as far as to satisfy nature, but as far as their cupidity led them. He adds a similitude, as in a day of slaughter, because they were wont in their solemn sacrifices to eat more freely than according to their daily habits. He then says, that the rich feasted themselves every day of their life, because they immersed themselves in perpetual indulgences.

James 5:6

6 Ye have condemned. Here follows another kind of inhumanity, that the rich by their power oppressed and destroyed the poor and weak. He says by a metaphor that the just were condemned and killed; for when they did not kill them by their own hand, or condemn them as judges, they yet employed the authority which they had to do wrong, they corrupted judgments, and contrived various arts to destroy the innocent, that is, really to condemn and kill them. (139)

By adding that the just did not resist them, he intimates that the audacity of the rich was greater; because those whom they oppressed were without any protection. He, however, reminds them that the more ready and prompt would be the vengeance of God, when the poor have no protection from men. But though the just did not resist, because he ought to have patiently endured wrongs, I yet think that their weakness is at the same time referred to, that is he did not resist, because he was unprotected and without any help from men.

(139) Many have thought that what is referred to here is the condemnation of our Savior by the Jewish nation, especially as he is called ὁ δίκαιος, “the just one.” This is true, but the Christian is also called too, in 1Pe 4:18. James very frequently individualizes the faithful, using the singular for the plural number. The whole context proves that he speaks here of the poor faithful who suffered injustice from the rich, professing the same faith. Besides, the death of Christ is not ascribed to the rich, but to the elders and chief priests.

The two first verbs, being aorists, may be rendered in the present tense, especially as the last verb is in that tense. For in the very next verse, the 7th, the aorist is so used. We may then give this version, —

6 “Ye condemn, ye kill the righteous; he sets himself not in array against you.”

Probably the aorist is used, as it expresses what was done habitually, or a continued act, like the future tense often in Hebrew. The preceding verse, the 5th, where all the verbs are aorists, would be better rendered in the same way, “Ye live in pleasure,” etc.

James 5:7

7 Be patient therefore. From this inference it is evident that what has hitherto been said against the rich, pertains to the consolation of those who seemed for a time to be exposed to their wrongs with impunity. For after having mentioned the causes of those calamities which were hanging over the rich, and having stated this among others, that they proudly and cruelly ruled over the poor, he immediately adds, that we who are unjustly oppressed, have this reason to be patient, because God would become the judge. For this is what he means when he says, unto the coming of the Lord, that is, that the confusion of things which is now seen in the world will not be perpetual, because the Lord at his coming will reduce things to order, and that therefore our minds ought to entertain good hope; for it is not without reason that the restoration of all things is promised to us at that day. And though the day of the Lord is everywhere called in the Scriptures a manifestation of his judgment and grace, when he succors his people and chastises the ungodly, yet I prefer to regard the expression here as referring to our final deliverance.

Behold, the husbandman. Paul briefly refers to the same similitude in 2Ti 2:6, when he says that the husbandman ought to labor before he gathers the fruit; but James more fully expresses the idea, for he mentions the daily patience of the husbandman, who, after having committed the seed to the earth, confidently, or at least patiently, waits until the time of harvest comes; nor does he fret because the earth does not immediately yield a ripe fruit. He hence concludes, that we ought not to be immoderately anxious, if we must now labor and sow, until the harvest as it were comes, even the day of the Lord.

The precious fruit. He calls it precious, because it is the nourishment of life and the means of sustaining it. And James intimates, that since the husbandman suffers his life, so precious to him, to lie long deposited in the bosom of the earth, and calmly suspends his desire to gather the fruit, we ought not to be too hasty and fretful, but resignedly to wait for the day of our redemption. It is not necessary to specify particularly the other parts of the comparison.

The early and the latter rains. By the two words, early and latter, two seasons are pointed out; the first follows soon after sowing; and the other when the corn is ripening. So the prophets spoke, when they intended to set forth the time for rain, (Deu 28:12; Joe 2:23; Hos 6:3.) And he has mentioned both times, in order more fully to shew that husbandmen are not disheartened by the slow progress of time, but bear with the delay.

James 5:8

8 Stablish your hearts. Lest any should object and say, that the time of deliverance was too long delayed, he obviates this objection and says, that the Lord was at hand, or (which is the same thing) that his coming was drawing nigh. In the meantime, he bids us to correct the softness of the heart, which weakens us, so as not to persevere in hope. And doubtless the time appears long, because we are too tender and delicate. We ought, then, to gather strength that we may become hardened and this cannot be better attained than by hope, and as it were by a realizing view of the near approach of our Lord.

James 5:9

9 Grudge not, or, groan not. As the complaints of many were heard, that they were more severely treated than others, this passage is so explained by some, as though James bade each to be contented with his own lot, not to envy others, nor grudge if the condition of others was more tolerable. But I take another view; for after having spoken of the unhappiness of those who distress good and quiet men by their tyranny, he now exhorts the faithful to be just towards one another and ready to pass by offenses. That this is the real meaning may be gathered from the reason that is added: Be not querulous one against another; lest ye be condemned. We may, indeed, groan, when any evil torments us; but he means an accusing groan, when one expostulates with the Lord against another. And he declares that thus they would all be condemned, because there is no one who does not offend his brethren, and afford them an occasion of groaning. Now, if everyone complained, they would all have accused one another; for no one was so innocent, that he did not do some harm to others.

God will be the common judge of all. What, then, will be the case, but that every one who seeks to bring judgment on others, must allow the same against himself; and thus all will be given up to the same ruin. Let no one, then, ask for vengeance on others, except he wishes to bring it on his own head. And lest they should be hasty in making complaints of this kind, he declares that the judge was at the door. For as our propensity is to profane the name of God, in the slightest offenses we appeal to his judgment. Nothing is a fitter bridle to check our rashness, than to consider that our imprecations vanish not into air, because God’s judgment is at hand.

James 5:10

10 Take, my brethren, the prophets. The comfort which he brings is not that which is according to the common proverb, that the miserable hope for like companions in evils. That they set before them associates, in whose number it was desirable to be classed; and to have the same condition with them, was no misery. For as we must necessarily feel extreme grief, when any evil happens to us which the children of God have never experienced, so it is a singular consolation when we know that we suffer nothing different from them; nay, when we know that we have to sustain the same yoke with them.

When Job heard from his friends,

“Turn to the saints, can you find any like to thee?” (Job 5:1,)

it was the voice of Satan, because he wished to drive him to despair. When, on the other hand, the Spirit by the mouth of James designs to raise us up to a good hope, he shews to us all the fore-going saints, who as it were stretch out their hand to us, and by their example encourage us to undergo and to conquer afflictions.

The life of men is indeed indiscriminately subject to troubles and adversities; but James did not bring forward any kind of men for examples, for it would have availed nothing to perish with the multitude; but he chose the prophets, a fellowship with whom is blessed. Nothing so breaks us down and disheartens us as the feeling of misery; it is therefore a real consolation to know that those things commonly deemed evils are aids and helps to our salvation. This is, indeed, what is far from being understood by the flesh; yet the faithful ought to be convinced of this, that they are happy when by various troubles they are proved by the Lord. To convince us of this, James reminds us to consider the end or design of the afflictions endured by the prophets; for as our own evils we are without judgment, being influenced by grief, sorrow, or some other immoderate feelings, as we see nothing under a foggy sky and in the midst of storms, and being tossed here and there as it were by a tempest, it is therefore necessary for us to cast our eyes to another quarter, where the sky is in a manner serene and bright. When the afflictions of the saints are related to us, there is no one who will allow that they were miserable, but, on the contrary, that they were happy.

Then James has done well for us; for he has laid before our eyes a pattern, that we may learn to look at it whenever we are tempted to impatience or to despair: and he takes this principle as granted, that the prophets were blessed in their afflictions, for they courageously sustained them. Since it was so, he concludes that the same judgment ought to be formed of us when afflicted.

And he says, the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord; by which he intimates that they were accepted and approved by God. If, then, it had been useful for them to have been free from miseries, doubtless God would have kept them free. But it was otherwise. It hence follows that afflictions are salutary to the faithful. He, therefore, bids them to be taken as an example of suffering affliction. But patience also must be added, which is a real evidence of our obedience. Hence he has joined them both together.

James 5:11

11 The patience of Job. Having spoken generally of the prophets, he now refers to an example remarkable above others; for no one, as far as we can learn from histories, has ever been overwhelmed with troubles so hard and so various as Job; and yet he emerged from so deep a gulf. Whosoever, then, will imitate his patience, will no doubt find God’s hand, which at length delivered him, to be the same. We see for what end his history has been written. God suffered not his servant Job to sink, because he patiently endured his afflictions. Then he will disappoint the patience of no one.

If, however, it be asked, Why does the Apostle so much commend the patience of Job, as he had displayed many signs of impatience, being carried away by a hasty spirit? To this I reply, that though he sometimes failed through the infirmity of the flesh, or murmured within himself, yet he ever surrendered himself to God, and was ever willing to be restrained and ruled by him. Though, then, his patience was somewhat deficient, it is yet deservedly commended.

The end of the Lord. By these words he intimates that afflictions ought ever to be estimated by their end. For at first God seems to be far away, and Satan in the meantime revels in the confusion; the flesh suggests to us that we are forsaken of God and lost. We ought, then, to extend our view farther, for near and around us there appears no light. Moreover, he has called it the end of the Lord, because it is his work to give a prosperous issue to adversities. If we do our duty in bearing evils obediently, he will by no means be wanting in performing his part. Hope directs us only to the end; God will then shew himself very merciful, how ever rigid and severe he may seem to be while afflicting us. (140)

(140) “The end of the Lord” seems a singular expression; but τέλος, properly the end, means also the issue, the upshot, the termination, the conclusion. It is genitive of the efficient cause, “the end (or issue) given by the Lord.” See Job 42:12. According to Griesbach there are three MSS which have ἒλεος, “mercy;” which would be very suitable, — “and ye have seen the mercy of the Lord, that the Lord is very full of pity, and compassionate.” But the authority is not sufficient.

James 5:12

12 But above all things. It has been a common vice almost in all ages, to swear lightly and inconsiderately. For so bad is our nature that we do not consider what an atrocious crime it is to profane the name of God. For though the Lord strictly commands us to reverence his name, yet men devise various subterfuges, and think that they can swear with impunity. They imagine, then, that there is no evil, provided they do not openly mention the name of God; and this is an old gloss. So the Jews, when they swore by heaven or earth, thought that they did not profane God’s name, because they did not mention it. But while men seek to be ingenious in dissembling with God, they delude themselves with the most frivolous evasions.

It was a vain excuse of this kind that Christ condemned in Mat 5:34. James, now subscribing to the decree of his master, commands us to abstain from these indirect forms of swearing: for whosoever swears in vain and on frivolous occasions, profanes God’s name, whatever form he may give to his words. Then the meaning is, that it is not more lawful to swear by heaven or by the earth, than openly by the name of God. The reason is mentioned by Christ — because the glory of God is everywhere inscribed, and everywhere shines forth. Nay, men take the words, heaven and earth, in their oaths, in no other sense and for no other purpose, than if they named God himself; for by thus speaking they only designate the Worker by his works.

But he says, above all things; because the profanation of God’s name is not a slight offense. The Anabaptists, building on this passage, condemn all oaths, but they only shew their ignorance. For James does not speak of oaths in general, nor does Christ in the passage to which I have referred; but both condemn that evasion which had been devised, when men took the liberty to swear without expressing the name of God, which was a liberty repugnant to the prohibition of the law.

And this is what the words clearly mean, Neither by heaven, neither by the earth. For, if the question had been as to oaths in themselves, to what purpose were these forms mentioned? It then appears evident that both by Christ and by James the puerile astuteness of those is reproved who taught that they could swear with impunity, provided they adopted some circuitous expressions. That we may, then, understand the meaning of James, we must understand first the precept of the law, “Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain. ” It hence appears clear, that there is a right and lawful use of God’s name. Now, James condemns those who did not indeed dare in a direct way to profane God’s name, but endeavored to evade the profanation which the law condemns, by circumlocutions.

But let your yea be yea. He brings the best remedy to correct the vice which he condemns, that is, that they were habitually to keep themselves to truth and faithfulness in all their sayings. For whence is the wicked habit of swearing, except that such is the falsehood of men, that their words alone are not believed? For, if they observed faithfulness, as they ought, in their words, there would have been no necessity of so many superfluous oaths. As, then, the perfidy or levity of men is the fountain from which the vice of swearing flows, in order to take away the vice, James teaches us that the fountain ought to be removed; for the right way of healing is to begin with the cause of illness.

Some copies have, “Let your word (or speech) be, yea, yea; no, no.” The true reading however, is what I have given, and is commonly received; and what he means I have already explained, that is, that we ought to tell the truth, and to be faithful in our words. To the same purpose is what Paul says in 2Co 1:18, that he was not in his preaching yea and nay, but pursued the same course from the beginning.

Lest ye fall into condemnation. There is a different reading, owing to the affinity of the words ὑπὸ κρίσιν and ὑπόκρισιν (141) If you read, “into judgment” or condemnation, the sense will clearly be, that to take God’s name in vain will not be unpunished. But it is not unsuitable to say, “into hypocrisy;” because when simplicity, as it has been already said, prevails among us, the occasion for superfluous oaths is cut off. If, then, fidelity appears in all we say, the dissimulation, which leads us to swear rashly, will be removed.

(141) For εἰς ὑπόκρισιν there are several MSS., but for ὑπὸ κρίσιν there are not only several MSS., but the earliest versions, Syr. and Vulg.; so Griesbach takes the latter as the true reading.

James 5:13

13 Is any among you afflicted? he means that there is no time in which God does not invite us to himself. For afflictions ought to stimulate us to pray; prosperity supplies us with an occasion to praise God. But such is the perverseness of men, that they cannot rejoice without forgetting God, and that when afflicted they are disheartened and driven to despair. We ought, then, to keep within due bounds, so that the joy, which usually makes us to forget God, may induce us to set forth the goodness of God, and that our sorrow may teach us to pray. For he has set the singing of psalms in opposition to profane and unbridled joy; and thus they express their joy who are led, as they ought to be, by prosperity to God.

James 5:14

14 Is any sick among you. As the gift of healing as yet continued, he directs the sick to have recourse to that remedy. It is, indeed, certain that they were not all healed; but the Lord granted this favor as often and as far as he knew it would be expedient; nor is it probable that the oil was indiscriminately applied, but only when there was some hope of restoration. For, together with the power there was given also discretion to the ministers, lest they should by abuse profane the symbol. The design of James was no other than to commend the grace of God which the faithful might then enjoy, lest the benefit of it should be lost through contempt or neglect.

For this purpose he ordered the presbyters to be sent for, but the use of the anointing must have been confined to the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Papists boast mightily of this passage, when they seek to pass off their extreme unction. But how different their corruption is from the ancient ordinance mentioned by James I will not at present undertake to shew. Let readers learn this from my Institutes. I will only say this, that this passage is wickedly and ignorantly perverted; when extreme unction is established by it, and is called a sacrament, to be perpetually observed in the Church. I indeed allow that it was used as a sacrament by the disciples of Christ, (for I cannot agree with those who think that it was medicine;) but as the reality of this sign continued only for a time in the Church, the symbol also must have been only for a time. And it is quite evident, that nothing is more absurd than to call that a sacrament which is void and does not really present to us that which it signifies. That the gift of healing was temporary, all are constrained to allow, and events clearly prove: then the sign of it ought not to be deemed perpetual. It hence follows, that they who at this day set anointing among the sacraments, are not the true followers, but the apes of the Apostles, except they restore the effect produced by it, which God has taken away from the world for more than fourteen hundred years. So we have no dispute, whether anointing was once a sacrament; but whether it has been given to be so perpetually. This latter we deny, because it is evident that the thing signified has long ago ceased.

The presbyters, or elders, of the church. I include here generally all those who presided over the Church; for pastors were not alone called presbyters or elders, but also those who were chosen from the people to be as it were censors to protect discipline. For every Church had, as it were, its own senate, chosen from men of weight and of proved integrity. But as it was customary to choose especially those who were endued with gifts more than ordinary, he ordered them to send for the elders, as being those in whom the power and grace of the Holy Spirit more particularly appeared.

Let them pray over him. This custom of praying over one was intended to shew, that they stood as it were before God; for when we come as it were to the very scene itself, we utter prayers with more feeling; and not only Elisha and Paul, but Christ himself, roused the ardor of prayer and commended the grace of God by thus praying over persons. (2Kg 4:32; Act 20:10; Joh 11:41.)

James 5:15

15 But it must be observed, that he connects a promise with the prayer, lest it should be made without faith. For he who doubts, as one who does not rightly call on God, is unworthy to obtain anything, as we have seen in Jas 1:5. Whosoever then really seeks to be heard, must be fully persuaded that he does not pray in vain.

As James brings before us this special gift, to which the external rite was but an addition, we hence learn, that the oil could not have been rightly used without faith. But since it appears that the Papists have no certainty as to their anointing, as it is manifest that they have not the gift, it is evident that their anointing is spurious.

And if he have committed sins. This is not added only for the sake of amplifying, as though he had said, that God would give something more to the sick than health of body; but because diseases were very often inflicted on account of sins; and by speaking of their remission he intimates that the cause of the evil would be removed. And we indeed see that David, when afflicted with disease and seeking relief, was wholly engaged in seeking the pardon of his sins. Why did he do this, except that while he acknowledged the effect of his faults in his punishment, he deemed that there was no other remedy, but that the Lord should cease to impute to him his sins?

The prophets are full of this doctrine, that men are relieved from their evils when they are loosed from the guilt of their iniquities. Let us then know that it is the only fit remedy for our diseases and other calamities, when we carefully examine ourselves, being solicitous to be reconciled to God, and to obtain the pardon of our sins.

James 5:16

16 Confess your faults one to another. In some copies the illative particle is given, nor is it unsuitable; for though when not expressed, it must be understood. He had said, that sins were remitted to the sick over whom the elders prayed: he now reminds them how useful it is to discover our sins to our brethren, even that we may obtain the pardon of them by their intercession. (142)

This passage, I know, is explained by many as referring to the reconciling of offenses; for they who wish to return to favor must necessarily know first their own faults and confess them. For hence it comes, that hatreds take root, yea, and increase and become irreconcilable, because every one perniciously defends his own cause. Many therefore think that James points out here the way of brotherly reconciliation, that is, by mutual acknowledgment of sins. But as it has been said, his object was different; for he connects mutual prayer with mutual confession; by which he intimates that confession avails for this end, that we may be helped as to God by the prayers of our brethren; for they who know our necessities, are stimulated to pray that they may assist us; but they to whom our diseases are unknown are more tardy to bring us help.

Wonderful, indeed, is the folly or the insincerity of the Papists, who strive to build their whispering confession on this passage. For it would be easy to infer from the words of James, that the priests alone ought to confess. For since a mutual, or to speak more plainly, a reciprocal confession is demanded here, no others are bidden to confess their own sins, but those who in their turn are fit to hear the confession of others; but this the priests claim for themselves alone. Then confession is required of them alone. But since their puerilities do not deserve a refutation, let the true and genuine explanation already given be deemed sufficient by us.

For the words clearly mean, that confession is required for no other end, but that those who know our evils may be more solicitous to bring us help.

Availeth much. That no one may think that this is done without fruit, that is, when others pray for us, he expressly mentions the benefit and the effect of prayer. But he names expressly the prayer of a righteous or just man; because God does not hear the ungodly; nor is access to God open, except through a good conscience: not that our prayers are founded on our own worthiness, but because the heart must be cleansed by faith before we can present ourselves before God. Then James testifies that the righteous or the faithful pray for us beneficially and not without fruit.

But what does he mean by adding effectual or efficacious? For this seems superfluous; for if the prayer avails much, it is doubtless effectual. The ancient interpreter has rendered it “assiduous;” but this is too forced. For James uses the Greek participle, ἐνεργούμεναι, which means “working.” And the sentence may be thus explained, “It avails much, because it is effectual.” (143) As it is an argument drawn from this principle, that God will not allow the prayers of the faithful to be void or useless, he does not therefore unjustly conclude that it avails much. But I would rather confine it to the present case: for our prayers may properly be said to be ἐνεργούμεναι, working, when some necessity meets us which excites in us earnest prayer. We pray daily for the whole Church, that God may pardon its sins; but then only is our prayer really in earnest, when we go forth to succor those who are in trouble. But such efficacy cannot be in the prayers of our brethren, except they know that we are in difficulties. Hence the reason given is not general, but must be specially referred to the former sentence.

(142) The illative οὖν, though found in some MSS., is not introduced into the text by Griesbach, there being no sufficient evidence in its favor. Nor does there appear a sufficient reason for the connection mentioned by Calvin. The two cases seem to be different. The elders of the church were in the previous instance to be called in, who were to pray and anoint the sick, and it is said that the prayer of faith (i.e. of miraculous faith) would save the sick, and that his sins would be forgiven him. This was clearly a case of miraculous healing. But what is spoken of in this verse seems to be quite different. Prayer is alone mentioned, not by the elders, but by a righteous man, not saving as in the former case, but availing much. It seems probable then that the sins of the sick miraculously healed were more especially against God; and that the sins which they were to confess to one another were against the brethren, also visited with judgment and the remedy for them was mutual confession, and mutual prayer; but the success in this case was not as sure or as certain as in the former, only we are told that an earnest prayer avails much. Then, to encourage this earnest or fervent prayer, the case of Elias is adduced; but it had nothing to do with miraculous healing.

(143) This can hardly be admitted. The word expresses what sort of prayer is that which avails much. Besides, to avail much, and to be effectual, are two distinct things. The word as a verb and as a participle had commonly an active sense. Schleusner gives only one instance in which it has a passive meaning, 2Co 1:6; to which may be added 2Co 4:12. If taken passively, it may be rendered, “inwrought,” that is, by the Spirit, according to Macknight. But it has been most commonly taken actively, and in the sense of the verbal adjective ἐνεργὴς, energetic, powerful, ardent, fervent.

James 5:17

17 Elias was a man. There are innumerable instances in Scripture of what he meant to prove; but he chose one that is remarkable above all others; for it was a great thing that God should make heaven in a manner subject to the prayers of Elias, so as to obey his wishes. Elias kept heaven shut by his prayers for three years and a half; he again opened it, so that it poured down abundance of rain. Hence appeared the wonderful power of prayer. Well known is this remarkable history, and is found in 1Kg 17:0 and 1Kg 18:0. And though it is not there expressly said, that Elias prayed for drought, it may yet be easily gathered, and that the rain also was given to his prayers.

But we must notice the application of the example. James does not say that drought ought to be sought from the Lord, because Elias obtained it; for we may by inconsiderate zeal presumptuously and foolishly imitate the Prophet. We must then observe the rule of prayer, so that it may be by faith. He, therefore, thus accommodates this example, — that if Elias was heard, so also we shall be heard when we rightly pray. For as the command to pray is common, and as the promise is common, it follows that the effect also will be common.

Lest any one should object and say, that we are far distant from the dignity of Elias, he places him in our own rank, by saying, that he was a mortal man and subject to the same passions with ourselves. For we profit less by the examples of saints, because we imagine them to have been half gods or heroes, who had peculiar intercourse with God; so that because they were heard, we receive no confidence. In order to shake off this heathen and profane superstition, James reminds us that the saints ought to be considered as having the infirmity of the flesh; so that we may learn to ascribe what they obtained from the Lord, not to their merits, but to the efficacy of prayer.

It hence appears how childish the Papists are, who teach men to flee to the protection of saints, because they had been heard by the Lord. For thus they reason, “Because he obtained what he asked as long as he lived in the world, he will be now after death our best patron.” This sort of subtle refinement was altogether unknown to the Holy Spirit. For James on the contrary argues, that as their prayers availed so much, so we ought in like manner to pray at this day according to their example, and that we shall not do so in vain.

James 5:20

20 Let him know. I doubt whether this ought rather to have been written, γιςώσκετε, “know ye.” Both ways the meaning however is the same. For James recommends to us the correction of our brethren from the effect produced that we may more assiduously attend to this duty. Nothing is better or more desirable than to deliver a soul from eternal death; and this is what he does who restores an erring brother to the right way: therefore a work so excellent ought by no means to be neglected. To give food to the hungry, and drink to the thirsty, we see how much Christ values such acts; but the salvation of the soul is esteemed by him much more precious than the life of the body. We must therefore take heed lest souls perish through our sloth, whose salvation God puts in a manner in our hands. Not that we can bestow salvation on them; but that God by our ministry delivers and saves those who seem otherwise to be nigh destruction.

Some copies have his soul, which makes no change in the sense. I, however, prefer the other reading, for it has more force in it.

And shall hide a multitude of sins. He makes an allusion to a saying of Solomon, rather than a quotation. (Pro 10:12.) Solomon says that love covers sins, as hatred proclaims them. For they who hate burn with the desire of mutual slander; but they who love are disposed to exercise mutual forbearance. Love, then, buries sins as to men. James teaches here something higher, that is, that sins are blotted out before God; as though he had said, Solomon has declared this as the fruit of love, that it covers sins; but there is no better or more excellent way of covering them than when they are wholly abolished before God. And this is done when the sinner is brought by our admonition to the right way: we ought then especially and more carefully to attend to this duty.


Martin Luther (1483-1546) – The Second Epistle of St Peter and St Jude Preached and Explained

The Second Epistle of St Peter and St Jude Preached and Explained


Martin Luther (1483-1546)

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St. Peter wrote this Epistle because he saw how the true, pure doctrine of faith had become falsified, darkened and suppressed. And he has wished to meet a two-fold error, springing from a wrong understanding of the doctrine of faith, and guard against it in both directions; namely, that we should not ascribe to works the power of making us righteous and acceptable before God, though these works belong to faith; and, on the other hand, that no one should think that there may be faith without good works. For if any one preaches concerning faith, that it justifies us without any addition of works, the people say, “One need do no works,” as we see it in our daily experience; and, on the other hand, when they fall on works and exalt them, faith must be prostrated, so that the middle way is one to be retained with difficulty, where there are not preachers of the right kind.

Now, we have ever taught this doctrine, that to faith we are to ascribe all things, one as well as another; that it alone makes us just and holy in the sight of God. Moreover, that if faith is present, out of it good works must and should proceed, since it is even impossible that we should pass this our life quite indolent, and do no works. Thus St. Peter in this Epistle would also teach us, and thus meet those who perhaps out of the former Epistle might have received the wrong apprehension that it sufficed for faith, though we should at the same time do no work. And against this the first chapter especially aims, wherein he teaches that believers should try themselves by good works, and become assured of their faith.

The second chapter is against those who exalt works merely, and depreciate faith. Therefore he admonishes them against the false teachers who should come, who, through the teachings of men, should destroy faith entirely. For he clearly saw what a cruel trial there would yet be in the world, as had even then already begun; as St. Paul says, II Thes. ii, “The mystery of iniquity already works.”

Thus is this Epistle written as a warning for us, that we prove our faith by our good works, and yet that we trust not to our works.


V. 1. Simon Peter, a servant and Apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have attained like faith with us, in the righteousness which our God gives, and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Such is the subscription and the superscription of this Epistle, that we may know who writes it, and to whom he writes it, even to those who have heard the word of God and abide in the faith. But what sort of a faith is this? In the righteousness (says he) which God gives. Thus he grants justification to faith alone,—as St. Paul, also, in Rom. i. In the Gospel is that righteousness revealed which avails with God, which comes from faith; as it stands written: “The just shall live by faith.” Thus St. Peter would admonish them that they should be armed, and not let the doctrine of faith be torn away, which they have now apprehended and thoroughly known.

And to this end he adjoins, in the righteousness which God gives, that he may separate from it all human righteousness. For by faith alone are we righteous before God; wherefore faith is called a righteousness of God, for with the world it is of no account; yea, it is even condemned.

V. 2. Grace and peace he multiplied among you, through the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ our Lord. This is the greeting usually prefixed to the Epistles; and it amounts to this: I wish you, in place of my service for you, to increase in grace and peace, and grow ever richer and richer in the grace which comes from the knowledge of God and the Lord Christ,—that is, which none can have but he who has the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ.

The Apostles, and the prophets also, in the Scripture, are ever setting forth the knowledge of God. As Isaiah. xi: “They shall not injure or destroy in my whole mountain, for the land is filled with the knowledge of God, as the land is covered with the water.” That is, so overflowingly shall the knowledge of God break forth, as when a mass of water gushes up and rushes forth and swallows up a whole land.

Thence shall such peace then follow, that no one shall wrong another, or make him suffer.

But this is not to know God, that you should believe as the Turks, Jews, and devils believe, that God has created all things, or even that Christ was born of a virgin, suffered, died, and rose again; but this is the true knowledge, whereby you hold and know that God is thy God and Christ is thy Christ, which the devil and the false Christians could not believe. So that this knowledge is nothing else but a true Christian faith; for if you thus know God and Christ, you will then confide in them with your whole heart, and trust them in good and ill, in life and death. Such trust evil consciences cannot possess. For they know no more of God, except that He is a God of St. Peter and all the saints in heaven. But as their own God they know Him not, but hold Him as their task-master and angry judge. To have God, is to have all grace, all mercy, and all that man can well receive; to have Christ, is to have the Saviour and Mediator, who has brought us to say that God is ours, and has obtained all grace for us with Him. This also must be implied, that Christ is yours and you are His, then have you a true knowledge. A woman that lives unmarried can well say that a man is a husband, but this can she not say, that he is her husband. So may we all well say, this is a God, but this we cannot say all of us, that He is our God, for we cannot all trust upon Him nor comfort ourselves as His. To this knowledge belongs also that which the Scripture calls faciem et vultum domini, the face of the Lord, whereof the prophets speak much; who ever sees not the face of the Lord knows Him not, but sees only His back,—that is, an angry and ungracious God.

And here you perceive, that St. Peter does not set himself particularly to write of faith, since he had already done that sufficiently in the First Epistle, but would admonish believers that they should prove their faith by good works; for he would not have a faith without good works, nor works without faith, but faith first and good works on and from faith. Therefore, he says, now, also:

V. 3. According as His divine power (whatever serves for life and godliness) is abundantly given us. This is the first point, where Peter essays to describe what sort of blessings we have received through faith from God, even that to us (since we have known God by faith) there is given every kind of divine power. But what sort of power is it? It is such power as serves us toward life and godliness; that is, when we believe, then we attain this much, that God gives us the fullness of His power, which is so with and in us, that what we speak ^and work, it is not we that do it, but God Himself does it. He is strong, powerful, and almighty in us, though we even suffer and die, and are weak in the eyes of the world. So that there is no power nor ability in us if we have not this power of God.

But this power of God which is in us, St. Peter would not have so explained, as that we might make heaven and earth, and should work such miracles as God does; for how would we be advantaged by it? But we have the power of God within us so far as it is useful and necessary to us. Therefore, the Apostle adjoins, and says, whatever serves for life and godliness; that is, we have such power of God that by it we are eminently favored with grace to do good and to live forever.

Through the knowledge of Him who hath called us. Such power of God, and such rich grace, come from no other source but from this knowledge of God; for if you count Him for a God, He will deal also with you in all things as a God. So Paul also says, I Cor i, “Ye are in all points enriched in every kind of word and knowledge, even as the preaching of Christ is made powerful in you, so that ye have henceforth no want.” This is now the greatest thing of all, the noblest and most needful that God can give us,—so that we are not to receive all that is in heaven and on earth; for what would it help you, though you were able to go through fire and water, and do all kinds of wonderful works, and had not this? Many people who perform such miracles shall be condemned. But this is wonderful above all things else, that God gives us such power, that thereby all our sins are forgiven and blotted out, death, the devil and hell, subdued and vanquished; so that we have an unharassed conscience and a happy heart, and fear for nothing.

Through His glory and virtue. How does that call come, whereby we are called of God? Thus: God has permitted the holy Gospel to go forth into the world and be made known, though no man had ever before striven for it, or sought or prayed for it, of Him. But ere man had ever thought of it, He has offered, bestowed, and beyond all measure richly shed forth such grace, so that He alone has the glory and the praise; and we ascribe to Him alone the virtue and the power, for it is not our work, but His only. Wherefore, since the calling is not of us, we should not exalt ourselves as though we had done it, but render to Him praise and thanksgiving, because He has given us the Gospel, and thereby granted us power and might against the devil, death, and all evil.

V. 4. Whereby are given unto us exceeding precious and great promises. St. Peter adjoins this, that he may explain the nature and method of faith. If we know Him as God, then do we have through faith that eternal life and divine power wherewith we subdue death and the devil. Though we see and grasp it not, yet is it promised to us. We really have it all, though it does not yet appear, but at the last day we shall see it present before us. Here it begins in faith; though we have it not in its fullness, we have yet the assurance that we live here in the power of God, and shall afterward be saved forever.

Whoever has this faith has the promise; whoever does not believe possesses it not, and must be lost forever. How great and precious a thing this is, Peter explains further, and says:

So that ye by the same might become partakers of the divine nature, while ye flee from the corrupting lusts of the world. This we have, he says, through the power of faith, that we should be partakers and have association or communion with the divine nature. This is such a passage that the like of it does not stand in the New or Old Testament, although it is a small matter with the unbelieving that we should have communion with the divine nature itself. But what is the divine nature? It is eternal truth, righteousness, wisdom; eternal life, peace, joy, happiness, and whatever good one can name. Whoever then becomes partaker of the divine nature, attains all this,—that he is to live forever, and have eternal peace, delight and joy, and is to be perfectly pure, just, and triumphant over the devil, sin and death. Therefore St. Peter would say this much: As little as any one can take away from God, that He should not be eternal life and eternal truth, just as little shall any one take it away from you. Whatever one does to you he must do to Him, for whoever would crush a Christian must crush God.

All this, that word, the divine nature, implies, and he also used it to this end, that he might include it all; and it is truly a great thing where it is believed. But, as I said above, this is merely instruction, in which he does not lay down a ground of faith, but sets forth what great, rich blessings we receive through faith; wherefore he says, that ye shall have all if ye so live as to prove your faith, whereby ye flee worldly lusts. So he speaks, now, further:

V. 5. Give then all your diligence, and add to your faith, virtue. Here St. Peter takes up the admonition, that they should prove their faith by good works. Since such great blessing is bestowed upon you through faith (he would say), that ye really have all that God is, do this besides: be diligent, and not sluggish; add to your faith, virtue; that is, let your faith break out before the world, so as to be zealous, busy, powerful, and active, and to do many works; let it not remain idle and unfruitful. Ye have a good inheritance and a good field, but see to it that ye do not let thistles and weeds grow upon it.

And to virtue, discrimination. Discrimination or knowledge is, in the first place, that one should manifest an outward conduct, and the virtue of faith, in accordance with reason. For we should so far bridle and check the body, that we may be sober, vigorous, and fitted for good works; not that we should torture and mortify ourselves as some famous saints have done. For though God is likewise opposed to the sins that remain in the flesh, yet does He not require that for this reason you should destroy the body. Its viciousness and caprice you should guard against, but yet you are not to ruin or injure it, but give it its food and refreshment that it may remain sound and in living vigor.

In the second place, discrimination means that one should lead a life carefully exact, and act with discretion in regard to outward things, as food and things of that sort,—that one should not act in these things unreasonably, and that he should give his neighbor no provocation.

V. 6. And to discrimination, temperance. Temperance is not only in eating and drinking, but it is regularity in the whole life and conduct, words, works, manners; that we should not live too expensively, and should avoid excess in ornament and clothing; that none come out too proudly, and make too lofty a show. But in regard to this St. Peter will not fix any rule, measure, or limit, as the Orders have prescribed for themselves, who have wished to do all by rule, and have framed statutes which must be exactly observed. It is a thing not to be tolerated in Christendom, that men should require by laws that there be a common rule on temperance; for people are unlike one to another; one is of a strong, another is of a weaker nature; and no one in all things is at all times situated as another. Therefore every one should see to himself how he is situated, and what he can bear.

And to temperance, patience. Thus would St. Peter say: though ye lead a temperate and discreet life, ye are not to think that ye shall live without conflict and persecution. For if ye believe, and lead a fair Christian life, the world will not let it alone; it must persecute and hate you, in which you must show patience, which is a fruit of faith.

And to patience, godliness. That is, that we in all our outward life, whatever we do or suffer, should so conduct ourselves that we may serve God therein, not seeking our own honor and gain, but that God alone may be glorified thereby; and that we should so demean ourselves that men may take knowledge that we do all for God’s sake.

V. 7. And to godliness, brotherly love. In this St. Peter obliges us all to extend a helping hand one to another, like brethren, so that one should protect another, and none hate nor despise nor injure another. This is also an evident proof of faith, whereby we show that we have the godliness of which he has spoken.

And to brotherly love (charity), common love. Common love extends to both friend and enemy, even to those who do not show themselves friendly and brotherly towards us. Thus St. Peter has here comprehended in few words whatever pertains to the Christian life, and whatever are the works and fruits of faith, discretion, temperance, patience, a God-fearing life, brotherly love, and kindness to every one.

V. 8. For if such dwell richly in you, it will not permit you to be idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, if ye do such works, then are ye on the right path, then do ye have a real faith, and the knowledge of Christ becomes active and fruitful in you. Therefore see to it that ye be not such as beat the air. Restrain your body, and act toward your neighbor even in such a manner as ye know that Christ has done toward you.

V. 9. But to whomsoever such is wanting, he is blind, gropes with the hand, and has forgotten the purifying of his former sins. Whoever has not such a preparation of the fruits of faith, gropes like a blind man here and there, rests in such a life that he knows not what his state is, has not real faith, and has of the knowledge of Christ nothing more than that he can say he has heard it. Therefore he goes along and gropes like a blind man on the way, in an unconscious life, and has forgotten that he was baptized and his sins were forgiven him, and is unthankful, and is an idle, negligent man, who suffers nothing to go to his heart, and neither feels nor tastes such great grace and blessing.

This is the admonition which St. Peter gives to us who believe, to urge and enforce those works by which we shall evidence that the true faith is in us. And, besides, this ever remains true, that faith alone justifies; where this then is present, there works must follow.—What follows further, now, is meant to strengthen us.

V. 10. Wherefore, dear brethren, give so much the more diligence to make your calling and election sure. The election and eternal foreknowledge of God is indeed in itself sure enough, so that man does not need to make that sure. The calling is also effectual and sure. For whoever hears the Gospel, and believes thereon, and is baptized, he is called and saved. Since we then are also thereunto called, we should apply so much diligence (says Peter), that our calling and election may be assured with us also, and not only with God. This is now such a mode of scriptural expression as St. Paul uses, Eph ii, “Ye were strangers to the covenant of promise, so that ye had no hope and were without God in the world.” For although there is no man, neither bad nor good, over whom God does not reign, since all creatures are His, yet Paul says he has no God who does not know, love, and trust Him, although he had his being in God Himself. So here, also; although the calling and election are effectual enough in themselves, yet with you it is not yet effectual and assured, since you are not yet certain that it includes you. Therefore St. Peter would have us make such calling and election sure, by good works.

Thus you see what this Apostle attributes to the fruits of faith. Although they are due to our neighbor, that he may be benefited by them, still the fruit is not to be wanting, that faith may thereby become stronger, and do more and more of good works. Besides, this is quite another kind of power from that of the body, for that grows weary and wastes away if it is used and urged somewhat too far: but as to this spiritual power, the more it is used and urged, the stronger it becomes; and it suffers injury if it is not exercised. For this reason did God introduce Christianity at the first in such a manner as He did, driven and tried by the wrestling of faith, in shame, death, and bloodshed, that it might become truly strong and mighty, and that the more it was oppressed the more it might rise above it. This is St. Peter’s meaning in this place, that we should not let faith rust and lie still, since it is so ordained that it is ever made more and more strong by trial and exercise, until it is assured of its calling and election, and cannot fail.

And here is also a bound set as to how we should proceed with reference to election. There are many light-minded persons who have not felt much of the power of faith, who fall in this matter, stumbling upon it; and they trouble themselves at first with it, and by reason would satisfy themselves whether they are elected, so that they may be assured whereon they stand. But desist from this, at once; it is a thing that cannot be apprehended (grasped). But if you will be assured, you must reach it by the way which St. Peter here strikes out for you. If you choose another for yourself, you have failed already, and your own experience must teach you so. If faith is properly exercised and tried, then are you at last assured of the fact that you cannot fail, as now further follows:

For if ye do these things ye shall never fall. That is, ye are to stand fast, not stumble nor sin, but go onward thoroughly upright and active, and all shall go well with you. But if you would set it right by your reasonings, the devil will soon throw you into despair and hatred of God.

V. 11. And so shall an entrance he ministered into you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is the way by which we enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, no one should propose, by such dreams and reasonings concerning faith as he has invented in his heart, to enter therein. There must be a living, active, tried faith. God help us! How have our deceivers written, taught and spoken against this text, yet whoever has even the least measure and only a spark of faith, shall be saved when he comes to die.

If you would pry into this matter, and in this way attain such faith quickly and suddenly, you will then have waited too long: Yet you are to understand well, that they who are strong have enough to do, although we are not to despair even of such as are weak, for it may indeed well happen that they shall endure, though it will be sorely and hardly, and will cost much striving; but whoever carefully sees to it in his life, that faith is invigorated and made strong by good works, he shall have an abundant entrance, and with calm spirit and confidence go into that life to come, so that he shall die comfortably, and despise this life, and even triumphantly go on, and with gladness hasten to that. But those, who would come in otherwise, shall not enter thus with joy; the door shall not stand open to them so wide; they shall, moreover, not have such an abundant entrance, but it shall be, narrow and a hard one, so that they tremble, and would rather their life-day should be in weakness, than that they should die.

V. 12. Wherefore I will not he negligent to remind you always of such things, although ye know them, and are established in this present truth. That is the same that we also have often said, although God has now let such a great light go forth through the revelation of the Gospel, so that we know what true Christian life and doctrine is, and see how all Scripture insists upon it, yet this (light) we are not to neglect but use daily, not for doctrine, but for the sake of remembrance. For there is a twofold office in the Christian church, as St. Paul says, Rom xii: “If any one teaches, let him wait on teaching; if any one admonishes, let him wait on admonition.” To teach, is when any one lays down the ground of faith, and sets it forth to those who have no knowledge of it. But to admonish, or as Peter here says, to remind, is to preach to those who know and have heard the matter already, so that they are seized hold of and awakened, in order that they should not be heedless, but go onward and prosper. We are all beladen with the old sluggard load, with our flesh and blood, that chooses for ever the byroad, and keeps us ever subject to its load, so that the soul easily falls asleep. Therefore we are ever to urge and shake it, as a master urges his servants, lest they become sluggish, although they know very well what they should do; for while we must pursue this course for our temporal support, far more must we do it in this case in spiritual matters.

y. 13. For I count it proper, so long as I am in this tabernacle, to awaken and remind you. Here St. Peter calls his body a tabernacle wherein the soul dwells; and it is a phrase like that where in the first Epistle he speaks of the body as a vessel or an instrument. So St. Paul also speaks, II Cor v: “We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were broken down, that we have a house built by God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven, and for the same we long earnestly, for our dwelling which is from heaven. For as long as we are in this tabernacle we earnestly long,” &c. Also, “but yet we are consoled and know that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord, but we have far greater desire to be out of the body and to be at home with the Lord.” There the Apostle Paul speaks also of the body as a house, and makes two homes, and two sojournings. So Peter speaks here of the body as a tabernacle wherein the soul rests, and he makes it mean enough; he will not call it a house, but a hut or pent-house, such as shepherds have. Great is the treasure, but small is the house in which it lies and dwells.

V. 14. For I know that I must soon lay off my tabernacle, even as the Lord Christ hath showed me. But I will take care that ye by all means, after my departure, may keep such things in your remembrance. Here Peter testifies of himself that he has become assured of eternal life, and to him God had shown beforehand when he should die; but this took place for our and our faith’s sake, for there must have been some such persons as knew assuredly that they were elected, who should lay down and settle faith, that we might know that they preached not the doctrine of men, but the word of God. But ere they have come to such an assurance, God has thoroughly proved them first, and purified them. Thus Peter now says, I will not only remind you with the living voice, but set such things also in writing, and charge you, through others, that ye ever hold them in remembrance, through my life and after my death, and not let them go. There see how great anxiety the Apostle had for souls; yet, alas! it has helped nothing.

y. 16-18. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we have made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have been witnesses of His majesty when He received from God the Father honor and praise, by a voice which came to Him from the excellent glory, this is my well-beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; and this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him on the holy mount. There St. Peter touches upon the history written in the Gospel, Matt xvii., how Jesus took to Himself three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, and led them aside up a high mountain, and was glorified before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothing was white as the light, and there appeared to Him Moses and Elias, who spoke with Him, while a light cloud overshadowed them, and a voice out of the cloud said. This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him. When the disciples heard that, they fell on their faces, and were very much afraid. But Jesus went to them, roused them up, and said, stand up, be not afraid; then they lifted up their eyes, and saw no one but Jesus only, and when they went down from the mountain He charged them that they should tell no one of this sight till He arose from the dead.

So St. Peter would now say, that which I preach to you of Christ and of His coming, this Gospel that we preach, we have not devised or yet imagined, nor taken it from cunning fabulists who know how to speak brilliantly of all things (such as at that very time the Greeks were), for it is mere fable, and fancy, and idle babbling that they cunningly give forth, and wherein they would be wise,—such we have not listened to, nor have we followed them; that is, we preach not what is from the hands of men, but are sure that it is of God, and have become so through our eyes and ears;—that is to say. When we were with Christ upon the mountain, and saw and heard His glory; for His glory was this, that His face shone like the sun, and His clothing was as white as snow; besides, we heard a voice from the highest Majesty, “This is my beloved Son; hear ye Him.”

So confident should every preacher be, and not be in doubt thereon, that he has God’s word, that he could even die for it, since it is worth our life. Now there is no man so holy that he must needs die for the doctrine which he has taught of himself; wherefore it is inferred here that the Apostles have had assurance from God that their Gospel was God’s word. And here it is also shown that the Gospel is nothing else than the preaching of Christ. Therefore we should hear no other preaching, for the Father will have no other. “That is my dear Son,” He says; “hear Him.” He is your Teacher—as though He had said, “When ye hear Him, then ye have heard me.” Wherefore Peter now says, we have preached Christ and made Him known to you, that He is Lord, and rules over all things, and all power is His; and that whosoever believes on Him has likewise such power. Such things we have not ourselves devised, but have seen and heard them through God’s revelation, by which He has charged us that we should hear Christ.

But why does Paul separate from one another the power and the coming of Christ? The power consists, as we have heard above, in that He is mighty over all things; that all must lie at His feet; and this shall continue as long as the world stands. While we are flesh and blood, and live upon the earth, so long shall Christ’s kingdom flourish, even to the last day. Then shall come another period, when He shall give up the kingdom to God the Father, whereof St. Paul speaks, I Cor. XV: “Christ the first fruits; afterwards those that belong to Christ, who are His at His coming.” Afterward is the end, when He shall answer for the kingdom to God and the Father.” Also: “But when all shall be subject to Him, then shall the Son also be subject to Him who subdued all for Him.”

How? Is then the kingdom not God the Father’s now? Is not all subject to Him? Answer:—St. Paul explains himself in the same place, and says: “So that God may be all in all;” that is, whatsoever any one shall need or should have, that God will be; as St. Peter has told us above, that we should be partakers of the Divine nature. Wherefore we shall also have all that God has, and all that is needful for us we shall have in Him,—wisdom, righteousness, strength and life,—a truth which we now believe, hearing it merely, and having it in the word of God. But then shall the word cease, when our souls shall be enlarged and see and feel it all as a present thing. This is what St. Paul means, and St. Peter also: that the power of Christ’s kingdom now proceeds; now He gives the word, and thereby, through His humanity, reigns over the devil, sin, death, and all things. But at the last day this shall be made clear. Therefore, although God ever rules, still it is not yet manifest to us. He clearly beholds us, but we behold Him not. Therefore must Christ surrender up to Him the kingdom, so that we also shall see it, while we then shall be Christ’s brethren and God’s children. Thus Christ received from God honor and glory (St. Peter here says) when the Father made all things subject to Him, and made Him Lord, and glorified Him by this voice, in which He says, “This is my well-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

By this St. Peter would confirm his doctrine and preaching, that it might be known whence it came. But this experience was no more than that he had heard this, and was able to preach of it. But the Holy Spirit must also come and strengthen him, that he may believe in it, and preach and confess it cheerfully. The former thing belongs only to the office of the preacher, not to the soul; but this belongs to the Spirit.

V. 19. We have also a sure word of Prophecy, and ye do well in that ye give heed to it as to a light that shines in a dark place, till the day break arid the morning star rise in your hearts.

There St. Peter grasps right hold upon the matter, and would say this much: all that I preach is to subserve this end, that your conscience may be assured, and your heart may stand firm on this, and not let itself be torn therefrom, and that thus both I and you may be certain that we have God’s word. For it is an important matter as respects the Gospel that we should receive and hold it clean and pure, without addition and false doctrine. Therefore Peter begins henceforth to write against human doctrines.

But why does he say we have a sure word of prophecy? Answer: I hold, indeed, that we shall have no more prophets, such as the Jews had in former times in the Old Testament. But a prophet eminently should he be who preaches of Jesus Christ. Therefore, although many prophets in the Old Testament have foretold concerning things to come, yet they came and were sent by God, for this reason especially, that they should foretell Christ. Those, then, who believe on Christ are all prophets, for they have the true head-article that the prophets should have, although they have not the gift of making known things to come; for as we, through the faith of our Master, are Christ’s brethren, are kings and priests, so are we prophets also, all of us through Christ. For we can all say what belongs to salvation and God’s honor and a Christian life, besides of future things, so much as this is necessarily known to us, viz., that the Last Day shall come, and that we shall rise from the dead; besides, we understand the whole substance of Scripture. Whereof Paul also says, I Cor. xiv: “Ye can all prophecy, one after another.”

This now, is, what Peter says: we have such a word of prophecy as is sure in itself; see to it only that it be sure to you; and ye do well in paying heed to it:—as though he should say: It will be a thing of necessity to you to hold firmly by it; for it is in regard to the Gospel as though one were imprisoned in the house, in the midst of the night, when it was stock dark. Then it were a matter of necessity that one should kindle a light, till the day came when he could see. Eminently such is the Gospel in the midst of the night and darkness, for all human reason is mere error and blindness, while the world is even nothing else but a kingdom of darkness. In this darkness has God now kindled a light, even the Gospel, whereby we may see and walk, while we are on the earth, till the morning dawn comes and the day breaks.

Thus this text is also strongly against all human doctrine; for since the word of God is the light in a dark and gloomy place, it follows that all besides is darkness. For if there were another light besides the word, St. Peter would not have spoken as he has. Therefore look not to this, how gifted those men are with reason who teach any other doctrine, however grandly they put it forth; if you cannot trace God’s word in it, then be in no doubt as to its being mere darkness. And let it not disturb you at all that they say they have the Holy Spirit. How can they have God’s Spirit if they do not have His word? Wherefore they do nothing else but call darkness light and make the light darkness, as Isaiah says, chap. v.

This is God’s word—even the Gospel—that we are ransomed by Christ from death, sin and hell: whoever hears that, he has this light and has kindled this lamp in his heart, even that by which we may see the one that enlightens us, and teaches us whatever we should know. But where this is not, there we rush on, and by matters and works of our own device would find out the way to heaven. Whereof, by your light, you can judge and see that it is darkness. Wherefore since they have not the light, neither would receive it, they must remain in darkness and blindness. For the light teaches us all that which we ought to know and what is necessary to salvation—a thing which the world by wisdom and reason knows not. And this light we must still have and depend upon, even to the last day. Then shall we have no more need of the word, just as we put out the lamp when the day breaks.

V. 20, 21. And this ye should know first of all, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation; for prophecy came not aforetime by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Here Paul falls upon the matter of false doctrine: since ye know this, he says, that we have the word of God, abide thereon, and suffer yourselves not to be drawn from it by others that teach falsely, though they come and give forth that they have the Holy Spirit. For this ye should know first of all (the second matter he would speak of afterward), that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation; by this be directed, and do not think that ye shall explain the Scripture by your own reason and wisdom.

In this the private interpretation of Scripture by all the fathers is thrown down and rejected, and it is forbidden to build on such interpretation. Though Jerome, or Augustine, or any one of the fathers have explained it of himself, yet would not we have it from him. Peter has forbidden you to explain it of yourself at all. The Holy Spirit will explain it Himself, or it shall remain unexplained. If now any one of the holy fathers can prove that he has his explanation from the Scriptures, which give assurance that it should be so explained, then it is right; where this is not the case, I for one shall not believe him . Thus Peter lays hold on the boldest and best teachers; wherefore we should rest assured that none is to be believed who sets the Scripture forth where he of himself opens and explains it. For there can be no true sense obtained by private interpretation. Here have all the teachers and fathers who have explained the Scripture stumbled, so far as they are- extant to us. As when they refer the passage of Christ, Matt xvi: Thou art Peter and on this rock will I build my church, to the Pope. That is a human, self-invented explanation; therefore, no one is to believe them, for they cannot prove out of the Scripture that Peter is ever spoken of as Pope. But this we can prove, that the rock is Christ and faith, as Paul says. This explanation is the right one; for of this we are sure, it has not been invented by men, but drawn from God’s word. Now what is found written and foretold in the prophets, says Peter, that men have not searched out nor invented; but holy and pious men have spoken it from the Holy Spirit.

Thus this is the first chapter, wherein St. Peter has first of all taught us what those really good works are whereby we must give proof of our faith. In the second place, that no man in Christendom should preach anything but God’s word alone. The reason why it should be so is no other, as we have said, except that men should preach that word which shall remain forever, whereby souls may be Avon, and eternal life. Now there follows a just admonition, which Christ and Paul and all the Apostles have also given, that each should look out for himself and guard against false teachers.

It is especially necessary for us to observe it carefully, so that we shall not suffer that right and authority which all Christians have, to be torn from us, to judge and decide on all doctrines; and shall not let it come to this, that we first wait till the Councils determine what we are to believe, and then follow that. This we are now to look at.


V. 1. But there were false teachers also among the people^ as also among you there shall he false teachers. This is what St. Peter would say: All prophecy must proceed from the Holy Spirit, even to the end of the world, just as it has gone forth from the beginning of the world, so that nothing shall be preached but what is God’s word. Yet it has ever so happened, that close upon the true prophets and word of God, there have been false teachers, and so also it shall continue. Therefore, since ye have God’s word, ye should take heed to yourselves that ye do not have false teachers besides. This is a sufficient admonition, and it cannot fail where the true word of God is preached; that close upon it false teachers also should rise up. The reason is this,—not every one lays hold on the word, and believes thereon, although it is preached to all. They who believe thereon, follow it, and hold it fast; but the greater part, they who do not believe, receive a false sense therefrom, whence they become false teachers. This matter we have not seriously considered, nor have we attended to this warning; but we have gone astray, and whatever has been preached that we have done. Thereon we have stumbled and fallen, and been led away by delusion, as though the Pope, with his priests and monks, could not err. Thus those that should have been on their guard against such things, have been the first that have urged them upon us. So that we are not free from blame, though we have a wrong belief, and follow after false teachers: it shall be of no help to us, that we have not known, since we were warned beforehand. Besides, God has bidden us that we should each determine what this or that one preaches, and give account thereof; if we do not, then are we lost; wherefore it concerns every one’s own soul’s salvation to know what God’s word is, and what false doctrines are.

Such warnings against false teachers are, besides, very frequent, here and there, throughout the Scripture. St. Paul, Acts XX., gives just such an admonition in his preaching, when he blesses those of Ephesus and gives them his farewell; and he speaks in this manner: “I know that after my departure there shall come in among you grieyous wolves, who shall not spare the flock; yea, there shall even of your own selves arise men who shall teach corrupt doctrine, who shall draw disciples after them.” Christ proclaims it also in Matt. XX.: “If anyone shall say to you (he says), lo! here is Christ, or lo! there, then are ye not to believe it; for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and great signs and wonders shall they do, that shall lead into error, if it were possible, even the elect.” And again, Paul, I Tim iv: “The Spirit speaks expressly that in the last times some shall depart from the faith, and cleave to erring spirits and doctrines of the devil by which they speak lies in hypocrisy.” As forcefully as such admonition has gone forth, so careful should we have been; yet it has been of no avail. The admonition has been kept silent, and thus we have still wandered, and suffered ourselves to be led astray.

Now let us see who those false teachers may be, of whom Peter here speaks. I think that God has ordained by special counsel that our teachers should have been called doctors, that it might be seen whom Peter means. For he as much as uses the word here; false doctors,—that is, false teachers, he says,—not false prophets or false apostles. In this he fairly hits the high schools, where such a class of men is made, and whence all the preachers have come forth into the world: so that there is not even a city under the Popedom, which does not have such teachers made in the high schools. For all the world thinks that they are the fountain, the streams of which are to teach the people. This is a desperate error, since no more cruel thing has ever come upon the earth than has come forth from the high schools. Therefore Peter says, that such vain, false teachers are to be; but what shall they do? This follows further:

Who shall privily introduce damnable heresies. He calls them damnable heresies (sects), or states and orders, because whosoever is persuaded into them is already lost. These shall they secretly bring in, he says, not that they shall preach that the Gospel and the Holy Scriptures are false, for that would have worked quite against them,—but these names, God, Christ, faith, church, baptism, sacrament, they shall still hold, and suffer to continue. But under these names they bring forward and set up something of another sort. For there is a great difference, whether I say this man preaches against this doctrine or in accordance with it. When I preach thus, that Christ is the Son of God and truly man, and whoever believes on Him shall be saved,—that is right preaching and the true Gospel. But if one preaches that Christ is not the Son of God, nor truly man, moreover that faith does not save, it is said in plain contradiction to it. Whence St. Peter speaks not (for this is what our high schools, priests and monks do not attempt), except of those associate doctrines which they introduce through the true doctrine. As when they speak after this manner,—it is true that Christ was God, and is man; that He died for our sins, and no one can be saved who does not believe upon Him. But that belongs only to the common estate (of Christians); but we will set up a more complete one, in which men shall vow chastity, poverty, and obedience, as well as fast, endow institutions, &c. Whoever does this shall go full tide up to heaven. Where now men preach and hear such things as that there is nothing better and more saving than virginity and obedience, and that the monk and the priest are in a higher and more perfect estate than mankind in general, there is nothing said against the pure Christian doctrine directly, nor are faith and baptism denied, nor that Christ is the Saviour. But yet there is such doctrine brought in with them, leading men away from the right path, that they build upon their own life and works, and hold nothing more in regard to Christ, but just these words: we believe that Christ is the Son of God, and man; that He died and rose again; that He is the Saviour of the world, &c. But they repose no faith in Him, for if they did that, they would not rest an hour upon their life.

Thus they have also preached and said among the people: “Ye are Christians already, but that is not enough; ye must also do such and such works, build churches and cloisters, found masses and vigils,” &c.

The great multitude has tumbled into this notion, and thought it was right. Hereby Christendom is divided and separated into as many sects, almost, as there are states and people.

But this is what men should have preached and taught: Ye are Christians indeed, and, just as well as those a hundred miles away, ye have all of you one Christ, one baptism, one faith, one spirit, one word, one God; so that no work that man can do helps to make a Christian. Thus, were men included in a common faith, there would be no difference before God, but one would be as another. This unity have they rent asunder, in that they say, ” You are a Christian, but you must do works in order that you may be saved;” and thus they lead us away from faith to works. Therefore St. Peter says, if we will explain it right, nothing but this: there shall come high schools, doctors, priests and monks, and all classes of men, who shall bring in ruinous sects and orders, and shall lead the world astray by false doctrines. Such are those whom he means here, for they all hold to the notion that their state and Order saves them, and they cause men to build and trust thereon; for where men do not hold to this view, they carefully keep clear of entering them.

And shall deny the Lord who bought them. “Oh,” say they, “we do not deny the Lord at all!” But if any one says, “Since you are ransomed by Christ, and His blood blots out your sin, what will you blot out by your mode of life?” Then they say, “Ah! faith does not do it alone, works must also aid towards it.” Thus they confess the Lord Christ indeed with their mouth, but with their hearts they quite deny him. See how admirably St. Peter expresses it. They deny the Master, he says, who has bought them: they should be under Him as under a master whose own they were. But now, though they believe indeed that He is their master and has purchased the whole world by His blood, yet they do not believe that they are bought, and that He is their master; and they say “He has indeed bought and ransomed them, but then this is not enough,—we must first by our works expiate the sin and make satisfaction for it.” But we say, if you yourself take away and blot out your sin, what has Christ then done? You certainly cannot make two Christs who take away sin. He should and must be the only one that puts away sin. If that be true, then I cannot understand how I am myself to cancel my own sin. If I do it, I can neither say nor believe that He takes it away. And it is the same thing with denying Christ; for although they hold Christ to be their master, they deny that He has bought them. They believe, indeed, that He sits above in heaven and is Lord; but that which is His peculiar office, to take away sin, this they take from Him, and ascribe it to their own works. Thus they leave to Him nothing more than the name and title; but His work. His power, and His office, they will have themselves. So that Christ has truly said, “Many shall come in my name, and say, I am Christ, and shall seduce many.” For they are this preeminently, not who say, “I am called Christ,” but “I am He;” for they seize to themselves the office that belongs to Christ, thrust Him from His throne, and seat themselves thereon. This we see before our eyes, insomuch that no one can deny it. Therefore St. Peter calls them damnable or ruinous heresies, for they run all of them straight to hell, so that I suppose that among a thousand, hardly one is saved. For whoever shall be saved therein must say this much: “My obedience, my chastity, &c., do not save me; my works do not take away any sin from me.” But how many there are who have these views, and remain in such a damnable state!

And shall bring upon themselves quick damnation. That is, their condemnation shall quickly overtake them; although it is plain that God forbears long, yet He will come soon enough. But it is not a thing that respects the body, that we should be able to see it with our eyes, but just as the fifty-fourth Psalm says, “They shall not live out half their day;” that is, death shall seize upon them ere they themselves suspect, so that they shall say, like Hezekiah, Is. xxxviii., “I have said in the midst of my life, I must go down into the grave;” as though they should say, “O Lord God, is death already here?” For those men who do not live by .faith, who are never more and more weary of life, the longer they live the longer they would live, and the holier they seem the more terrible will death be to them, especially to those who have scrupulous consciences and cruelly urge and vex themselves by works, for it is not possible to vanquish death by human powers. Where faith is wanting, the conscience must tremble and despair. Where faith is strong, death comes too slow; while, on the other hand, he comes to the unbelieving always too soon, for there is no end to the thirst and love of life.

This is what Peter means here: these people who set up such sects, and so deny Christ, must come to die with the greatest unwillingness, trembling and desponding; for they can have no other thought but this, “Who knows whether God will be gracious to me and will forgive my sins?” and they remain forever in such doubt, “who knows it,—who knows it?” and their conscience is never at peace. The longer they thus continue, the more terrible is death to them; for death cannot first be subdued, till sin and an evil conscience have been taken away. So will their condemnation come upon them hastily, so that they must abide in eternal death.

V. 2. And many shall follow their destruction. It may be seen before our eyes, that it has come to pass just as St. Peter first declared. There has been not a father or mother who has not wished to have a priest, monk, or nun, from among their children. Thus one fool has made another; for when people have seen the misfortune and misery that arc found in the marriage state, and have not known that it is a safe estate, they have wished to do the best for their children, to help them to a happy life and freedom from wretchedness. So that St. Peter has foretold here nothing else but just that the world should become full of priests, monks, and nuns. Thus youth, and the best that are in the world, have run with the multitude to the devil. St. Peter says it, alas! only too truly, that many should follow them to this destruction.

By whom the way of truth shall he blasphemed. This, too, is a thing that may be seen before our eyes. To blaspheme is to libel, damn, and curse; as when one condemns the Christian estate as error and heresy. If one now should preach and say that their course is against the Gospel, because they lead men away from faith to works, then they go about and cry, “Thou art cursed, thou leadest the world astray.” And they blaspheme even yet more, in perverting what Christ has said, and saying no! to it. As when they, out of that which Christ has bidden, make nothing but a story, so that they forbid what Christ would have left free, and make that sin which He makes none, besides condemning and burning whoever preaches against it. The way of truth is a well-ordered life and walk, in which there is no fraud nor hypocrisy, such as that faith is in which all Christians walk. This they cannot bear; they blaspheme and condemn it, so as to praise and sustain their Order and sect.

V. 3. And through avarice with feigned words shall they make merchandise of you. This is specially the way of all false teachers, that they preach from avarice, that they may fill their belly, just as we see that not one of them has held a mass or vigil gratis. So, too, there is never a cloister or monastery built, whereto there must not fall a full measure of tribute. So, too, there is not a cloister in the world that serves the world for God’s sake. It is all of it done merely for gold. But if any one really preaches faith, that does not bring in much gold; for then, all pilgrimages, indulgences, cloisters, and monasteries, to which more than half the wealth of the world has been devoted and given, must cease; whereof none has any use but the priests and monks only.

But how do they act to get the gold into their own hands? With feigned words, says Peter, shall they make merchandise of you. For they have selected the word by which they make money of the people, for this very purpose, as when they say, ” If you give the dear Virgin, or this or that saint so many hundred florins, you do a most excellent good work, and merit so much indulgence and forgiving of sin, and ransom as many souls from purgatory.

This and the like are just carefully feigned words, to the end that they may shave us of our gold; for in all this there is really no desert, nor grace, nor blotting out of sin. Still they explain the noble words of Scripture all of them in such a way, that they may traffic with them for gold. So, also, there has come of the holy, gracious Sacrament, nothing else but a traffic, for they do nothing with it but smear the people’s mouth, and scrape their gold from them. Observe, then, whether St. Peter has not drawn and painted our clergy to the life.

Whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not and their damnation slumbereth not. They shall not drive this on at length, nor carry it out, (he would say); for when they urge it most strongly, their sentence and condemnation shall fall upon them. Even now it goes forth; they shall not escape it,—as St. Paul also says, II Tim. iii: ” Their folly shall be revealed to all, so that they shall be put to shame;” God grant that they may be converted and come out from their dangerous state, when they hear and understand it, for though there are some who have not been seduced into this state, yet is it in itself nothing but a mere pernicious sect.

Thus St. Peter has attempted to describe the shameful, godless life that should succeed to the genuine doctrines of the Gospel, which the Apostles preached. Now he goes further, and sets before us three terrible examples—of the angels, of the whole world, and of Sodom, how God condemned them,—and speaks thus:

V. 4. For if God spared not the angels that sinned but has thrust them down to hell in chains of darkness, and given them over to be reserved for judgment. By these words St. Peter terrifies those who live so gay and secure as we see those do who cleave to that which the Pope has enacted, in that they are so confident and shameless that they would tread every one under foot. Therefore he would say this much: Is it not great presumption on their part that they go on so eagerly, and would bring every thing to pass by their own head, as though God should yield to them, and spare them, who yet spared not the angels? As though he had said, these examples should justly terrify even the saints, when they see such a severe sentence in that God has not spared those high spirits and noble beings who are far more learned and wise than we, but has thrust them into chains of darkness;—such is the severe sentence and condemnation whereto He has ordained them, in which they are held bound and imprisoned, so that they cannot flee away out of the hands of God, since they have been cast into outer darkness, as Christ says in the Gospel.

And here St. Peter shows that the devils have not yet their final punishment, but still go about in a hardened, desperate state, and look every moment for their judgment, just as a man that is condemned to death is perfectly desperate, hardened, and more and more wicked. But their punishment has not yet overtaken them, but they are now only bound and reserved for it. This is the first example.—Now follows the second:

V. 5. And spared not the old world, but saved Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, and brought the flood upon the world of the ungodly. This is, moreover, a fearful example, such indeed that there is not a more bitter one in the Scripture. One might almost despair in view of it, who was even strong in faith. For when such language and such a sentence go to a man’s heart, and he thinks of it, that so he too ought to die, he must tremble and despond, if he is not well prepared, since among so many in the whole world, no one but these eight only were saved. But how have they deserved it, that God by such a severe sentence should have drowned all, one with another, in one mass, husband and wife, master and servant, young and old, beast and bird? Because they led such a wicked life. Noah was a pious man and a preacher of righteousness, and had already lived five hundred years, before the flood, when God commanded him to build an ark,—on which he wrought a hundred years thereafter; and he led throughout a uniformly godly life. Whence you may judge what a cross he had to bear, and in what care and anxiety the pious man stood, when he must needs show, by words and works, that he was a Christian. For it cannot be allowed that faith should conceal itself, and not break out before men by words and well-doing. So this man, alone, perhaps, long before God bade him build the ark, exercised the preacher’s office, and spread the word of God not in one place, but, beyond doubt, through many lands. So that he must thus have suffered much and great persecution even, inasmuch as he is specially (as Peter says) sustained and kept by God, or he would soon have been overwhelmed and slain; for he must thus needs bear upon himself much envy and hate, and make even many high, wise and holy people his enemies. Had the matter not been helped, then the world would have despised the word of God, and been ever growing more wicked. When they had now driven on their wickedness to great length, God said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with men, since they are flesh; yet will I give them the term of an hundred and twenty years.” Besides, “I will destroy from the earth the men whom I have created, from man even to the reptile, (I will destroy them).” These words he preached and enforced daily, and began to build the ark as had been commanded him; and he labors on it a hundred years. But the people laughed at him, and were only so much the more obstinate and foolish. But what the sin was for which God destroyed the world, the text of Gen. vi. tells us, that the children of God,—that is, those who came of holy parents, and were instructed and brought up in the faith and in the knowledge of God, sought after the daughters of men, since they were fair, and took for their wives whom they would. Thereafter they came from this to be powerful tyrants, who did everything that they chose after their own caprice; wherefore God punished the world and destroyed it by the flood.

And reduced the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes, overthrowing and condemning them. This is the third example drawn from the destruction of those five cities, Gen. xix. Whereof also the prophet Ezekiel speaks, in chap, xvi., addressing the city of Jerusalem: “this was the sin of Sodom thy sister,—pride, fullness of bread, luxury and idleness, and that to the poor they did not reach out the hand, and have lifted themselves up, and have wrought such shameful cruelty before me that I have even destroyed them.” For Sodom was a land, like the garden of the Lord, as Moses says, and a rich mine of costly oil and wine and all things, so that every one would think, here dwells God. For this they were secure, and led such a shameful life as Moses has written of. Such sin breaks out only where there is an assurance that they have enough to eat and drink and to spare, and idleness is joined therewith; just as we still see, the richer cities are the more shamefully do men live in them; but where there is hunger and cumber there the sins are so much the fewer. Therefore God permits, in regard to those that are His, that their education should be severe, that they may remain pure.

These are the three fearful examples whereby St. Peter threatens those that are godless. And as he insists upon it so, we must hold that this is its import. And it is spoken especially of the spiritual order—pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, monks and nuns, and all who hang upon them. These are, as it were, angels in the Apostles’ stead, appointed to this very end, that they should preach and make known God’s word; for an angel is a messenger, or one sent, who discharges his message by word of mouth, for which reason preachers are called in Scripture angels,—that is, messengers of God. Such angels should our clergy be. But as these angels of old fell off from God, and set themselves above God, and wished to be their own masters, so these do also, and have nothing but just the name of messengers, as those have the name alone of angels. So these also, as they have gone off from God, shall be held in chains of darkness and reserved to condemnation; as he has said above, that their sentence does not linger, nor their damnation slumber, although punishment has not as yet overtaken them.

Beside, they are like that former world, who, although they heard the prophets and the word of God, yet blasphemed and reviled them; and as Moses writes, took to themselves wives according to their pleasure, whomsoever they would, and became great and powerful tyrants. Observe, then, whether all that which Moses wrote of those is not now taking place. These are the great scamps that live in revelry, oppress the world by their tyranny, and no one must ask of them why they play the fool. Whomsoever they will they take for wife or daughter, in spite of any one’s complaining; for if any one finds fault with it they are themselves judges, and there is no one who can win their cause of them. Therefore whatever they can devise to bring into their hands by oppression or fines, that also they execute. And if any one should seize upon it, they then say, “it is the spiritual possession of the churches; it is exempt, and no one must lay hands on it.” And as to those who preach God’s word, they punish them to the taking away their life, and declare God’s sentence on those that laugh at them; they will not hear the word, and they persecute the very preachers of righteousness, and, remaining great and mighty lords, would retain their title, so that they may be called spiritual, like those that are God’s children, yet rule with full power in all obstinacy; but they must at last be subdued and destroyed. But the others who preach God’s word shall be kept and sustained.

Thirdly: as the land where the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were was a mine of fat, and all had enough of what the earth could bear, thereby the people became indolent, glutted themselves ‘with food and drink, and to none of the poor did they reach out the hand. Such is the case also with our Spiritual Estate, who possess generally the best land, the best castles and cities, and the greatest rents and tribute, while they have enough also to eat and drink. Besides, there is not a more indolent class of people on earth, that lives without anything of care or labor, and is fed by the sweat of the poor. But what indolence brings along we may see before our eyes. The Pope forbids them to take a married wife, so that if they then keep their concubines and have children they must give gold to the bishop for every child, whereby they will smooth the thing over and cancel the sin. I will not here speak of other secret sins which one dare not lightly stir up.

Finally, you here see that St. Peter accounts of the Spiritual Estate no otherwise than as of Sodom and Gomorrah, for they are all people as no one can be benefited by who. lend none a helping hand, but seize to themselves all they can, under the pretense, which they put forth, that what is given to them is given to God, and they let no one be helped though he suffer want. Wherefore just as those were overthrown and turned to ashes, so shall these also be destroyed at the last day.

V. 7. And rescued righteous Lot who was troubled greatly by the libertine course of the wicked. Was it not a great aggravation that they not only rushed publicly and shamelessly into whoredom and adultery, but into such sins as may not be mentioned.—insomuch that they did not even spare the angels who came to Lot, and they rushed on thus in their course, both young and old, in all the corners of the city! Against this, righteous Lot had daily preached and warned them, but all in vain, except that he is vexed by them, since he must stand still yet cannot smooth over the evil, just as is the case with us now, for there is no more hope to reform or help this grieyous course of life that the world leads.

V. 8. For while that righteous man dwelt among them, since he must see and hear it all, they vexed his righteous soul from day to day, by their ungodly deeds. Here Peter describes the cross which this holy man must have borne, while he preached to the people and brought up his daughters in faith; and so it is accounted toward him by God. Now St. Peter decides how the godless shall be kept for punishment at the last day.

V. 9, 10. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, but to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished, but especially those that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness. This is certainly deep passion and earnestness in the Apostle. If God spared not (says he) the young new world, how much more severely and fearfully will he now punish those to whom the Gospel has been revealed and preached, and before which no such great light has arisen; as Christ also declares. Matt, xi., “Woe to thee, Capernaum, who art exalted even to heaven! thou shalt be thrust down to hell; for if the deeds that have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it had been standing at this day; for I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom in that day than for you.” But such threatening is in vain. The godless do not turn themselves for it.

To live in the lust of uncleanness is to live just like an unreasoning beast—according to mere sense and every kind of lust. So everything is ordered by the Pope, ordered as it has pleased him, and all must subserve their willfulness and tyranny; and they have warped and explained all just as it has pleased them, and thereupon said, “the holy See at Rome cannot err,” while there is not one who has preached anything of faith or love; but they have taught nothing except what they have themselves imagined.

V. 10, 11. And those who despise governments, presumptuous, self-conceited, tremble not to revile dignities, whereas the angels, who are greater in power and might, bring not a railing accusation against them before the Lord. He calls kings, princes and lords, and all civil magistracy, governments; and not the Pope and bishops, for these are not to be lords at all; since Christ, in the New Testament, is represented only as a servant—so that one Christian is to serve another, and hold him in honor. Wherefore this is St. Peter’s meaning: that they should be subject and obedient to civil magistracy; as the sword is introduced by God’s ordinance, stand thou in fear. Yet they do the very reverse of this. They have excepted themselves, and say they are not subject to the civil magistracy; yea, they have not only excepted themselves, but have even subjected those to themselves, and trampled on them with their feet, and permit themselves shamelessly to be called lords, even by kings and princes, just as the Pope writes of himself that he is a lord of heaven and earth, and has in his hand both the civil and spiritual sword, and that every one must fall at his feet.

Besides, St. Peter says that they do not tremble to blaspheme dignities; for it has become to the Pope a small and slight thing to put kings and princes under ban, to curse them, and depose them, and moreover excite mischief among them, and stir them up one against another. And as to those who have opposed themselves, these he has quickly overthrown and trodden on, not because they have done anything against faith or love, but only because they have not been willing to be subject to the Romish See, or kiss the Pope’s foot, because, forsooth, his power was as much greater than that of secular princes as the sun is than the moon, or as the heaven is high above the earth; so they lyingly blasphemed, while yet they are bound to be subject and obedient to them, and should bless them and pray for them, as Christ our Lord subjected Himself to Pilate, and gave to the Emperor the penny tribute. They ought, therefore, to tremble at reviling against dignities; yet are they unaffrighted and presumptuous in regard to it, and they revile with all zeal and recklessness, while yet if even the strongest angels cannot endure judgment against themselves from the Lord, and besides are struck dumb from cursing and reviling the very One from whom they cannot escape, how then will these wretched people endure it?

V. 12, 13. But these are like unreasoning brutes, that are born, in accordance with their nature, to be taken and destroyed; they speak evil of that which they do not know, and in their own ruin shall they perish and receive therefrom the reward of their unrighteousness. Unreasonable brutes, Peter calls them, as though they had within them not a spark of anything that smacked of spirit, performed no spiritual duty that they should do, but lived like the fool, and became effeminate through a carnal life. But in that he says they are naturally born to be taken and destroyed, it may be understood in a two-fold manner: first, as of those that take and destroy, such as the wolf, lion, bear, the sparrow-haw-k and eagle,—so these grasp to themselves, and tear away from others all they can, goods and honor. Secondly, of those that shall be taken, crushed and destroyed at the judgment of the last day.

They count temporal enjoyment as the fullness of pleasure. See how indignant St. Peter is! I must not chide the young gentlemen so grieyously. They think if they only live well, and have good times, then they have enough of all things, and are right well off; this one can easily trace in their spiritual claim, when they say that whoever touches them as to their property or their belly, is of the devil They themselves cannot deny this, that their whole system is framed to this end, that they may have lazy and idle times, and all that can suffice them. They will lade themselves with no trouble or labor, but every one must make and devote enough for them. They must go to the choir and pray. God has commanded all men that they should eat their bread by the sweat of their brow, and He has imposed trial and anxiety upon all. Meanwhile, these young masters would slip their heads out of this noose, and busy themselves with kisses. But this is the greatest blindness, that they are so dumb, and therefore hold that such a shameful life is right and lovely.

Spots are they and blemishes. They know not but that they adorn Christianity, as the sun and moon do heaven, and are the noblest and most precious jewels, like gold and precious stones; yet St. Peter calls them spots of shame and blemishes. The true Christian life develops from faith, serves every one in love, bears the holy cross, which is the true badge, ornament, jewel and honor of the Christian Church;—but these have, in place of the cross, lust and luxury; instead of love to their neighbor, they seek their own interest, snatch all to themselves, and let nothing go from themselves to another for his advantage. Thus they know of faith just nothing at all. For they are nothing but the spots and stains which Christianity must have as its shame and derision. That is chiding enough, certainly, for our spiritual lords.

They lead an effeminate life through your charity, feast richly on your goods. What was given at first out of Christian love, to procure a common fund for widows and worthy persons, and also for the poor, so that no one among the Christians need suffer want or beg,—property of this kind is now all devoted to monasteries and cloisters, from which our ecclesiastics fill their bellies, living upon it most luxuriously, and revelling in it; and to this end they say it belongs to them, and no one shall restrain them for it. The Holy Spirit will not permit that the servants of the church should lead an effeminate life from other people’s labor; but to the laboring class, and to man, woman and child generally, was it properly devoted of old.

V. 14. They have eyes full of adultery. Such must always follow when the body is crammed with food and drink, and loiters indolent, as was said above. Wherefore does St. Peter say,—not, they are adulterers,—but, they have eyes full of adultery? It is as much as though he should say, They think ever on nothing but fornication, and can never restrain their roguery, nor be satisfied and quiet. This is the cause of their continual gluttony and revel, so far as they can push it, and thus they are suffered to live at large and unpunished, just as they like,—as follows:

Their sin is not to he interfered with. The Pope has forbidden any prince or secular magistrate to punish ecclesiastics, and where they maintain their own authority he puts them under bann. But this matter is committed to the bishops; yet, since they are knaves themselves, they look through their fingers. Thus they have excepted themselves from subjection to civil government and the sword, so that no one shall dare to restrain them in their caprice, and they all live according to their own lusts, like those of old before the deluge.

They allure to themselves light-minded souls. With such great show as they exhibit in their knavish life, as going through with mass, begging, singing, &c., do they allure and draw light-minded and unstable souls, who are without faith, to imagine that everything is spiritual; and all is shaped to this end, that men may think that in that estate every one shall have enough, and good times besides, and, moreover, that he shall reach heaven; and yet it is all done only to this end, that they may fill their bellies and their dirt-bag.

They have a heart penetrated with covetousness. This vice is so gross and open among the ecclesiastics, that even the common people have complained of it. Yet he says not, they are covetous, but, they have a heart penetrated with covetousness, and especially exercised therein. This may be seen in the fact that they have invented so many swindling and cunning stories that it is impossible to count them, by which they bring all the world’s wealth to themselves.

All that this class practices and pursues is simple, pure covetousness, and must all be worth money enough. They show it also most plainly of all, as they are equipped and prepared on all sides to call on men for their gold; so that St. Peter was certainly not a liar.

They are children of cursing. That is, in the Hebrew, as much as to say, they are cursed children, subject to the curse of God, so that before God they have no favor or salvation, and only become more wicked from day to day, and continually, also, greater blasphemers of God; so that they surely lade themselves full enough with the wrath and terrible judgment of God. That is surely spoken severely and fearfully enough; while it is high time that whoever can flee and run, should flee and run forth from this cursed state. Should we bear such a title, that is certainly pitiful; but if the High Majesty also arraigns, curses, and condemns,—who will endure it?

V. 15. They have forsaken the right way, and gone in error. They should have taught the right way,—how we must cleave to Christ, and come to God by faith, and through love to our neighbor; and thereafter bear the holy cross, and endure whatever meets us therefor. But they preach no more than this, “go hither and thither,—be monk and priest,—found churches, masses, &., &c.;” and they lead away the people from faith to their own works, which yet are such as are of no use to their neighbor.

V. 15, 16. And have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the reward of unrighteousness, but had a rebuke for his transgression, the dumb beast of burden speaking with man’s voice and reproving the folly of the prophet. Here he brings in an illustration from the fourth book of Moses, xxii.—xxiv. When the children of Israel had journeyed out of Egypt and had come into the land of the Moabites, king Balak sent to a prophet in Syria, by the name of Balaam, and besought him that he would come and curse the Jewish people, that they might become weak and that he might slay them. Then God appeared to Balaam, and forbade him to curse the people; therefore the prophet declines to comply with Balak. Thereupon the king sent to him once more, and promised to give him large wealth. Then God permits him to go to him, yet he shall say nothing but what He shall direct him to say.

Upon this, he rose up and mounted upon an ass. The angel of God came and walked in the way, and stood before him with a drawn sword. The ass saw it, and turned aside out of the way, at which the prophet struck her, that she should go in the way. Then the angel went to a narrow place where the ass could not turn aside, and when she presses herself against the wall and bruises the prophet’s foot, she is forced to fall under him upon her knee, while he is angered so as in his rage to strike the ass with his staff. Then God opens the mouth of the beast to speak with the voice of a man, and she said, “What have I done to you that you should strike me so?” And he said, “Ah! if I had now a sword in my hand, I would slay you.” Then the ass answered and said, “Am I yet the ass upon which thou hast ridden continually even to this day, and have I done it for no more than this?” Then were the eyes of the prophet opened, so that he saw the angel with the drawn sword, at which he was affrighted and would have turned back; but the angel of the Lord bade him go on, but thereupon forbade him to speak anything else than what He should say to him.

When now the prophet was come to the king, he takes him up to a height from which he could see the whole people of Israel. Then the prophet bade him erect seven altars, and on each offer a sacrifice; and then went aside and asked the Lord what he should say. And God gave him his word in his mouth. And he rose up to bless and glorify the people of Israel with fair words; and this he did three times, one after another. Then was the king filled with wrath, and said, “Did I not call thee that thou shouldst curse mine enemies? and yet thou hast blest them now these three times. I had thought that I should have honored thee, but the Lord hath turned thee away from honor.” Balaam answered and said, “Yet I told thee at first, that though thou shouldst give me thine house full of silver and gold, still I could speak nothing else but what God should say to me.”

Yet did the prophet afterward give the king counsel how he should manage with the people, although he might not curse them and overcome them by power,—so that they sinned against God. Then the king sets up an idol, by name Baal-Peor, and causes that the Moabite women, daughters of lords and princes, should ensnare the people to themselves to sacrifice to their gods; and when they had brought them to themselves, they made supplication to the idol with meats and drinks, and committed sin with the women. Then was God angry, and commanded the chief of the people to be hung upon the gallows, and permitted four and twenty thousand men to be overcome in one day. Such was this prophet Balaam’s advice, for the sake of gold.

Of this St. Peter here speaks, and would say that our ecclesiastics are specially Balaam’s children and scholars; for just as he gave evil counsel to set up an idol so that the children of Israel should be brought to sin and provoke God that they should be slain, so have our bishops also set up an idol, in God’s name,—to wit, their human doctrine of their own works; and they let faith go, and they lure to themselves Christian souls whom they injure, and thereby provoke God to anger, so that he has punished the world with blindness and stupidity. For all this we may thank our spiritual masters.

Thus Peter compares especially these false teachers to the prophet Balaam, since they even, like Balaam, purely for the sake of gold, set up such idolatry and ruin souls.

Besides, he mentions his right name, for Bileaam or Balaam is he called in Hebrew, a swallower or swiller, like one who gapes his throat open, and swallows and deyours all. This shameful name must he bear, because he has brought so many people into sin, insomuch that they are destroyed and overcome.

Such Balaamites are our bishops and ecclesiastics, who are the throat of the devil, by which he draws so many souls to himself, and swallows them down. But the surname of this prophet is, the son of Bosor,—that is to say, flesh,—or, as Moses says, son of Beor, that is, of a fool. A fool is his father. So are these, also, blind, dull and foolish people, who must yet needs rule; such a people as the flesh bears, for the spirit makes men of another stamp. So God has given these in the Scripture their own name, and therein they are so painted to the life, that we may know in what account they are to be held.

Now the dumb beast of burden, the ass, signifies the people that lets itself be bridled and ridden, and goes as it is led, like the ass, who was forced and beaten cruelly when he went out of the way into the ditch, and must neither give place before the angel in the way so long as it could help, nor turn aside, and so must fall down. For in the same way have these seducers also urged on the people, until these last have become sensible that it is a thing not to be endured, and that they deal unfairly with them, and have wished to turn them aside from the way. But the harshness has been so gross whereby they have troubled the people, that at length God has opened our lips and given words into our mouths, so that even the children speak of it; whereby their folly is made plain, so that they must be ashamed. In this way we ought to meet them when they go about, and give out that it belongs not to the laity to read the Scripture, and therefore say, we must hear what the Councils determine. For then you may answer, Has not God spoken even by an ass? Be content with our knowing that ye, in times past, preached the word of God; but now ye have become fools, and are possessed by avarice, what wonder is it that now the common people have been roused and impelled by God to speak the truth, though it has been so burdened and oppressed like a dumb beast of burden. This is their likeness, taken from the prophet Balaam. Now St. Peter says further of these false teachers:

V. 17. They are wells without water, and clouds driven about by the whirlwind. In like manner Solomon presents us a comparison, in Prov. xxv., and says, “As when a great cloud and strong wind go forth, and yet no rain follows, so is a man who makes high boastings of himself, and does not make good his words.” So Peter says here, also, they are wells without water, and clouds driven about by the whirlwind; that is, they make great show, and have nothing beside. They are like the dry, false and exhausted wells, although they have the fame and title of being true wells. For Scripture calls those who teach, wells, as the ones from whom should flow that wholesome doctrine by which souls are to be quickened. To this office are they anointed and set apart. But what do they do? Nothing, as a general thing; for they have nothing else but just the bare name, just as they are called shepherds, and yet are wolves.

Besides, they are the clouds which the wind drives about—not like the thick, black and lowering clouds which are wont to give us rain, but like those fleecy ones which move about and fly in the air, and are very light, which the wind drives wherever it will, after which no rain can follow. So our teachers also sweep about and move high in Christendom, like the clouds in heaven, but let themselves be driven about wherever the devil chooses, to whom they are ready to yield in all kinds of lusts. But yet they preach not a word of God, like true teachers and preachers, who are called clouds in Scripture (as Is. v.),—as also by all that gives forth water, preachers are typified in Scripture.

For whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. They live now at their ease, and things go with them just as they themselves would have them. But there shall come an eternal darkness upon them, although they do not believe nor apprehend it.

V. 18. For they speak in swelling words, which have noteing back of them. If you ask how they may be called wells without water, and clouds without rain, while they yet preach throughout the whole world, St. Peter answers: they rain and preach, alas I altogether too much; but they are only vain, swollen and puffed-up words, by which they blow the poor people’s ears full, so that men think it is something fine; and yet it is nothing but show. Just as the monks, with high, bold words, set forth their obedience, poverty and chastity, so that men think they are a holy people, while yet it is nothing but mere trickery, and certainly no faith nor love can be found among it. Like this, also, is their pretense that the estate of bishops is a more perfect estate, while these yet do nothing else but ride about pompously on their fine horses, and now and then consecrate churches and altars, and baptise bells. Such puffed-up and swollen words are the whole spiritual law of the Pope, throughout.

And they allure through guile, to the lust of the flesh, those who had well-nigh escaped, and now they walk in error. This is what these wells and teachers do, so that they who were almost escaped must fall into the snare of wickedness, and for the first time be truly captured. A child that has been baptised, rescued from all sins, snatched from the devil and set out from Adam into Christ, when he conies to reason is soon entangled and led away into error. Men should be taught of faith, and love, and the holy cross, while our clergy go their own way, throw up their work whereby these persons fall back again into error, even though they had escaped it. But how does this come to pass? Thus: in that by guile they allure the people to the lust of the flesh. Their strongest persuasion is in their saying that priests, monks and nuns should not be married, and should bind themselves to maintain chastity, by which they do no more than allure to unchastity, forasmuch as the wretched people must perish in their wicked lusts, and there is nothing to help them.

But here you clearly see that Peter speaks of none other than teachers who bear rule in Christendom, where men are baptised and believers,—for among the Turks and heathen, no one has so escaped; it is only among Christians, where they have the chance to lead souls astray, and bring them into the snare of the devil.

V. 19. And they promise them freedom, while they themselves are the servants of corruption for of whom any one is overcome, his servant has he become. They set up Orders by which a man is to be saved,—as Thomas, the monk preacher, has shamelessly written, that when a man shall enter into one of these Orders, be it as vile as it may, it is as though he had but just come forth from his baptism; and then they promise him freedom and forgiving of sins by works of his own. Such blasphemy must we hear, while they set their human fancies and ludicrous conceits, destitute of faith, on a level with faith and baptism which God has established, and which are peculiarly his work. Who is to endure this and still keep silent? Such stories have the monks gotten up, and they cram them into the young; and such teachers as these men have set up for saints. But the other saints, truly such, they have burnt to ashes.

V. 20. For if they have escaped the pollution of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christy but shall he again entangled and overcome in the same their last end is worse for them than the first. There Peter shows why they are the servant of corruption. To confess Christ is to know what he is, even our Saviour, who forgives us our sins from pure grace. By this confession we escape the vice and come out from the pollution of the world. But though they should already have been delivered from sin in baptism, they shall afterwards be plunged therein, for that they have again gone from faith to their own works. For where there is no faith, the Spirit is absent; but where the Spirit is absent, there is nothing but flesh, so that there can be nothing at all that is pure. So has it come to pass hitherto in regard to Christianity. Rome first heard the pure Gospel, but afterward went back and fell away to human doctrines, until even upon herself all abominations have come up; so that her last end has become worse than her first, in that she is now far more hopeless in her heathenism than she ever was before she heard the word of God.

V. 21. For it had been far better for them that they had never known the way of righteousness than that they should know it, and turn themselves away from the holy command that has been given them. For it has happened to them according to the proverb The dog turns to his own vomit again, and the sow after her washing wallows in the mire. This proverb St. Peter has taken out of the book of Prov. xxvi., where Solomon says, “A man who repeats his folly is like the dog who turns again to his vomit.” By baptism they have thrown off unbelief, and have been washed from their polluted life, and have entered upon a pure life of faith and love, while they fall off from it again to unbelief and their own works, and defile themselves again in the dirt. So that we are not to make this proverb bear on works; for little is accomplished by one’s saying and directing at confession, “Thou shalt henceforth be chaste, meek, and patient,” &c. But if you will be pious, pray God that he will give you a real faith, and see to it that you forsake your unbelief. When you shall then have attained faith, good works shall afterwards take care of themselves, so that you will live purely and chastely, even though you should secure yourself by no other means; and though, again, you might awhile conceal the mischief in your heart, yet at last it comes out.

This is the second chapter of this Epistle, wherein Peter speaks specially of our teachers, how shamefully we have been treated by them. We have indeed had warning enough, but we have not minded it, so that the fault is ours that we have not laid hold on the Gospel, and that we have by our lives deserved such anger of God. We hear it generally, all of us, with gladness, when some one assaults and upbraids the Pope along with his priests and monks; but yet, no one will draw advantage to himself from it. It is not such a trifling matter of sport that one must laugh at it, but of such seriousness that the heart should fear and tremble on account of it. Therefore should we lay hold upon it with seriousness, and pray that God would turn away from us his anger and such plagues. For this calamity has not come upon us unforeseen, but it is sent upon us by God as a punishment,—as Paul says, II Thes. ii: “Since they have not received the love of the truth, that they might be saved, therefore shall God send upon them strong delusion so that they shall believe a lie,” &c., &c. For had the punishment gone but so far that the false teachers only were lost, it would have been yet a little thing against the fact that they have had the rule, and carried all the world with them to hell. Therefore, in regard to the evil, we are to take no counsel except to apprehend the matter in Godly fear and humility, confess our guilt, and pray God to turn away the punishment from us. By prayer must one contend against the false teachers, although the devil do not let him win.—Now follows, next:


V. 1, 2. This is the second Epistle which I write to you beloved in which I stir up your pure minds to remembrance that ye may think upon the word which was said to you before by the holy prophets and upon our command who are Apostles of the Lord and Saviour. Here St. Peter comes to us again, and warns us in this chapter to be prepared, and look every moment for the last day. And so he says in the first of it, that he has written this Epistle, not in order to lay down a ground of faith, which he had done before, but to awaken remind, arrest, and urge them not to forget the same, and to abide in the clear view and understanding which they have of a true Christian life. For it is the preacher’s office, as we have said often, not only to teach, but also continually to admonish and restrain. For since our flesh and blood ever clings to us, God’s word must be stronger in us, that we may not give room to the flesh, but strive against it, and gain the upper hand of it.

V. 3, 4. And know, first of all, that in the last days there shall come scoffers who walk after their own lusts and say, Where is the promise of his coming for since the fathers fell asleep, all things remain as from the beginning of creation. Yet are men swayed hither and thither by a book concerning Antichrist, wherein it is written that the people before the last day shall fall into such error that they shall say, there is no God, and shall scoff at all that is preached of Christ and the last day. That is true, whencesoever it has been taken. But we are not so to understand it as that the whole world shall say and hold such things, but the greater part. For that time is even now at hand, and shall prevail yet more when the Gospel shall come down among the people, when the proud ones shall lift themselves up, and the secrets of many hearts break forth, which are now hidden and unknown. There have even already been many who have altogether rejected the idea of the coming of the last day.

Of such scoffers St. Peter here warns us, and tells us of them beforehand, that they must come, and rush into this hazard and live as they list. At Rome and in Italy this word is now at length fulfilled, and they who come thence, bring such errors also forth with them; for just as they have a long time perplexed themselves therein, so, also, must they perplex the people by the same means. And even though the last day were now before the door, such people must come abroad. So shall be fulfilled that which Christ says, Mat. xxiv: “Just as it was in the time of Noah, so shall it also be at the coming of the Son of Man; for as they were in the days before the deluge, they ate, they drank, they married and were given in marriage, even to the. day when Noah entered into the ark, and they knew it not till the flood came and swallowed them all; so, also, shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” Also, “The Son of Man shall come at an hour when ye think not.” Also, Luke xxi: “This day shall come as a snare, upon all that dwell upon the earth.” And once more, Luke xvii: “As the lightning lightens over us from heaven, and shines upon all that is under the heaven, so shall the Son of Man be in His day,” that is, so quick and unforeseen and sudden shall He break in upon it, while the world shall be living above all, for itself first, and shall throw God’s word to the winds.

Therefore this shall be a sign of the last day that it is near, when the people shall live as they list, according to all their lusts, and such talk goes about among them as this: “Where is the promise of his coming? the world has stood so long and continued to abide, is it now for the first time to be otherwise?” Thus Peter warns us that we should not be surprised, and that we have a sure sign that the day will soon come.—It follows, further:

V. 5, 6. But this in their obstinacy they will not know, that the heavens of old, besides the earth standing out of the water and in the water, were (made) by God’s word, yet through the same, was the world in its time destroyed by the flood. Such people they are, he says, as show not so much diligence as to read the Scripture, but obstinately refuse to think and be aware that so also it was of old, when Noah built the ark; the world which stood and was made through the water and in the water, was destroyed by water, and the people were yet so safe and secure that they thought, surely there is no danger,—yet they were all alike destroyed by water. As though he should say,—if God has for once destroyed the world by water, and shown by an example that he can sink it, how much more will he do it now that he has promised to do it.

But here St. Peter speaks somewhat particularly of the creation. The heaven and the earth stood fast aforetime; they were made of water and stood in the water, by the word of God. Heaven and earth have a beginning; they have not been forever; the heaven was made from the water, and there was water above and beneath,-but the earth is made and stands in the water, as Moses writes, whom St. Peter here quotes. All is sustained by God’s word, as it also was made by the same, for it is not their nature so to stand. Therefore if God did not sustain it, it must all soon fall down and sink into the water. For God spoke a word of power when he said, “let the waters under the heavens gather themselves into a separate place, that the dry land may be seen;” that is, let the water put itself aside and give room for the earth to come forth, whereon man might dwell,—yet naturally the waters should spread themselves over the earth. Therefore this is, at the present day, one of the greatest miracles that God works.

Now St. Peter would say this: so obstinate and stupid are these scoffers, that they will not do honor to the Holy Spirit, though they read how God holds up the earth in the water, whence they should be convinced that all stands in the hands of God. Therefore, since God at that time drowned the earth, so he will deal with us even yet again. For that example should certainly convince us that, as in that very case he has not lied, so again he will not lie.

V. 7. But the heaven which yet is, and the earth, are by his word sustained that they be reserved for fire in the day of Judgment and condemnation of ungodly men. At that time, when God destroyed the world by a flood, the water pressed down from above, up from beneath and from all sides, so that nothing could be seen but water only: because the earth, as its nature was, must be swallowed up in the water. But now he has promised, and given the rainbow for a sign in heaven, that he will no more destroy the world by water. Therefore he will destroy it and let it perish by fire, so that here it shall be fire only, as there it was water only. Of which St. Paul, II Thes. i, says: “When now the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, together with the angels of his power, and with flaming fire,” etc. So I Cor. iii: “Every one’s work shall be revealed; the day of the Lord shall make it clear, which shall be revealed with fire.” So when the last day breaks and bursts in on the world, it will in a moment be fire only; what is in heaven and in earth shall be turned to dust and ashes, and all things must be changed by fire, as that change took place by water. This shall be a sign that God will not lie so long as He has left that for a sign.

V. 8. But of this one thing beloved be ye not ignorant; that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise as some men count slackness, but he is long-suffering toward you, and wills not that any one should perish, but that all should come to repentance; but the Day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, but the elements shall he melted with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall he burned up. With these words St. Peter meets those of whom he has just spoken, who say: ” The Apostles have said much about the Last Day coming quickly,—and yet so long a time is past, and still all continues as heretofore.” And he has quoted this passage from Moses, in the Ixxxix. Ps., where he says: “A thousand years are in thine eyes as yesterday, when it is past.” This is the scope of it.

There are two ways of viewing things,—one for God, the other for the world. So also this present life and that to come, are twofold. This life cannot be that, since none can reach that but by death,—that is, by ceasing from this life. This life is just to eat, drink, sleep, endure, bring up children, etc., in which all moves on successively, hours, day, year, one after another: if you wish now to apprehend that life, you must banish out of your mind the course of this present life; you must not think that you can so apprehend it, where it will all be one day, one hour, one moment.

Since then in God’s sight there is no reckoning of time, a thousand years must be before him, as it were, a day. Therefore the first man, Adam, is just as near to him as he who shall be last born before the last day. For God sees not time lengthwise but obliquely, just as when you look at right-angles to a long tree which lies before you, you can fix in your view both place and parts at once,—a thing you cannot do if you only look at it lengthwise. We can, by our reason, look at time only according to its duration; we must begin to count from Adam, one year after another, even to the last day. But before God it is all in one heap; what is long with us is short with him,—and again, here there is neither measure nor number. So when man dies, the body is buried and wastes away, lies in the earth and knows nothing; but when the first man rises up at the last day, he will think he has lain there scarcely an hour, while he will look about himself and become assured that so many people were born of him and have come after him, of whom he had no knowledge at all.

This, then, is St. Peter’s meaning: the Lord does not delay his promise as some scoffers let themselves imagine, but is long-suffering; therefore should ye be prepared for the last day,—for it will come soon enough to every one after his death, in that he will say, “lo! I have but just now died!” But it comes upon the world all too soon: when the people shall say, ” there is peace, no danger threatens,” it shall break forth and come upon them, as St. Paul says, I. Thess. v. And with so great a noise shall the day tear its way and burst forth like a great storm, that in a moment must all be wasted.

V. 11, 12. Since then all this must pass away how careful should ye he in all holy conduct and a Godly life that ye wait for and hasten to the coming of the day of the Lord. Since ye know this, that all must pass away, both heaven and earth,—think how ye shall be prepared to meet this day, by a holy and godly life and conversation. For Peter describes this day as one that is to come even now, so that men should be prepared for it, to hope for it with joy, and even hasten to run to meet it, as that which sets us free from death, sin and hell.

V. 12, 13. In which the heavens shall pass away by fire and the elements shall he melted with fervent heat; but we look for a new heaven and a new earth, according to his promise in which dwelleth righteousness. God has promised by the prophets, here and there, that he would create a new heaven and a new earth,—as in Is. Ixv., “Behold, I will create a new heaven and a new earth, wherein ye shall be happy, and shout and leap for joy.” So in XXX. “The appearance of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the splendor of the sun shall be seven times as bright, as though seven days were joined one into another;” and Christ says. Matt, xiii., “The righteous shall shine like the sun, in their Father’s kingdom.” How that is to pass away we cannot know, except that the promise is, that such a heaven and earth are to be, wherein no sin, but righteousness only, and the children of God shall dwell; as also St. Paul says, Rom. viii., there shall be pure love, pure joy, and nothing but God’s kingdom.”

Here some may disquiet themselves as to whether the saints shall have their station in heaven or on earth. The text seems to imply that man shall dwell upon the earth,—yet so that all heaven and earth shall be a paradise wherein God dwells, for God dwells not alone in heaven, but in all places, wherefore the elect shall be also even where He is.

V. 14. Therefore, my beloved since ye look for such things be diligent, that ye may he found of him without spot, and blameless, in peace. Since ye have escaped, he says, such misery, and come to so great joy, ye should suffer yourselves to be persuaded to despise willingly all that is upon the earth, and suffer cheerfully whatever duty requires. Therefore should ye be diligent, that ye may live a peaceful and blameless life.

V. 15. And the long-suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ account for your salvation. In that He so spares, and delays, and does not come to speedy judgment, take account of this as designed for your benefit. He had good reason to be angry and to punish, yet out of His grace He does it not.

V. 15, 16. As also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom that has been given unto him has written, as he also in all his letters speaks thereof, in which are some things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they also do other Scriptures, to their own destruction. There St. Peter bears testimony for the Apostle Paul in respect to his doctrine, which shows plainly enough that this Epistle was written long after St. Paul’s Epistles. And this is one of the passages which might be adduced to maintain that this Epistle is not St. Peter’s, as also there was one before this in this chapter—namely, where he says, “the Lord wills not that any should be lost, but that every one should give himself to repentance.” For it falls some little below the Apostolic spirit; still it is credible that it is none the less the Apostle’s, for since herein, he is writing not of faith but of love, he lets himself down somewhat, as the manner of love is, inasmuch as it humbles itself toward its neighbor, just as faith rises above itself.

But he has yet seen that many unstable spirits wrested and perverted St. Paul in his words and doctrines, inasmuch as some things in his Epistles are hard to be understood,—as when he speaks in this way, “that no one is justified by works, but by faith alone;” so, too, “the law is given to make sin more gross;” so, too, “where sin abounded, there grace much more abounds,” and more passages of the same sort. For when men hear such, then they say, if that is true, we will go on indolently, and do no good work, and so be righteous, as men even now say, that we forbid good works; for if one so perverts St. Paul’s own words, what wonder is it that they should, in like manner, pervert ours?

V. 17, 18. But ye, my beloved, since ye know this beforehand, beware for yourselves that ye be not led away by the error of the wicked likewise, and fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom be praise, now and forever. Amen. Since ye know, he says, all that has been said above, and see that many false teachers must come, who lead the world astray, and such scoffers as pervert the Scripture and will not understand

it, take care of yourselves; guard against them with diligence, that ye fall not from the faith by doctrines of error; and grow, so as to become stronger from day to day by the steadfast practice and preaching of the word of God. Here observe how great care the Apostle shows for those who have come to believe, which urged him even to write these two Epistles, wherein is richly comprehended what a Christian should know, besides also that which is yet to come. May God give his grace, that we also may seize hold upon and retain it. Amen.




V. 1, 2. Jude a servant of Jesus Christ, but a brother of James, to those that are called to be holy in God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, mercy unto you and peace and love be multiplied. This Epistle is ascribed to the holy Apostle, St. Jude, brother of the two Apostles, James the Less and Simon, by the sister of the mother of Christ, who is called Mary (wife) of James or Cleopas, as we read in Mark vi. But this Epistle cannot be looked upon as being that of one who was truly an Apostle, for the author speaks in it of the Apostles, as being much their junior. It has even nothing peculiar about it, except that it refers to the second Epistle of St. Peter, from which it has taken nearly all its words, and is scarcely anything else than an Epistle against our clergy, bishops, priests and monks.*

* It is well known that at an early period the book of Jude was reckoned among the antilegomena. This was mainly in consequence of its references to the Apocryphal books of Enoch and of the Ascension of Christ. Yet De Wette, than whom none would be more disposed to sift it thoroughly, says, no important objection to the genuineness of the Epistle can be made good; neither the use of the Apocryphal book of Enoch, nor the resemblance of v. 24 to Rom. xvi. 25, nor a style of writing which betrays a certain familiarity with the Greek tongue. The Epistle is less open to suspicion, as the author does not distinctly claim to be an Apostle, nor can a pretext for forgery be discovered.” Again, he says: – they who regard the Son of Alpheus and the brother of the Lord as one and the same person, are quite consistent in regarding our Jude likewise as an Apostle.” To this view De Wette himself does not accede, and thus agrees substantially with Luther.

V. 3. Beloved, since I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, I am necessitated to write to you, and admonish you, that ye should contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. That is as much as to say,—I am necessitated to write to you, so that I may remind and admonish you how ye should go forward and persevere in the faith which has already, before this, been once preached to you; or as though he should say, It is necessary that I should admonish you that ye be on your guard and remain in the right way; but as to why this is needed, he gives the reason, and says:

V. 4. For there are some men who have secretly come in, who were ordained of old to this condemnation. For this cause will I remind you that ye should abide in the faith which ye have heard, because there is even now a wavering, and already there have come preachers, who set up other doctrines besides faith, by which people are led away gently and unsuspectingly from the true way. So St. Peter also said, in his Epistle, ” there shall be false teachers among you, who shall secretly bring in destructive heresies, &c.” These, he says, ” are long ago appointed to such a sentence of condemnation.” This we now well understand, since we know that no one is righteous and justified by works of his own, but only through faith in Christ, insomuch that he must rely on the work of Christ as his chief good. Then where there is faith, whatever is done as works is all done for the good of our neighbor, and thus we guard ourselves against all works which are not performed with the intent that they shall be of service to our neighbor, as is now the estate of priests and monks. Therefore wherever any one now secretly introduces anything else than this doctrine of faith, in regard to such orders and works, he leads the people astray, so that they shall be condemned along with him.

Who are godless, and turn the grace of God into wantonness. That Gospel which is given us concerning the grace of God, and which sets Christ before us, as he is offered to and bestowed upon us, with all that he has, that we may be freed from sin, death and all evil, such grace and blessing offered to us by the Gospel, they use merely to indulge their wantonness,—that is, they call themselves Christians, indeed, and praise the Gospel, but they bring in such an order, as therein to work their own caprice, in eating and drinking and wanton life, while they make their boast and say we are not in a secular but a spiritual estate, and under such names and pretense they have grasped all enjoyment, honor and pleasure. This, already, says Jude, begins. For we read that it had already begun a thousand years ago; that the bishops then wished to be Lords and to be more highly exalted than common Christians, as we also see in St. Jerome’s Epistles.

And they deny God, that he alone is Lord, and our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what St. Peter said also in his Epistle; but this they deny (as we have heard). It is not done by their mouth, for with this they confess that God is one Lord, but they deny that Christ is Lord in fact, and by their works; they hold, not Him, but themselves as their Lord,—for while they preach that fasts, pilgrimages, church ordinances, chastity, obedience, poverty, etc., are the way to salvation, they lead the people astray to their own works, and yet are silent about Christ; and it is just as much as if they said, Christ is of no avail to you. His works noway help you, but you must by your own works merit salvation. Thus they deny the Lord who has bought us with his blood, as Peter says.

V. 5, 6, 7. I will therefore remind you that ye once knew this, that the Lord, when he saved the people out of Egypt, afterward destroyed those that believed not. Also, the angels, who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he has reserved to the judgment of the great day, in everlasting chains, under darkness. As also Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities lying about them, which in like manner as these, rioted in fornication, and went after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, and bear the pain of eternal fire. Here he adduces, also, three examples, as St. Peter does in his Epistle; but the first which he presents is to this effect: that God permitted the children of Israel whom he had brought out of Egypt by many wonderful works, when they did not believe, to be overthrown and defeated, so that of them all not more than two survived, when there were numbered, of all that went forth from twenty years of age and above, more than six hundred thousand men. This example he sets forth as a warning and a terror; as though he should say, those who are now called Christians, and under this name turn the grace of God into wantonness, are to beware to themselves that it do not come to pass with them as it came to pass with those. And true enough, these are the times when the Popedom is exalted and the Gospel kept secret through the whole world; when, too, there comes continually one plague after another, by which God has punished the unbelieving and thrown them into the throat of the Devil.

V. 8. Like them also are these dreamers, who defile the flesh. These teachers he calls dreamers; for just as when a man lies in a dream he deals with images, and thinks he has something real, but when he wakes up it is nothing at all,—but he sees then that it was a dream, and counts it of no importance,—so, too, what these say is nothing else than a mere dream; for when once their eyes shall be opened, they shall see that it is nothing at all. As when they go about pretending that their tonsure and cowl, obedience, poverty and chastity are well-pleasing to God, they have this before their eyes; yet, in God’s sight it is nothing but a mere dream. So he has given them a truly fitting name, inasmuch as they deal with dreams, by which they cheat themselves and the world.

But especially do the Apostles ascribe to the clerical order the vice of leading an unchaste life; and God long ago foretold that they should have no wives. Now it is scarcely possible that God should work as many miracles as there are persons in the order, so that it cannot be that they are chaste. So, likewise, has the prophet Daniel spoken, chap, xi., of the Pope’s rule: ”He shall not regard women (in marriage).” This is the external characteristic, as the inward is that they are dreamers.

Who despise governments and speak evil of dignities. Their third characteristic is, that they will not be subject to civil authority. Yet we have been taught, while we live on earth, that we are all under obligation; that we are to be subject and obedient to the sovereignty; for the Christian faith does not do away with civil rule,—therefore no one can except himself from it, because the Pope’s decree concerning the Church’s freedom is a mere devil’s law.

V. 9. But Michael the archangel, when he contended with the devil, and disputed about the body of Moses, durst not let drop against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. This is one of the reasons why this Epistle was formerly rejected, because here an example is adduced which is not found in Scripture, to the effect that the angel Michael and the devil contended with one another about the body of Moses. But this should have been found there, since so much is written about Moses in the last of Deuteronomy, of God’s burial of him, and yet no one knew his grave. Besides, Scripture testifies in regard to him, that no other prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, &c. But it has been said, in reference to the same text also, that his body was left concealed, so that the Jews might not regard it with idolatrous veneration, and for this reason the angel Michael must needs oppose the devil, who wished that the body should be discovered, that the Jews might pray to it; and although Michael was an archangel (says Jude), yet was he not so bold as to curse even the devil,—and yet these scoffers trample underfoot the authority that has been ordained of God; they curse in seven, eight and nine ways, though they are men merely; while this archangel dared not curse the worst devil that was ever condemned, but said no more than, the Lord restrain and punish thee.

V. 10. But these scoff at what they know nothing of, for what they know naturally as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Such scoffers are they, that they can do nothing else but anathematize and curse, and give over to the devil for his own not only kings and dignities, but God also and the saints, as may be seen in the bull, Cæna Domini. They know not that our salvation stands on the foundation of faith and love; they cannot endure that their works should be rejected and condemned, and that it should be preached that Christ alone must help us by His works. Therefore they curse and scoff at all Christian doctrine which they are ignorant of. But what they know, through natural perception,—as the founding of masses and the like,—will bring in gold and treasures; to this they devote themselves with energy, and thereby corrupt themselves and every one else.

Woe unto them, for they have gone in the way of Cain. Cain struck his brother dead, simply because he was more pious than himself. For his brother’s offering was acceptable before God, but his own was not. So now the way of Cain is, to rely on one’s own works, and scoff at those works which are good and true, and circumvent and slay those who go in the right way, just as these very ones also are doing.

And have hurried for reward into the error of Balaam. They should be fixed inwardly in the hope of Divine grace; yet they go forth and put their trust in various outward works, of this kind and that, and they do them only for the sake of gold, that they may fill their bellies, like the prophet Balaam, as we have heard in Peter’s Epistle.

And perished in the rebellion of Korah. Of the rebellion of Korah, and how he was destroyed, with his house, we have an account in the fourth book of Moses, ch xvi. Moses was summoned and called for this purpose, that he should lead the people out of Egypt; and his brother Aaron likewise was appointed of God as High Priest. Now Korah was also of the same tribe, and their friendship should have been enduring, and something more than common; yet he attaches to himself two hundred and fifty men of the foremost and most distinguished among the people, and excites such a commotion and tumult, that Moses and Aaron are forced to flee. And Moses fell upon his face, and prayed that God might not accept their sacrifice; and he bade the congregation of the people draw back from them, and said to them: “Hereby shall ye surely know if the Lord hath sent me; if these men die and disappear as all men disappear, then the Lord hath not sent me; but if the Lord shall do some new thing, so that the earth shall open her mouth and swallow them up, and they go down alive into hell, then shall ye know that these men have reviled the Lord.” When he had spoken these words, the earth quaked and opened, and swallowed up Korah, together with the other leaders of the rebellion, with all that they had, so that they went down alive into hell; and the fire consumed the other two hundred and fifty men who had joined themselves to him.

This example Jude sets forth for these scoffers who blame us for making a commotion, while we preach against them, for they are the real ones who make all the trouble. For Christ is our Aaron and chief-priest, whom we should allow to rule alone; but this the Pope and bishops have been unwilling to endure. They have set themselves up, and have wished to have the power to rule along with the authority, and so have arrayed themselves against Christ; but God has punished them, in that the earth has swallowed them up and covered them, since they are absorbed and swallowed up in an earthly life and pleasure, and are nothing but pure worldliness.

V. 12, 13. These live on your charities and are vileness itself, while they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear; clouds they are without water, driven about by the wind; barren, fruitless trees, twice dead and plucked up by the roots; wild waves of the sea, which foam out their own shame; wandering stars, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Of this we have heard enough in St. Peter’s Epistle. All the world have brought up their children to be ecclesiastics, and to have an easy life of it, and not to support themselves by their own hands and labor; nor must they even preach, but only live without care in their luxury, and keep up good spirits by feeding on the wealth that poor people earn by their sweat. So men think they must be the best part, and the jewel, as it were, of Christendom, while they are merely shame-spots and an abomination, and live well, as we say, on the wealth that belongs to them as priests. They are without care or fear; they think the devil may not overthrow them; they feed not the sheep, but are themselves the wolves that deyour the sheep; they are clouds that hang over us in the air, sit up high in the churches, as those that should preach, and yet they do not preach at all, but let themselves be driven by the devil this way and the other.

So, too, he says, they are leafless, fruitless trees, like the trees of autumn; they have neither fruit nor leaf; they stand there only like other trees; let themselves be looked upon as Christian bishops, but there is with them neither word nor work, but all is dead to the root. Moreover, they are like wild waves of the sea; that is, as the wind tosses and throws up waves and billows upon the water, so these, too, go just as the devil leads them. And they foam out their own shame; like a heated pot, they are so full of pollution that they run over, and cannot retain command of themselves, but all must out. They are wandering stars, planets as they are called, that go backward, and not in a steady, straight course, so that they make no true progress; their life and doctrine is mere error, in which they lead themselves astray, and all that follow after them. Therefore for them is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

Thus Jude has appraised and painted our spiritual masters, who, under the name of Christ and Christianity, introduce all sorts of profligacy, and snatch to themselves all the wealth of the world, and authoritatively subject all men to themselves.

There follows now, further:

V. 14. Enoch, also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of such, and said. Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment upon all. This language of Enoch is nowhere to be found in Scripture. For this reason some of the Fathers did not receive this Epistle, although there is not a sufficient reason for rejecting a book on this account. For St. Paul, also, in II Tim. iii., makes mention of two that opposed Moses, Jannes and Jambres, names that are not even to be found in the Scriptures. But be this as it will, we let it pass. Still this is true, that God, from the beginning of the world, has left it to some to make His word known (the word that promises His favor and salvation to believers, but threatens the unbelieving with judgment and condemnation), even till Christ’s coming down from heaven, when it is openly preached to the whole world. But before the birth of Christ God took to Himself for this purpose only a single line, from Adam to Abraham, and thence to David, down to Mary the mother of Christ, who possessed His word. Thus the Gospel has always been preached in the world, but never so generally as now in these last times.

Thus, also, this father, Enoch, insisted on that word of God which he received from his father, Adam, and which he had of the Holy Spirit. For the Scripture says also of him, Gen. v., that he led a godly life, and therefore he was taken of God, so that he was seen no more. Hence, also, has been derived the notion that He will come again before the last day; but it is not to be supposed that men would understand it of a spiritual advent, as that his preaching was based upon the last day, as this passage is, wherein that day is spoken of with as much assurance as though it were in full view. The Lord is corning already, he says, with many thousand saints; that is, with such a multitude as cannot be numbered. For this can only be said of the last day, on which He will come with all His saints, to execute judgment. For before this, He has not come with many thousand saints, but alone, into the world; and this, not to judge, but to bestow grace.

V. 15. And to punish all the ungodly among them for all their godless life wherein they have been ungodly. This passage Jude does not inappropriately quote, inasmuch as he is speaking of false teachers, who are to come before the last day; and the conclusion is thence to be drawn, that the Lord by his coming will overthrow the Pope and his government; since there is no other help for it; for as long as the world stands, there will be no (voluntary) ending or reformation of it. The passage, moreover, cannot be understood of any others, but of our clergy, who have shamefully led all the world astray. Their system cannot be worse, and even though it were worse, it must yet hold on to the name of Christ, and under the same introduce all kinds of mischiefs. Thus he refers this passage to the last judgment, and names those who shall suffer judgment. Whence we infer what our young clerical gentlemen shall expect at the last day, be the time long or short.

And for all the hard speeches which Godless sinners have uttered against Him. There he at once strikes upon their life and preaching, and would say this much:— They speak fiercely and harshly against the Lord who is to come; they are shameless and proud; they deride and revile him, as St. Peter has said. He speaks not of their sinful, shameful life, but of their godless state. But the godless is he who lives without faith, although he leads a passable life outwardly. Outwardly wicked works are indeed the fruits of unbelief, but we speak more particularly of that as a godless state, where the heart is full of unbelief. These very godless ones the Lord will punish, he says, because their preaching is shameless and presumptuous, for they stick ever to their own willfulness; do not permit themselves to be swayed at all, and are as hard as an anvil, to condemn and revile continually. Thus has Enoch struck in this passage at the very estate which before the last day should be in the world, as we now see it before our eyes. Jude says, further:

V. 16. There are murmurers and complainers who walk after their own lusts, and their mouth speaketh swelling words. When men will not let their own circumstances be fair and favorable, then there is nothing but murmuring and complaining. So when one does not give a Bishop the title he claims, then they cry out against disobedience. Besides, they are such a class of people as we cannot guard against, for they give out that they have a right over soul and body; they have grasped in their own hands both the civil and spiritual sword, so that they cannot be controlled, since no one must preach against them; they have got rid of all tax, tribute, and rent, so that no one dares to touch their wealth, besides, none dares preach a word without first asking them about it. And even though one should attack them with Scripture, yet they say that none but they only must be suffered to explain Scripture. Thus they live in all respects as they will, according to their lusts. For they cannot explain that to us, as they would be glad to, since we have subjected ourselves both to the Gospel and to the civil sword, but they would be free and uncontrolled of both. And, moreover, their whole law and claim is nothing but the fullness of mere high, proud, puffed-up words, which have nothing to back them.

And they hold themselves up for respect, for advantage sake. This is their way of judging all, according to the person; in all the Pope’s laws, through and through, you do not once find that a bishop is to humble himself below a priest, or aim at anything, as the fruit of a Christian walk,—but all is merely of this sort: the curate is to be subject to the priest, the priest subject to the bishop, the bishop to the archbishop, but he to the patriarch, the patriarch to the Pope, and after this, how each is to wear the robe, the tonsure and the cowl, possess so many churches and benefices.

Thus they have reduced it all to an outward matter, and such is the child’s play and fool’s work, they are driving at; and they have accounted it gross sin, if any one does not hold to such views. So that Jude says well, that they put a mask upon everything, and have this only before their eyes. Thus no one knows anything of faith, of love, nor of the Cross; whence the people generally are content to eat and play the fool, and devote all their property in the manner they do, as if to the true service of God; it is thus that they hold themselves up to respect for advantage sake.

V. 17. But, my beloved, remember ye the words that were said before by the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, when they said to you that in the last times there should come scoffers who should walk after their own lusts, in a godless state. This passage shows also clearly, that this epistle is not by St. Jude the Apostle, for he does not count nor reckon himself among the other Apostles, but speaks of them as of those who preached long before him; so that it is reasonable to suppose that another pious man wrote the epistle, one who had read St. Peter’s epistles and had drawn this from that source. Who these scoffers are, we have said above: they walk, moreover, after their own lusts,—not merely their fleshly lusts, but those of that godless life which they lead, and they shape all as it pleases them; they care neither for worldly authority, nor the word of God; they are neither under external nor internal government, whether divine or human; they float about between heaven and earth in their lust, just as the devil leads them.

V. 19. These are they who make sects, sensual, who have not the Spirit. There he has touched on what Peter speaks of, their secretly bringing in of pestilent sects, for these are they that have separated themselves; they divide the unity that is in faith, will not let the ordinary estate of a Christian answer,—namely, that wherein one serves another,—but they set up other estates, and pretend to serve God by these. Besides they are sensual or brutish men, who have no more understanding and spirit than an ox or an ass; they walk according to their natural reason and fleshly mind. They have no God’s-word by which they judge themselves, or by which they can live.

V. 20, 21. But, ye beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith, through the Holy Spirit, and pray, and keep yourselves in the love of God. There he defines, in few words, that in which a thoroughly Christian life consists. Faith is laid for the foundation on which we are to build; but to build is to grow from day to day in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, and this takes place through the working of the Holy Spirit. When we are thus built up, we shall do no work to merit anything or to be saved by it, but all to the service of our neighbor. Thus we are to watch, that we abide in love, and not fall from it, like these fools who set up particular works and a peculiar life, and so draw people away from love.

And look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. That is the hope, toward which the Holy Cross moves. Therefore should our life be so shaped as to be nothing else than a steady longing and waiting for that life to come; yet so that that waiting be grounded on the mercy of Christ, so that we shall call upon Him with such an understanding as that he is to help us from this to that life out of pure mercy, and not for any work or merit of ours.

V. 22, 23. And of these take pity and distinguish them; but as to those, save them and draw them out of the fire. That is not well expressed in Dutch, but Jude would say this much: on some take pity, some save; that is, let your life be so shaped that it shall allow you to have compassion on these who are wretched, blind and dumb; have no joy or pleasure over them, but let them go, keep from them and have nothing to do with them. But as to those others, whom ye can draw forth, save them by fear,—deal kindly and gently with them, as God has dealt with you; treat them not harshly or rudely, but feel toward them as toward those that lie in the fire, whom you are to draw forth and rescue with all care, consideration and diligence; if they will not suffer themselves to be drawn out, we should let them go and weep over them,—but not like the Pope and his inquisitors, burn and destroy them by fire.

And hate the garment spotted by the flesh. We have indeed received the Holy Spirit by faith, and have been made clean; but as long as we live here, the old garment of our flesh and blood clings to us still and will not relax its hold. This is the spotted garment that we should lay off and draw away from as long as we live.

V. 24, 25. Nov: unto Him that is able to keep you from stumbling, and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with joy; to God who alone is wise, our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and forever. Amen. This is the close of this Epistle. Thus the Apostles do when they have written, taught, admonished and prophesied; thus they pray, express their wishes, and give thanks. Thus we have seen in the Epistles both what is true Christian and false unChristian doctrine, as well as life.

Printed at Wittenberg by Hans Lufft, 1524.