Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction…
I. The apostle's words prove, first, THAT SOMETHING MIGHT APPEAR TO BE, OR BE HELD TO BE, PURE AND UNDEFILED RELIGION, WHICH IS NOT SATISFACTORY BEFORE GOD.
1. They prove, for instance, that a scriptural and orthodox creed is not in itself sufficient.
2. Neither, it here appears, is an inactive, contemplative religion such as God approves.
II. IT SEEMED NEEDFUL THUS BRIEFLY TO HINT AT ERRORS IN THIS MATTER, FOR THE PURPOSE OF SHOWING, MORE PLAINLY WHAT IS TRUE AND UNDEFILED RELIGION.
1. It is, first, as we are here told, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, One half of the world, as has sometimes been, said, knows not how the other half lives. This will not be the case where there is pure and undefiled religion. There will be then a principle which will lead the one half to inquire into the condition of the other. And truly, there is much need.
2. When St. James mentions the widows and the fatherless, he means, of course, the destitute and afflicted of every class. He specifies these only as most especially deserving our compassion.
3. Observe, brethren, to visit. The original word is more comprehensive than any one word of ours can fully render. It is to look round for and to inspect their circumstances: to see the assistance which they need, even as God Himself did when He visited and redeemed His people, baying seen and pitied their condition.
III. I come now to THE OTHER CHARACTERISTIC OF PURE AND UNDEFILED RELIGION — to keep himself unspotted from the world.
1. In regard to worldly business, I need not say that a man does not keep himself unspotted from the world by withdrawing from it. The cases must be few where this could be needful. Religion consists in "using the world, as not abusing it."
2. The pleasures and amusements of the world are still more injurious than the business of the world, to pure and undefiled religion. Many of them, either considered in themselves, or viewed in their consequences and effects, are opposed to it altogether. They involve a waste of that time and that money which ought to be employed in the service of God and the welfare of mankind.
3. He is in danger, thirdly, from its sentiments as well as from its pleasures. Because the world, avowedly, does not take its sentiments from the Bible; but sets up its own authority, enacts its own rules, and issues its own decisions. At the same time, it must not be conceived that a man acts religiously, or thinks scripturally, merely because he opposes general opinion. The only proper course is, to be independent of general opinion; to choose a course according to our special case and circumstances, which we believe that God will approve, and which we r,-solve to follow, whether approved of men or no; whether with the world, or against the world.
Parallel VersesKJV: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
WEB: Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.