The exhortation of ver. 16 introduces additional confirmation of the truth that God cannot tempt men to sin. He is the Author of all good. He not only abhors evil, but from him come those gracious influences which destroy it. Three shades of thought appear in the argument of ver. 17.
I. CONSIDER HIS GIFTS. Each of these is "perfect" in its matter, and "good in the manner of its bestowal. While raw sins (ver. 14) and ripe sins (ver. 15) alike spring from one's own lust," "every good gift and every perfect boon is from above." All temporal blessings come from God; and even in this lower province his bounty is supreme. But especially he is the Author of all spiritual blessings - every good gift of grace, and every perfect boon of glory. Jesus Christ came down from heaven. The Holy Spirit is from above. Ministering angels descend the stairway "whose top reacheth to heaven." The regenerated are born from above (ver. 18; John 3:3). The graces of the new life are from God: e.g. wisdom, to bear trials (ver. 5); single-mindedness, to rise above outward circumstances (ver. 8); steadfast endurance of temptation (ver. 12). And, at last, "the holy city, new Jerusalem, shall come down out of heaven from God." It is impossible, then, that God, the universal Benefactor, can be in any way responsible for a man's sin.
II. CONSIDER HIS WORKS. He is "the Father of the lights." What a splendid title! and how suggestive of the purity of God! He is Light in his own nature, and he is Light in all his relations to the universe. He made the starry lights - to which, indeed, the expression seems primarily to refer. He is the Author of all intellectual and spiritual illumination - all Urim and Thummim, "lights and perfections." "The first creature of God in the works of the days was the light of the sense; the last was the light of reason; and his sabbath work ever since is the illumination of his Spirit" (Lord Bacon). Thus Jesus Christ, as Mediator, is "the Light of the world;" and, in relation to the absolute God whom he reveals, he is "Light of light." His people, again, are "children of light;" they reflect the luster of the Sun of righteousness. In God "is no darkness at all;" but sin is darkness, so it cannot proceed from him. He is only "the Father of the lights."
III. CONSIDER HIS NATURE. The expressions in the last two clauses have almost an astronomical savor. They have evidently been suggested by the mention of the upper starry lights. The thought which they present is that, while God is the Creator of sun, moon, and stars, he is not subject, like them, to revolutions and mutations. "With him can be no variation;" literally, "parallax." Parallax, in astronomy, denotes the apparent displacement of a star from its true position; but with "the Father of the lights" there can be no parallax, no real change of place or purpose. "God is always in the meridian." The shadow of the Almighty is not "cast by turning." Astronomy treats of the revolutions and eclipses of the heavenly bodies; while piety reposes upon the unchangeable-ness of the eternal Light. Being in his own nature immutable, God will be "bounteous still to give us only good." He never has been, nor could be, the author of sin.
1. Be grateful for God's gifts.
2. Admire his works.
3. Rejoice in his faithfulness.
4. See that these sentiments fructify in holiness of life. - C.J.
Do not err.
Sketches of Sermons.: —
I. WE ARE LIABLE TO ERR.
1. From the weakness of our understandings, and the limited operation of the human faculties.
2. From the awfully mysterious subjects to which our attention is directed.
3. From the impositions and cheats practised upon us.
II. IT IS NOT NECESSARY. If error were involuntary, it would be unnecessary to guard us against it. We need not err —
1. Because we have a comprehensive and an all-sufficient directory.
2. Because we have a perfect Pattern and Exemplar.
3. Because we have an infallible Guide to conduct us into all truth.
III. WE SHOULD RE ON OUR GUARD AGAINST ERROR.
1. Because error is discreditable.
2. Because error is uncomfortable.
3. Because error is unsafe.
It is not good to brand things with the name of error till we have proved them to be so. After he had disputed the matter with them, he saith, "Err not." General invectives make but superficial impressions; show what is an error, and then call it so. Truly that was the way in ancient times. Loose discourses lose their profit. Blunt iron, that toucheth many points at once, doth not enter, but make a bruise; but a needle, that toucheth but one point, entereth to the quick.
2. We should as carefully avoid errors as vices; a blind eye is worse than a lame foot, yea, a blind eye will cause it; he that hath not light is apt to stumble (Romans 1:26); first they were given up "to a vain mind," and then "to vile affections." Many, I am persuaded, dally with opinions, because they do not know the dangerous result of them: all false principles have a secret but pestilent influence on the life and conversation.
3. "Do not err"; that is, do not mistake in this matter, because it is a hard thing to conceive how God concurreth to the act, and not to the evil of the act; bow He should be the author of all things, and not the author of sin; therefore he saith, however it be difficult to conceive, yet "Do not err."(1) You see, then, what need you have to pray for gifts of interpretation, and a "door of utterance" for your ministers, and a knowing heart for yourselves, that you may not be discouraged by the difficulties that fence up the way of truth. observeth that the saints do not pray, Lord, make a plainer law, but, Lord, open my eyes, that I may see the wonders of Thy law; as David doth.(2) It showeth how much they are to blame that darken truth, and make the things of God the more obscure.
4. Again, from that "Do not err." Take in the weightiness of the matter. Ah! would you err in a business that doth so deeply intrench upon the honour of God? The mistake being so dangerous, he is the more earnest. Oh! do not err. There is nothing more natural to us than to have ill thoughts of God, and nothing more dangerous; all practice dependeth upon it, to keep the glory of God unstained in your apprehensions.
5. From that "my beloved brethren." Gentle dealing will best become dissuasives from error. Certainly we bad need to use much tenderness to persons that differ from us, speak to them in silken words. Where the matter is like to displease, the matter should not be bitter: pills must be sugared, that they may go down the better: many a man hath been lost through violence: you engage them to the other party.
MEN ERR BY ATTACHING GREATER IMPORTANCE TO THE AFFAIRS OF THIS LIFE, THAN TO THOSE OF ETERNITY. HOW many and great privations and dangers will the warrior pass through to gain the honour of a victory I Yet to conquer himself, to win a kingdom that cannot be moved — this never engaged his serious thoughts, never excited his desire,
II. MEN DECEIVE THEMSELVES BY THE HOPE OF A DEATH-BED REPENTANCE. IS it not highly presuming on the patience of God when we expect that God will grant us "repentance unto life" eternal, in the day of sickness, after we have spent our best days in the service of sin?
III. MEN ERR IN THEIR VIEW OF THE NATURE, THE EVIL, AND THE CONSEQUENCE OF SIN. Every sin, how small or insignificant soever it may seem to us, is an act of black ingratitude for multiplied mercies. It is a provoking of the wrath of God. Again, every sin, however secretly committed, will be brought to light in the day of judgment. The sins of omission as well as the sins of commission; the sins of the heart as well as the sins of the life; all will then be brought forward against every impenitent sinner, and exhibited to an assembled world. The pleasures of sin for a season are purchased at too dear a rate. What are the luxuries of life which" drown the soul in perdition," when contrasted with their reward — an eternity of anguish!
IV. MEN ERR IN THEIR VIEW OF "THE DIVINE LAW" THAT IS, THE MORAL LAW. They are not aware that the law of God "is spiritual'; that it extends to the secret chambers of the heart; that it condemns everything that the sinner does, says, or thinks, because it is not done, said, or thought, as the law requires. Multitudes erroneously imagine that the law is of no force, or, at least, that its exactions are greatly relaxed, since the death of Christ. This is a fundamental. The law of God, being a transcript of His own unchangeable holiness, is itself unchangeable. It will be the standard by which the righteous Judge will at the last day critically try all actions, words, and affections of men.
V. MEN ERR AND DECEIVE THEMSELVES IN THE VIEW OF THEIR OWN CHARACTER. They imagine that though they are not what they ought to be, yet they are not so bad as others, and have a good heart, and mean well. If they are wrong, what must become of thousands? Some conclude that their state is good, because they are born of Christian parents, educated in a Christian land, admitted to Christian ordinances (Revelation 3:17).
VI. MEN ERR IN THEIR APPREHENSION OF THE CHARACTER OF GOD. They think Him to be altogether such an one as themselves. They venture upon sin, and presumptuously flatter themselves that God is not so rigid as to notice everything they do amiss. They foolishly conclude that because the Lord delayeth the execution of His threatenings, He will not pour out His fury on the ungodly. Application:
1. To those who may be under the influence of self-deception. If you are deceived, you neither will seek safety nor apprehend any danger: and if you are not undeceived before you die, you will be awfully convinced, but too late, of your fatal error.
2. To those who feel the vast importance of their souls' concerns, and are anxious to be preserved from error. Do you abandon the vain refuge of lies in which you once sought shelter? If it be so, we may pronounce your case a hopeful one. Yet rest not in present attainments; but press forward to the mark. Examine yourselves. Adopt the prayer of the Psalmist (Psalm 139:23, 24).
This verse emphasises the importance of having correct views of God. In regard to other things, wander into the forests of falsehood so far as one may, the man who holds the truth as to God can never be finally lost. And yet how few seem to appreciate that. Any philosophy of physical science is unsound and untrustworthy in proportion to its holding unsound relations to the truth as to God. The same is true in civil life: heresies in doctrine, errors in morals, and wrongs in life are to be traced almost invariably to some mistake of the truth as to God. Let a man be right here, and he has formed a hasp on which he may bang the first link of any chain of thought or action or life which he may be able to forge in time and in eternity. Do not wander from the great central truth as to God.
TopicsAstray, Beloved, Brethren, Brothers, Dear, Dearly-loved, Deceived, Err, Led
Outline1. James greets the twelve tribes among the nations;2. exhorts to rejoice in trials and temptations;5. to ask patience of God;13. and in our trials not to impute our weakness, or sins, to him,19. but rather to hearken to the word, to meditate on it, and to do thereafter.26. Otherwise men may seem, but never be, truly religious.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJames 1:16
LibraryFebruary 28. "Count it all Joy" (James i. 2).
"Count it all joy" (James i. 2). We do not always feel joyful, but we are to count it all joy. The word "reckon" is one of the key-words of Scripture. It is the same word used about our being dead. We do not feel dead. We are painfully conscious of something that would gladly return to life. But we are to treat ourselves as dead, and neither fear nor obey the old nature. So we are to reckon the thing that comes as a blessing. We are determined to rejoice, to say, "My heart is fixed, O God, I will …
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth
Fourth Sunday after Easter Second Sermon.
Text: James 1, 16-21. 16 Be not deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 19 Ye know this, my beloved brethren. But let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20 for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness …
Martin Luther—Epistle Sermons, Vol. II
George Buchanan, Scholar
The scholar, in the sixteenth century, was a far more important personage than now. The supply of learned men was very small, the demand for them very great. During the whole of the fifteenth, and a great part of the sixteenth century, the human mind turned more and more from the scholastic philosophy of the Middle Ages to that of the Romans and the Greeks; and found more and more in old Pagan Art an element which Monastic Art had not, and which was yet necessary for the full satisfaction of their …
Charles Kingsley—Historical Lectures and Essays
October the Eighteenth Unanimity in the Soul
"A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." --JAMES i. 1-8. If two men are at the wheel with opposing notions of direction and destiny, how will it fare with the boat? If an orchestra have two conductors both wielding their batons at the same time and with conflicting conceptions of the score, what will become of the band? And a man whose mind is like that of two men flirting with contrary ideals at the same time will live a life "all sixes and sevens," and nothing will move to purposeful …
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year
May the Fifth Healthy Listening
"Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only." --JAMES i. 21-27. When we hear the word, but do not do it, there has been a defect in our hearing. We may listen to the word for mere entertainment. Or we may attach a virtue to the mere act of listening to the word. We may assume that some magical efficacy belongs to the mere reading of the word. And all this is perverse and delusive. No listening is healthy which is not mentally referred to obedience. We are to listen with a view to obedience, …
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year
An Address to the Regenerate, Founded on the Preceding Discourses.
James I. 18. James I. 18. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. I INTEND the words which I have now been reading, only as an introduction to that address to the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, with which I am now to conclude these lectures; and therefore shall not enter into any critical discussion, either of them, or of the context. I hope God has made the series of these discourses, in some measure, useful to those …
Philip Doddridge—Practical Discourses on Regeneration
"Let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." James 1:4. 1. "My brethren," says the Apostle in the preceding verse, "count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." At first view, this may appear a strange direction; seeing most temptations are, "for the present, not joyous, but grievous." Nevertheless ye know by your own experience, that "the trial of your faith worketh patience:" And if "patience have its perfect work, ye shall be perfect and …
John Wesley—Sermons on Several Occasions
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." 1 Cor. 13:1-3. We know, "All Scripture is given by inspiration …
John Wesley—Sermons on Several Occasions
Loving Advice for Anxious Seekers
However, the promise is not to be limited to any one particular application, for the word, "If any of you," is so wide, so extensive, that whatever may be our necessity, whatever the dilemma which perplexes us, this text consoles us with the counsel, "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God." This text might be peculiarly comforting to some of you who are working for God. You cannot work long for your heavenly Lord without perceiving that you need a greater wisdom than you own. Why, even in directing …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 13: 1867
All Joy in all Trials
Beginning with this word "brethren," James shows a true brotherly sympathy with believers in their trials, and this is a main part of Christian fellowship. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." If we are not tempted ourselves at this moment, others are: let us remember them in our prayers; for in due time our turn will come, and we shall be put into the crucible. As we would desire to receive sympathy and help in our hour of need, let us render it freely to those who are …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 29: 1883
The Days of the Week
JAMES i. 17. Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is neither variableness, nor shadow of turning. It seems an easy thing for us here to say, 'I believe in God.' We have learnt from our childhood that there is but one God. It seems to us strange and ridiculous that people anywhere should believe in more gods than one. We never heard of any other doctrine, except in books about the heathen; and there are perhaps not three people …
Charles Kingsley—The Good News of God
Sermon on a Martyr's Day
Of three sorts of spiritual temptation by which holy men are secretly assailed; to wit: spiritual unchastity, covetousness, and pride. James i. 12.--"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him. ALL our life (says Job), so long as we are upon earth, is full of struggle and temptation, insomuch that this life is not called a life by the Saints, but a temptation. When one temptation is over, …
Susannah Winkworth—The History and Life of the Reverend Doctor John Tauler
The Sixth Petition Corresponds as we have Observed to the Promise of Writing the Law...
The sixth petition corresponds (as we have observed) to the promise  of writing the law upon our hearts; but because we do not obey God without a continual warfare, without sharp and arduous contests, we here pray that he would furnish us with armour, and defend us by his protection, that we may be able to obtain the victory. By this we are reminded that we not only have need of the gift of the Spirit inwardly to soften our hearts, and turn and direct them to the obedience of God, but also of …
John Calvin—Of Prayer--A Perpetual Exercise of Faith
The Deepest Need of the Church Today is not for any Material or External Thing...
The deepest need of the Church today is not for any material or external thing, but the deepest need is spiritual. Prayerless work will never bring in the kingdom. We neglect to pray in the prescribed way. We seldom enter the closet and shut the door for a season of prayer. Kingdom interests are pressing on us thick and fast and we must pray. Prayerless giving will never evangelise the world.--Dr. A. J. Gordon The great subject of prayer, that comprehensive need of the Christian's life, is intimately …
E.M. Bounds—Purpose in Prayer
"The Church! Am I asked again, What is the Church? The ploughman at his daily toil--the workman who plies the shuttle--the merchant in his counting-house--the scholar in his study--the lawyer in the courts of justice--the senator in the hall of legislature--the monarch on his throne--these, as well as the clergymen in the works of the material building which is consecrated to the honour of God--these constitute the Church. The Church is the whole congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word …
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety
Antecedents of Permanent Christian Colonization --The Disintegration of Christendom --Controversies --Persecutions.
WE have briefly reviewed the history of two magnificent schemes of secular and spiritual empire, which, conceived in the minds of great statesmen and churchmen, sustained by the resources of the mightiest kingdoms of that age, inaugurated by soldiers of admirable prowess, explorers of unsurpassed boldness and persistence, and missionaries whose heroic faith has canonized them in the veneration of Christendom, have nevertheless come to naught. We turn now to observe the beginnings, coinciding in time …
Leonard Woolsey Bacon—A History of American Christianity
The Puritan Beginnings of the Church in virginia ---Its Decline Almost to Extinction.
THERE is sufficient evidence that the three little vessels which on the 13th of May, 1607, were moored to the trees on the bank of the James River brought to the soil of America the germ of a Christian church. We may feel constrained to accept only at a large discount the pious official professions of King James I., and critically to scrutinize many of the statements of that brilliant and fascinating adventurer, Captain John Smith, whether concerning his friends or concerning his enemies or concerning …
Leonard Woolsey Bacon—A History of American Christianity
The Neighbor Colonies to virginia-Maryland and the Carolinas.
THE chronological order would require us at this point to turn to the Dutch settlements on the Hudson River; but the close relations of Virginia with its neighbor colonies of Maryland and the Carolinas are a reason for taking up the brief history of these settlements in advance of their turn. The occupation of Maryland dates from the year 1634. The period of bold and half-desperate adventure in making plantations along the coast was past. To men of sanguine temper and sufficient fortune and influence …
Leonard Woolsey Bacon—A History of American Christianity
Directions to Church-Wardens, &C.
CHURCH-WARDENS are officers of the parish in ecclesiastical affairs, as the constables are in civil, and the main branches of their duty are to present what is presentable by the ecclesiastical Jaws of this realm, and repair the Church  . For the better information of Church-wardens as to those particulars, which they are to present,  articles are to be given them extracted out of the laws of the Church, according to which they are to make their presentments, Can. 119. They are obliged twice …
Humphrey Prideaux—Directions to Church-Wardens
Theological Controversies and Studies
(a) Baianism. Schwane, /Dogmengeschichte der neuren zeit/, 1890. Turmel, /Histoire de la theologie positive du concile de Trente au concile du Vatican/, 1906. Denzinger-Bannwart, /Enchiridion Symbolorum/, 11th edition, 1911. Duchesne, /Histoire du Baianisme/, 1731. Linsenmann, /Michael Baius/, 1863. The Catholic doctrine on Grace, round which such fierce controversies had been waged in the fifth and sixth centuries, loomed again into special prominence during the days of the Reformation. The views …
Rev. James MacCaffrey—History of the Catholic Church, Renaissance to French Revolution
The Downfall, 1616-1621.
The dream of bliss became a nightmare. As the tide of Protestantism ebbed and flowed in various parts of the Holy Roman Empire, so the fortunes of the Brethren ebbed and flowed in the old home of their fathers. We have seen how the Brethren rose to prosperity and power. We have now to see what brought about their ruin. It was nothing in the moral character of the Brethren themselves. It was purely and simply their geographical position. If Bohemia had only been an island, as Shakespeare seems …
J. E. Hutton—History of the Moravian Church
Knox and the Book of Discipline
This Book of Discipline, containing the model of the Kirk, had been seen by Randolph in August 1560, and he observed that its framers would not come into ecclesiastical conformity with England. They were "severe in that they profess, and loth to remit anything of that they have received." As the difference between the Genevan and Anglican models contributed so greatly to the Civil War under Charles I., the results may be regretted; Anglicans, by 1643, were looked on as "Baal worshippers" by the …
Andrew Lang—John Knox and the Reformation
Whether Sacred Doctrine is a Practical Science
Whether Sacred Doctrine is a Practical Science We proceed to the fourth article thus: 1. It seems that sacred doctrine is a practical science. For "the end of practical knowledge is action," according to the philosopher (2 Metaph., Text 3), and sacred doctrine is concerned with action, according to James 1:22: "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only." Sacred doctrine is therefore a practical science. 2. Again, sacred doctrine is divided into the Old and the New Law, and the Law has to do with …
Aquinas—Nature and Grace
Wherefore Let this be the First Thought for the Putting on of Humility...
42. Wherefore let this be the first thought for the putting on of humility, that God's virgin think not that it is of herself that she is such, and not rather that this best "gift cometh down from above from the Father of Lights, with Whom is no change nor shadow of motion."  For thus she will not think that little hath been forgiven her, so as for her to love little, and, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and wishing to establish her own, not to be made subject to the righteousness …
St. Augustine—Of Holy Virginity.
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