James 2:12
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the Law that gives freedom.
Amenable to the Law of LibertyA. S. Patterson, D. D.James 2:12
Law and LibertyG. H. Fowler.James 2:12
The Gospel a Law of LibertyJ. Abernethy, M. A.James 2:12
The Law of LibertyR. A. Hallam, D. D.James 2:12
The Law of LibertyBp. Phillips Brooks.James 2:12
The Law of LibertyDean Gregory.James 2:12
Respect of PersonsT.F. Lockyer James 2:1-13
All Sin has One RootA. Maclaren, D. D.James 2:10-13
Convicted as TransgressorsJ. Trapp.James 2:10-13
Danger of a SingleJames 2:10-13
Every Command to be ObservedT. Manton.James 2:10-13
Guilty of AllB. Beddome, M. A.James 2:10-13
Guilty of AllH. Usher, D. D.James 2:10-13
Merciful SeverityFamily TreasuryJames 2:10-13
No Little SinsC. S. Robinson, D. D.James 2:10-13
Not Worse than OthersJames 2:10-13
Offending in One PointJohn Adam.James 2:10-13
Offending in One PointTirinus.James 2:10-13
On Keeping God's LawEdward Fowler, D. D.James 2:10-13
One Omission InjuriousJames 2:10-13
One Transgression of the LawJames 2:10-13
Potential TransgressionE. H. Plumptre, D. D.James 2:10-13
Real Obedience in All ThingsE. B. Pusey, D. D.James 2:10-13
Rejected for One FlawA. B. Grosart, LL. D.James 2:10-13
The Broken BridgeJames 2:10-13
The Condemning Power of God's LawH. Smith, M. A.James 2:10-13
The Defectiveness of Human RighteousnessW. H. Cooper.James 2:10-13
The Duty of an Uniform and Unreserved ObedienceJ. Seed, M. A.James 2:10-13
The Entirety of God's LawA. B. Grosart, LL. D.James 2:10-13
The Inviolability of the Whole LawG. F. Deems, D. D.James 2:10-13
The Law of PhilanthropyU. R. Thomas.James 2:10-13
The Necessity of Universal ObedienceJ. Rogers, D. D.James 2:10-13
The Necessity of Universal ObedienceJ. Saurin.James 2:10-13
The Necessity of Unreserved ObedienceT. Gisborne, M. A.James 2:10-13
The Prejudices of Professing ChristiansD. Welsh, D. D.James 2:10-13
Universal ObedienceJ. B. Sumner, D. D.James 2:10-13
Law and JudgmentC. Jerdan James 2:12, 13

In these weighty words James reminds his readers that they are on their way to a dread tribunal where they shall be judged according to their works, and where with what measure they mete it shall be measured to themselves.

I. THE CERTAINTY OF JUDGMENT. The apostle takes the fact for granted. This certainty is attested by:

1. Human nature, Man possesses intuitively the conviction of his moral responsibility. Conscience anticipates even now the sentence which shall proceed from the bar of God. If he be not our Judge, the deepest dictates of morality are illusions.

2. Divine providence. While there is abundant evidence that the world is under moral government, it is also plain that there are many inequalities which require adjustment. The world is full of unredressed wrongs and undiscovered crimes. Providence itself, therefore, points to a day of rectifications.

3. The Word of God. The Bible everywhere represents the Eternal as a moral Governor; and the New Testament in particular describes the final judgment as a definite future event which is to take place at the second advent of Christ.

II. THE STANDARD OF JUDGMENT. The poor heathen, since they sin without law, shall be judged without law. Those who possess the Bible shall be tried by the higher standard of that written revelation. Believers in Christ, however, shall be "judged by a law of liberty" (ver. 12). This law is, of course, just the moral law viewed in the light of gospel privilege. In the Decalogue, the form which the law assumes is one of outward constraint. As proclaimed from Sinai, it constituted really "an indictment against the human race;" and it was surrounded there with most terrible sanctions. But now, to the Christian, the law comes bound up with the gospel; and the power of gospel grace within the heart places him on the side of the law, and makes it the longer the more delightful for him to obey it. In the believer's ear the law no longer thunders, "Thou shalt not." To him "love is the fulfillment of the law." The commandments, being written now upon his heart, are no longer "grievous" (1 John 5:3). The law has become to him "a law of liberty."

III. THE SUBJECT-MATTER OF JUDGMENT. "So speak ye, and so do" (ver. 12). The standard will be applied to our words and to our actions. The apostle has already touched upon the government of the tongue in James 1:19, 26; and he has dealt with practical conduct in the intervening verses. His teaching here is an echo of that of the Lord Jesus upon the same theme (Matthew 12:34-37; Matthew 7:21-23). A man's habits of speech and action are always a true index of his moral state. If we compare human character to a tree, words correspond to its leaves, deeds to its fruit, and thoughts to its root underground. Words and actions will be judged in connection with "the counsels of the hearts" of which they are the exponents.

IV. THE PRINCIPLE OF JUDGMENT. (Ver. 13.) This doctrine of merciless judgment to the unmerciful is enunciated in many parts of Scripture. It receives especial prominence in the teaching of our Lord (Matthew 5:7; Matthew 6:12, 14, 15; Matthew 7:1; Matthew 18:23-35). We can never, of course, merit eternal life by cherishing a compassionate spirit. But, since mercy or love is the supreme element in the character of God, it is plain that those who do not manifest active pity towards others have not themselves been renewed into his image, and are therefore unsaved. The purpose of the gospel is to restore man's likeness to God, who "is love;" so that the man who exhibits no love shows that he has not allowed the gospel to exercise its sanctifying power within him, and he shall therefore be condemned for rejecting it. But the medal has another side; for the apostle adds, "Mercy glorieth against judgment." This seems to mean that the tender-hearted and actively compassionate follower of Christ need not fear the final judgment. His mercifulness is an evidence that he is himself a partaker of the mercy of God in Christ. He shall lift up his head with joy when he stands before the bar of Heaven (Matthew 25:34-40). His Judge will be the Lord Jesus, over whose cradle and at whose cross mercy and judgment met together. God himself, in order to effect our redemption, sheathed the sword of justice in the heart of mercy; and his redeemed people, in their intercourse with their fellow-men, learn to imitate him by cultivating the spirit of tenderness and forgiveness. Thus it is an axiom in the world of grace, acted on both by God and by his people, that "mercy glorieth against judgment." - C.J.

The law of liberty.
By "the law of liberty" is meant the gospel, whose principles and precepts form a rule of life now, and will be the rule of reward hereafter. It is a law, inasmuch as it prescribes a particular form of character and course of conduct with authority and sanctions; and it is a law of liberty, inasmuch as the only adequate obedience to it is one which is perfectly free, voluntary and cheerful. It is a law that has power to work in its subjects such a spirit as will render their service perfect freedom, procure from them a willing and cheerful performance of its behests, and create such a thorough coincidence between its requirements and the choice of their wills, as will rid their submission of any feeling of restraint or awe of authority.

I. The gospel is a law of liberty, BY ITS TRANSFORMING EFFECT UPON THE PRINCIPLES AND DISPOSITIONS OF MEN. The gospel does not repeal or alter God's law, but republishes it with some remedial and corrective accompaniments. By these, it aims to effect relief for man in that only other way which is practicable — the rectification of his wishes and inclinations, so as to make them coincide with the behests of the law, in order that he may not be free without obedience, but free in obedience.

II. The gospel is a law of liberty, IN RESPECT TO ITS MODE OF LEGISLATING FOR MEN. A free-will service is always a profuse and generous one; and as the gospel produces, expects, and accepts only a free-will service, it deals with its subjects accordingly, as with beings who will have no inclination to economise and stint their service, and dole it out in the very scantiest measures that will answer the literal terms of demand. It does not look for close construction and parsimonious obedience in its subjects, but supposes them to be inflamed with a love of duty, and directed by a spirit of liberal and affectionate loyalty. It is an evil sign of Christian people to see them always hovering on the very verge of positive impropriety and disobedience, casting a wistful eye into Satan's territory, and arguing with the world for the last inch of debatable ground between them. Oh, rather let your doings and renunciations for Christ be generous. For your sakes He became poor. In return, be willing to do much and renounce much, and with light and willing heart take up your cross and follow Him.

(R. A. Hallam, D. D.)

Of all the qualities which great books, and especially the Bible, have, few are more remarkable than their power of bringing out the unity of disassociated and apparently contradictory ideas. Take these two words, liberty and law. They stand over against each other. Law is the restraint of liberty. Liberty is the abrogation, the getting rid of law. Each, so far as it is absolute, implies the absence of the other. But the expression of our text suggests that by the highest standards there is no contradiction, but rather a harmony and unity, between the two; that really the highest law is liberty, the highest liberty is law; that there is such a thing as a law of liberty.

I. WHAT DO WE MEAN BY LIBERTY? It is the genuine ability of a living creature to manifest its whole nature, to do and be itself most unrestrainedly. Nothing more, nothing less than that. There is no compulsion, and yet the life, by a tendency of its own educated will, sets itself towards God.

1. What a fundamental and thorough thing this law of liberty must be. It is a law which issues from the qualities of a nature going thence out into external shape and action. It is a law of constraint by which you take a crooked sapling and bend it straight and hold it violently into line. It is a law of liberty by which the inner nature of the oak itself decrees its outward form, draws out the pattern shape of every leaf, and lays the hand of an inevitable necessity on bark and bough and branch.

2. This doctrine of the law of liberty makes clear the whole order and process of Christian conversion. Laws of constraint begin conversion at the outside and work in. Laws of liberty begin their conversion at the inside and work out. Which is the true way?

3. This truth throws very striking light into one of the verses which precede our text, one of the hardest verses in the Bible to a great many people. "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all," it is said. Why? Because the consistent, habitual breakage of one point proves that the others were kept under the law of constraint, not under the law of liberty. You see the flame, and you speak of it as a whole: "The house is on fire! There is fire in the house!" Just so you see the bad fiery nature which the law constrains breaking through, and again you speak of it as a whole. What particular shingle is burning is of no consequence. "The law is broken. The one whole law is broken by the one whole bad heart!"

4. The whole truth of the law of liberty starts with the truth that goodness is just as controlling and supreme a power as badness. Virtue is as despotic over the life she really sways as vine can be over her miserable subjects. Free, yet a servant! Free from external compunctions, free from sin; yet a servant to the higher law that issues for ever from the God within him. "A God whose service is perfect freedom." Oh for such a liberty in us! Look at Christ and see it in perfection.

(Bp. Phillips Brooks.)

St. Paul claims as one of the distinguished blessings of the gospel that by it "the creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." It needs but little knowledge of ourselves to perceive that we have a biassed will, a strong natural tendency towards evil rather than good. No effort is needed for the indulgence of our natural appetites in ways forbidden by God's law: conscience may whisper to us that such indulgence is wrong, but the effort is needed not for their gratification, but for their restraint. And what is thus felt to be the law of nature is confirmed by the unconscious testimony of mankind. Transgressions of God's law are often spoken of as pleasures; acts of obedience to that law are never so described. It is this natural tendency which is spoken of in the New Testament as a state of bondage; from it Christ would deliver us; but it is obvious that we cannot be said to be completely delivered so long as it demands effort, a struggle, self-denial on our part to obey this higher law. For the very idea of liberty is the ability to do that which we wish or prefer; it is the carrying out our own plans and pursuits without interference on the part of any other, and without constraint; it is the being able to manifest our whole nature in the way we ourselves desire. It is because we are so tied and bound that we are spoken of in Holy Scripture as being "in bondage under the elements of the world." From this state we are delivered by our incorporation into Christ, by our receiving His Holy Spirit, by our being made members of His body, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. But without our co-operation such Divine gift will profit us nothing-nay, rather it will increase our guilt, because it will make us more willing instruments in the transgressions to which we are tempted. This gift from God, then, gives us the power of a free choice — of a free choice between two powers struggling for the mastery of our souls. On the one side are the influences of our corrupt nature; and, on the other hand, the moral powers left by the Fall, conscience aided by the inspirations of God's Holy Spirit. But in the warfare between these opposing powers of good and evil there are secondary influences which often seem to play a most important part in deciding the issue of the contest. We are all greatly affected by our surroundings. Education, the example of those we love, the maxims we are accustomed to hear, cannot fail to exert an influence upon our judgments of right and wrong. Sometimes these influences may cause good men to consent to actions which under other circumstances they would denounce as evil. But much more frequently the effect of these influences is seen in men professing a deference and regard for the principles and practices of religion which, in their hearts, they do not feel. It is quite clear that such a state of mind is not reconcilable with the thought of the happiness of heaven. Even upon earth there can be no real happiness in the discharge of religious duties or obligations with which we have no true hearty sympathy. We have sometimes heard of a temple of truth, in which men were compelled to speak exactly what they thought, in which, whilst they imagined that they were uttering the usual courtesies of life, the customary expressions of civility, or decorous agreement with the friend with whom they were conversing, they really gave vent to their inward feelings, to those thoughts which we are accustomed to keep secret, and which are sometimes far from being in harmony with what we say. To be compelled to say all that we feel, to show to their fullest extent the inclinations of our mind, the hidden preferences of which we are ashamed, and which we labour to keep secret, would be a grievous burden to us, and would sometimes present us in a very different light before others from that we should wish. But when we are in God's presence this must be our lot. And, moreover, we shall feel that He who knows all is our Judge, that His power is irresistible whilst His knowledge is universal, that He is omnipotent as well as omniscient. And so we shall be compelled to set aside all seeming. We shall then be judged by the law of liberty, for our words and actions will be the true expression of what we are and what we feel — no disguise will be possible. And as we shall be judged at last by this law of liberty, it would be well for us all to test ourselves by it now in this our day of probation. We must have regard to both words and actions; for both are the expression of what we really are. Both with tongue and actions we may play a part for a time, but in spite of ourselves in time we show our true selves. And it is to this that the apostle would incite us. Let us so speak and so do as Christ has bidden us speak and do in His gospel. Let us place it before us as the one great end and aim of our life to do His will, to give effect to the promptings of His grace, to live for the next world and not for this, to copy the life of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. By His help this can be done; by depending upon Him this can be accomplished, but in no other way.

(Dean Gregory.)


1. It is evident that it is a law, that is, a revelation of the will of God to men for the direction of their lives, enforced by the sanction of rewards and punishments. Yet our condition is not rendered servile by it. We cannot in any case act without motives, but they do not make us slaves. The human nature being rational, reason does not destroy its freedom, but establish it, and is the rule of it; then only are we indeed free when we conduct ourselves with understanding. On this account principally the gospel is called the law of liberty, it restores the empire of reason in men, and rescues them from servitude to their lusts and passions.

2. Pursuant to this, Christians by the gospel have obtained a deliverance from condemnation, and therefore it may justly be called the law of liberty.

3. The gospel is a law of liberty, as it frees Christians from the burthensome rites of the Mosaic institution.

4. The gospel is a law of liberty, as it sets us free from the power and authority of men in matters of religion and conscience.

II. TO CONSIDER THE APOSTLE'S DIRECTION TO CHRISTIANS, that they should constantly endeavour to form their whole conduct by a respect to the future judgment, which will be dispensed according to the gospel, to the law of liberty.

1. It ought never to be imagined that the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free was intended to weaken the obligations of our duty, or take away the binding force of the Divine precepts which are indispensable.

2. It would seem by the connection of the apostle's discourse that he designed this particularly as a motive to candour and charity in all our deportment towards men.

3. There is in the exhortation of the text a designed reference to the universality of our obedience, as that only which can give us hope of being acquitted in judgment.

(J. Abernethy, M. A.)

To be amenable to "the law of liberty" is a very solemn thing. It involves the question: Shall I be found by the Heart-searcher to have believed its doctrines and obeyed its rules? Many, however, there are who think — unbelieving and disobedient though they be — that, since Christianity is a "law of liberty," they themselves will be absolved. Foolish dream! perilous presumption! Yes, Christianity brings freedom in her hand, and offers it to the devil's bondslaves. But what kind of freedom? Not liberty to sin, but the emancipation of the soul from the very taste for what is wrong. And how is the freedom which she gives attained? By a moral change which these men have never undergone, and a faith which has never taken possession of their souls. Except by faith, even the blessed and generous religion of Jesus Christ delivers no one from the ban of the broken covenant of works. The apostle requires his readers "so to speak, and so to do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty." This rule, of course, implies that words as well as deeds come within the scope of that procedure which will be taken account of at the day of judgment. So Christ expressly speaks (Matthew 12:36). And, in accordance with this principle, James dwells largely in this Epistle on the right and wrong use of the tongue.

(A. S. Patterson, D. D.)

Go to a cripples' hospital and see the poor creatures all about you with legs or arms tightly bound up with splints, bandages, and irons, cramped and well-nigh useless. We know well enough why their liberty is restrained like this, why they are made so uncomfortable; it is that the limbs may be brought into the proper position to be healed or straightened, so that the patients may have the free use of them when they leave the hospital. It would be a useless and stupid thing to deprive them of what little use they could make of their limbs unless there was some higher end in view. But in order to attain that higher end, the restraint, the bandages, the irons, &c., are indispensable. So it is in our religious life. The sense of duty, moral obligations, self-denial, with their constraining and restraining influence, are like the bandages, invaluable as means to the higher end of free, loving, loyal service of God. But if we rest there, if we do not try to rise above this, we lose all the brightness and joy and peace of life; we defeat the whole purpose of God towards us, which is, that we should serve Him with the free obedience of sons, and not with the forced service of slaves. We need to see that law fails in its object, unless it leads us to Christ, unless it ends in the service of Christ. The love of Christ transforms the hard "you must" of law into the glad "I will" of liberty, and so law and liberty are reconciled.

(G. H. Fowler.)

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