Thus have we seen how James, beginning with the
exhortation to steadfastness under sufferings, was led on from one suggestion to another. Turning now his thoughts to the poor, who constituted a majority of these Christians, and who had much to suffer from the oppression of the rich, he addresses to them the consoling words: |Let the brother of low degree rejoice [glory] in that he is exalted.| Instead of being cast down by the sense of his poverty, his low estate in respect to earthly relations, the Christian should rather feel himself raised above them, by the consciousness of an exaltation transcending all height of worldly honor; of that divine exaltation which is founded in the divine life, in the dignity of the Sons of God. This glorying he enjoins, with no occasion to apprehend self-exaltation; for the glory here spoken of is not one which man owes to his own powers and efforts; it is a dignity bestowed on him by God alone. This glorying is, therefore, the very opposite of all pride and self-exaltation, and can exist only in connection with true humility. But as this dignity is not adjudged to the poor on account of their poverty, so are the rich by no means excluded from it by their riches; although as we have already shown, these may to many become a hindrance in the way of their attaining it. To the rich, too, the way is pointed out, by which they may attain to that high dignity. |Let the rich,| says James, |glory in that he is made low.| That is: by humbling himself on account of that which passes with the world as great, he attains to the consciousness of that true dignity, which springs only from a sense of the nothingness of all earthly greatness. By this conviction of the worthlessness of his earthly riches, he is prepared to appropriate as his own the true riches, the only true dignity. Self-abasement is the path to true exaltation. So long as the rich man prides himself upon his wealth, and fancies that therein he possesses the true riches, the feeling of necessity for heavenly possessions, for true greatness, will not germinate in his heart. This very feeling of need, this desire, is the necessary condition of personal participation. Thus poor and rich among Christian brethren, must be united to each other by the same consciousness of equal dignity. James then goes on to picture the vanity of riches, by images drawn from the natural scenery of the East. Like the fresh grass, which at morning stands in all its flowery splendor, but under the scorching breath of the south wind suddenly withers and dies, so will the rich man perish in his ways. As he has his treasure only in earthly things, and has wholly merged himself in them, to him is transferred what is said of the vanity of those possessions, which he has made his all.