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The Epistle Of James Practically Explained by Augustus Neander

James i. 19-21

But it is ever the manner of James to pass at once from the general to the particular; a trait originating partly in his own personal character, partly from the peculiar practical necessities of those to whom he was writing. He knew their disposition to content themselves with the general thought, without making an application of it to their own life. To incite them to this was his constant aim. He therefore proceeds at once to show how the divine word, received into the soul as the generative principle of the new creation, must manifest itself in the course of life. Neither does this take the form of a mere generality in his mind; but he passes directly to the special application most opposed to the practical errors of these churches. We have already remarked on the propensity among them to assume the office of teacher, -- the inclination to talk much and to do little; how they were thus led to pass judgment lightly upon others, to revile them, and how every passion found herein its nourishment. Against this he warns them in the words: |Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.| One extreme must be driven out by the other. There is a self-willed silence, and there is a self-willed forwardness to speak. He who is inclined to be too inert and passive, to hold his peace when he ought to speak out boldly, must be exhorted not to give himself thus wholly to silence, but to be willing to speak when duty requires. But James is dealing with those, among whom the very opposite fault prevailed; those who lacked the sobriety, patience, and humility, to hear before they spoke; and of course he must make use of the opposite exhortation. As a warning against the temptation to anger, easily furnished by over-hasty speaking, he tells them that passion is least of all adapted to effect the work of piety. |For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.| From the particular instance he now returns to the general thought with which he started, placing the two in close connection with each other. As passion forces man towards the outward, withdrawing him from the call, ever-deepening inner life of the spirit, and banishing again from the heart that generative principle of the new creation, the Word of God, instead of allowing it to penetrate more and more the inner spiritual nature: he therefore counsels them to purify themselves from all that is evil, all excrescences of the inward life which passion nourishes, and in meekness to suffer the word implanted in their hearts to take deeper and deeper root therein. So shall they attain to the salvation of the soul, through the power of this word thus penetrating more and more their entire life. |Wherefore| (namely, because anger is in contrariety to the divine righteousness, and is the rank soil of every evil thing) -- |lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save your souls.| James, it is true, is addressing those in whom the ground of salvation was already laid; but he presupposes also, that they can only become partakers of salvation, by continuing to build on that foundation, and to yield submission to the word which they have once received, that they may experience in themselves its purifying and transforming power.

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