James now passes once more from the general to the particular, to the special application of what he has just said on this principle of active obedience. The case which he presents, as requiring special notice, is selected with a view to the peculiar circumstances and faults of these churches. Writing to other churches he might have selected other examples. |If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.| James takes for his starting-point the Christian principle, that religion must embrace the whole life. Hence he calls that religion merely imaginary, seeming, unreal, which allows the continuance of the moral defects originally predominant in the character; as, for example, in the application to these churches, that tendency to passionate anger, that want of control over the tongue. Of those who continued to live on thus as before, and yet made pretensions to religion, James says that they deceived themselves, that their religion was vain. Here again, in contrasting with this that religion which is genuine, showing itself in the life, he adduces the particular acts in which such a religion must manifest itself; in this, too, making the selection with special reference to the circumstances of these churches. To take the part of the orphan and the widow, to protect them against the pride and oppression of the rich, -- this is pure and genuine religion. |Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep themselves unspotted from the world.| He thus closes again with the general; the injunction, to keep one's self pure from all defilement by the world, having reference to the whole Christian life. He does not mean that external, often falsely conceived opposition to the world, which would hinder the Christian from serving as the true salt and the true leaven for the world. This would stand in direct contradiction with that course of active labors in the world, which James everywhere enjoins in this Epistle. He means that one should keep himself inwardly unspotted from the world; that while externally acting upon it, he should guard himself against the infection of its impurity; that he should remain superior to the world, pure from the world whilst acting upon it. There are two things, therefore, essential to true religion and inseparable in it: viz. conflict against the evil which is in the world, the practical exercise of love; and in connection therewith, the keeping oneself inwardly pure from all ungodliness that reigns in the world. The former, moreover, cannot truly subsist except in connection with the latter.