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The Epistle Of James Practically Explained by Augustus Neander

James iii. 1, 2

James then passes to another, and at first view
apparently quite different topic. But upon nearer inspection, it is found to be closely connected with the foregoing. For the very same tendency which made a merit of merely knowing and talking of the Law, of an empty show of faith without a corresponding life; would also lead men to set themselves up as teachers of others, and to have much to say in the assemblies of the church, without the inward call to this work. |My brethren, be not many masters [be not many of you teachers].| As the ground of this warning, he refers to the increased responsibility which one draws upon himself, by assuming to be the teacher of others; |knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.| The ground of the tendency in these churches, to make so light a matter of teaching, was that very want of self-examination and self-knowledge, which had so much to do with all the faults rebuked by James. Under the influence of that superficial moral judgment, which took into account only the outward and apparent, they could not rightly estimate the importance of words. It was not considered, that speaking itself was an act, and was to be judged by a moral standard; and that one may sin, not less by the immoral use of speech than by any other act. He bids them beware of this danger. He shows how hard it is, to observe the just measure, to exercise the proper self-control, in the use of speech; what injury may proceed from a single word; and by this he would admonish them, to be so much the more conscientious in taking upon themselves the office of speaking. He who considered well that responsibility and its danger, could not so lightly resolve upon assuming it. Accordingly he says: |If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.| That is: He who on all occasions, exercises self-control in the use of words, will also be able to exercise the same in all other respects.

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