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The Epistle Of James Practically Explained by Augustus Neander

James v. 14-18

Having thus referred everything to prayer as the soul of the Christian life, he now makes a specific application of the principle to cases of sickness. Here there was need of mutual intercession in the name of the Lord. As the Presbyters acted in the name of the whole church, and each one as a member of the body felt that he needed its sympathy and intercession, and might count upon it; individuals should therefore, in cases of sickness, send for the Presbyters of the church. These were to offer prayer on their behalf. With this was connected a symbolical transaction, -- practised indeed in many churches of the East, but never prescribed as a general usage, -- the anointing with oil; of which Christ had sometimes made use in the healing of the sick, as an outward sign of healing and sanctifying power. If it was the will of the Lord, the sick should be restored to bodily health. But, however this might be, he should certainly receive spiritual refreshment, the renewed and strengthened consciousness of sin forgiven; and this could not but favorably affect his bodily state. |Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.| We see that James ascribes the healing power, not to the anointing with oil, but to the prayer of faith. As he regards the Presbyters in the light of organs of the church, acting in its name; so does he hold all other Christians in such a relation, as members of one body, that they should mutually pray for one another in bodily and spiritual need; should confess their sins to one another, and pray for the forgiveness of each other's sins. He ascribes great efficacy to the prayer of fraternal love. |Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed,| -- whether spiritual and bodily healing united is meant, as in the last quoted passage, or merely spiritual healing. |The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much.| Of this efficacy of prayer he adduces examples from the Old Testament. But the Jewish tendency to externalize everything, led them to contemplate these holy men of old only from a distance, and as objects of veneration and wonder, not as examples for imitation. James therefore reminds them, that these men were frail mortals like themselves, and that the power of God can still work through the weak. This application was all the more appropriate, inasmuch as Christianity, by virtue of the common relation of Priest and Prophet belonging to all believers, had made that common to all which under the old dispensation had been the gift and prerogative of a few. |Elias was man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.|

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