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The Epistle Of James Practically Explained by Augustus Neander

James v. 19, 20

This exhortation to mutual intercession, in bodily and spiritual need, leads to this further admonition, -- that they should not harshly spurn from them such as, in their religious and moral development, may have erred from the right way, but should interest themselves in their case and seek to lead them back to the truth: an admonition which they specially needed, who were so prone to defame and condemn. |Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.| This, then, is in James' view the highest work of love, -- to rescue the fallen brother from that spiritual death to which he is verging. More than to excite in one repentance for a single sin, and thereby prepare the way for attaining forgiveness of one sinful act, -- more than this is the rescue of a soul from a life of sin, and the restoration of the new divine principle of life. By this the many sins are covered, in which his former course had plunged him. This explanation of the words seems most in harmony with the connection. But, by the sins here spoken of, might be understood the sins of him who thus rescues a brother from death. The meaning would then be: The love thus shown in active zeal for the spiritual welfare of another, shall cover many sins into which one may have fallen through infirmity of the flesh; inasmuch as Love outweighs all else, and above all else is adapted to subdue the still remaining evil of the heart. So we are taught by the Saviour himself, that to him who loveth much, much shall be forgiven. Were this the true meaning of the passage (which, however, is contrary to our view), still the covering of one's own sins would not be dependent on the success of his efforts for another; for this is not placed in the power of man, and he can gain nothing for himself thereby, for the very reason that it is something independent of his own purpose. It is the zeal of love, laboring for the conversion of another, -- it is this that hides the multitude of sins!

Thus closes this Epistle, in that spirit of love which breathes through it all, and which everywhere shows itself in the life and labors of James!

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