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government of the tongue attend to this. The want of that self-command argues a radical want of the vital principle of love: and the want of that principle vitiates all that we can either do or suffer, and renders it of no value in the sight of God. He has warned us beforehand, that “ he will take account even of every idle word that we speak",” and much more of every uncharitable word; and that “by our words we shall be justified, and by our words we shall be condemned."]
In reflecting on this subject, we cannot but observe,
1. In what an awful state they must be, who have not even the appearance of religion
[I know that persons who have no desire after vital godliness will bless themselves because they are not hypocrites. But is it to the credit of any, that they do not even pretend to have the fear of God in their hearts? Is it to the credit of any, that whilst they name the name of Christ, they do not so much as profess to depart from iniquity, or to take his yoke upon them? What is this boast, but an avowed acknowledgment that they are rebels against God, violaters of his laws, haters of his Christ, and contemners of his salvation ? Go ye on then, and glory that ye are not hypocrites ;—though it were easy enough to prove that you are the basest hypocrites, because you profess yourselves Christians, and would be indignant with any one who should dispute your title to Christian ordinances and Christian burial, whilst you give the lie to that profession by the whole tenour of your life and conversation ;I say, go on, and glory that ye are not hypocrites. Then you shall not be condemned as hypocrites. But ye are rebels ; and, as rebels, ye shall be condemned: and that Saviour whom you now despise, will shortly say, “ Bring hither those mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me.” Yes, verily, if those who have so much religion as to stand high in the estimation of the Christian Church on account of it, may yet deceive themselves, and have their religion vain, much more must you deceive yourselves, if you hope to escape the judgments of God in the eternal world. If their religion will not save them, much less will your irreligion save you. Repent then, and turn unto your God in sincerity and truth. Yet look not to your reformation to save you, but to the Lord Jesus Christ, who expiated your guilt by his own blood, and offers you by my mouth the forgiveness of your sins. As an ambassador from him, I beseech you in his stead,
8 Matt. xii. 37.
f Mait. xii. 36. VOL. XX.
be ye reconciled to God. Then shall not only your "sins be blotted out as a cloud,” but your very love of sin shall be subdued and mortified by his Spirit and grace; so that the fountain which has hitherto emitted so much that was impure, shall henceforth flow in endless streams of praise to your redeeming God.]
2. What need the professors of religion have of vigilance and care
[You see in others how difficult it is to have the full government of the tongue. Know then that the same difficulty exists in relation to yourselves. But in yourselves you are apt to overlook it.
It is surprising how faulty a religious professor may be in the licence which he allows to his tongue, whilst he is not conscious of any fault at all, or perhaps takes credit to himself for his fidelity and zeal. But, when you hear how fatally you may deceive your own souls, it becomes you to be upon your guard, and to pray continually, with David, “ Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and keep the door of my lipsi.” And be not content with abstaining from evil discourse, but let your words be always such as may“ minister grace to the hearers, and tend to the use of edifyingk." The power of speech is that which above all others may be employed for the honour of God, and the welfare of
fellow-creatures. In this respect your tongue is “ your glory.” Bid it then “ awake to honour and adore your God?." Remember, it is not the talkative professor of religion that is always the most humble or most acceptable in the sight of God. Many of that description there are, who “ think themselves to be something, when they are nothing;" and thereby eventually deceive and ruin their own souls m Be not ye of that unhappy number. Be rather "swift to hear, and slow to speak." And, if you do stand forward to instruct and benefit others, be doubly careful to set an example of all that you inculcate, and to let the power of religion appear in the whole of your own spirit and deportment.] h Jam. iii. 11. i Ps. cxli. 3.
$ Eph. iv. 29. i Ps. lvii. 8. m Gal. vi. 3. See especially Rom. ii. 18—20. n ver. 19.
MMCCCLXII. PURE AND UNDEFILED RELIGION DESCRIBED. Jam. i. 27. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the
Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
ERRORS of the most fatal kind were early found in the Christian Church. So speedily had vital godliness decayed, that even in the Apostles' days a mere form and profession of religion was deemed sufficient. Under the idea of exalting faith, the value of good works was depreciated, and the necessity of performing them denied. Against such errors the Apostle James lifted up his voice like a trumpet: he bore testimony against them in the most energetic manner : he declared that “ faith without works was deada :" that to be “ hearers of the word and not doers of it, was the way to deceive our own soulsb:” that the “ religion” which did not produce self-government,“ was vaino:" and that that religion, which alone God would acknowledge as “pure and undefiled,” would lead to the most self-denying exercises of love, and to a freedom from all those corruptions with which the world abounded : “Pure religion, &c. &c.”
Let us consider, 1. His description of true religion
We must remember that the Apostle is here speaking of religion solely in a practical view. He is not speaking of principles. Not that he disregards them : on the contrary, instead of setting aside the doctrines of justification by faith, as some would represent, he insists on the necessity of faith as strongly as St. Paul himself; only he distinguishes between that which is living and operative, and that which is uninfluential and dead; and affirms, that it is the living and operative faith only, which will save the soul.
Nor is the whole even of practical religion in the contemplation of the Apostle in this passage. He does not advert to the exercise of our affections towards God, but only to our actions towards men: and it is in this confined view that we must understand him as speaking in the words before us.
* Jam. ii. 20.
b ver. 22.
c ver. 26.
He informs us how religion will influence us in reference to, 1. The world at large
[The terms here made use of draw the line with great accuracy. It is not required of us to renounce the world entirely: we are social beings, and have many social duties to perform: and, if we were to abandon society altogether, we should withhold from mankind many benefits which they have a right to expect from us. When God calls us the salt of the earth,” it is necessarily implied that we are to come in contact with that mass, which, by our influence, is to be kept from corruption. But from “ the corruptions that are in the world 4” we are to " keep ourselves unspotted." Its pleasures, riches, and honours we are to despisee, even as our Lord Jesus Christ himself did?. Nor are we to be conformed to its sentiments and habits: even its friendship we are neither to court nor desire h. If we would approve ourselves Christians indeed, we must “ feel such an influence from the cross of Christ, as to be crucified unto the world, and to have the world altogether crucified unto us." Thus, though in the world, we shall clearly shew that we are not of the world.) 2. That part of it which is destitute and afflicted
[Love is the life and soul of religion: and, as it will extend to all in general, so will it manifest itself particularly towards those who are bowed down with affliction. The “ visiting" of the afflicted is an office which the true Christian will delight to execute; yet not in a slight and transient manner: he will so interest himself in all their concerns, as to relieve and comfort them to the utmost of his powerk. His conduct towards them will resemble that of Job?. It is the way in which he expresses his obligations to Godm; and in which he shews his love to his Lord and Saviour". He considers love and charity as a commandment stamped with peculiar authority by Christ himselfo; and, in obedience to it, he desires to " weep with them that weep, as well as to rejoice with them that rejoice P.” This is “
pure and undefiled religion.” Other things may pass for religion before men, but this is religion “ before God :" it is that which he will acknowledge as agreeable to his will, and will recompense with tokens of his approbation.]
d 2 Pet. i. 4. e 1 John ii. 15, 16. f John xvii. 14-16. & Rom. xii. 2. h Jam. iv. 4.
i Gal. vi. 14. k This is implied in the word επισκέπτεσθαι. I Job xxix. 12, 13. and xxx. 25, and xxxi. 16-20. m Isai. lviii. 6, 7.
n Matt. xxv. 45. o John xiii. 34.
p Rom. xii. 15.
This description of religion will probably force from us a tribute of applause: but, instead of bestowing on it empty commendations, it will be proper to consider, III. The use we are to make of it
The Apostle doubtless designed that we should regard it, 1. As a criterion whereby to judge of our state
[“ Victory over the world” is one of those marks which are universally found in the Lord's people, and in no other 9. Other persons, it is true, may be free from open vices, and, through disappointments and infirmities, may become disgusted with the world : but their love of the world is not at all changed, provided they could have the things on which their hearts are fixed, with health and strength to enjoy them.
A delight in all the offices of love to men for Christ's sake is another mark, whereby Christians are distinguished from all other persons. It is a disposition which springs out of a sense of redeeming love', and infallibly "accompanies salvations." The want of this disposition argues a total absence of divine grace; whilst the exercise of it warrants an assured confidence in the Divine favouru.
Let us then bring ourselves to this touchstone. Let us ask ourselves, whether we do indeed account it “ better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting ?” Do we consider ourselves as “pilgrims and sojourners here;" and value our possessions, not so much for the respect or comfort which they procure to ourselves, as for the opportunities they afford us of honouring God and benefiting our fellow-creatures?
Alas! alas! when estimated according to this rule, how little of “pure and undefiled religion” will be found! This is a melancholy view indeed of the Christian world; but it is the view which God himself gives us of it; and it is in vain for us to controvert it; for by his decision we must stand or fall*.]
2. As a directory whereby to regulate our conduct[The commands of God relative to these things are clear
“ Come out from the world, and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters,
and express :
91 John iv. 4, 5.
r 1 John iv. 10, 11,