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THE NATURE OF TRUE RELIGION. Jam. iii. 17. The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then
peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
RELIGION, like a tree, must be judged of by its fruits. That which savours of pride, earthliness, or sensuality, is not of God. Its character is justly drawn in the words before us.
It is, I. Holy in its nature
Religion, above all other things, is entitled to the name of “ wisdom”
[It enlightens the mind, informs the judgment, regulates the life ; and he who lives under its influence, is wise in the estimation of God himself.] Being from above, it resembles its Divine Author
[Religion is a beam issuing from God the fountain of light; and, as “ in him is no darkness at all,” so neither is there any thing impure in that which flows from him. It may be mixed with sin, but in its own nature it is "pure;” and, in proportion as it prevails, it will dissipate the clouds of ignorance and sin. All “spiritual or fleshly filthiness" will surely vanish before ita.]
In consequence of this it is,
It renders us,
[Though men differ widely in their natural tempers, yet the unregenerate are, on many occasions, quarrelsome, fierce, implacable. But as soon as ever religion exerts its influence on our minds, we mortify these unhallowed tempers, and become peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated.” From thenceforth it is the delight of our souls to cultivate and promote peace, to maintain in ourselves a meek and quiet spirit, and to exercise, as occasion may require, forbearance and forgiveness to all around us.]
a Matt. v. 8. Acts xv. 9. 2 Cor. vii. I.
2. Benevolent in our conduct
[Compassion and diligence are inseparable attributes of true religion. The real Christian is not, like the barren figtree, covered with the leaves of an outward profession, but destitute of fruit. He labours to abound in every good word and work, and to benefit to the utmost the bodies and souls of his fellow-creatures. His heart is “full” of love, and out of the abundance of his heart he both speaks and acts.]
It is within us a living principle, that is,
[The grace of God will not admit of “ partiality” in our obedience. It will stimulate us to difficult and self-denying duties, as well as to those which are more easy and pleasant; and will make us as solicitous to do what is right towards strangers or enemies, as towards our own friends or partisans.] 2. To desires without reserve
[Religion penetrates to the inmost soul, and regulates all our motives and principles of action. The person whose outward conduct only is good, is in God's sight no other than a “whited sepulchre.” The man whose heart is right with God, will watch against all selfish ends, and endeavour to act with a single eye to the glory of his God.] INFER
1. How unjustly is religion condemned in the world!
[Many consider religion as destructive of all personal and social happiness; but what is there in this representation of religion that deserves such a character ? Let the world call it folly if they will; but God accounts it “wisdom."]
2. What reason have the most godly to blush and be ashamed !
(We must not estimate our religion by our opinions so much as by our practice. Doubtless we must build on Christ as our only foundation ; but we have no evidence of an union with him any further than we raise upon him this holy superstructure. Alas! what poor builders have the very best of us been; and how little progress have we made when we judge by this test!
b 1 Tim. v. 21.
3. What need have we to wait continually upon our God in prayer !
[This wisdom is “from above," and can be derived from God alone; and how can we obtain it of him, but in the exercise of prayer? Let us then ask it of him, who has promised to impart it “liberally, and without upbraidingo."]
c Jam. i. 5.
FRIENDSHIP OF THE WORLD IS ENMITY WITH GOD.
Jam. iv. 4. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that
the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoerer therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
THERE is a boldness of speech, which not only comports well with the character of God's ambassadors, but is necessary to the faithful discharge of the ministerial office. To those who are unused to the figurative language of Scripture, the address of St. James to the professors of Christianity may appear coarse and severe. But the truth he delivered, needed to be strongly insisted on even in the apostolic age; so much did the practice of the Church fall short of the knowledge which was at that time generally diffused. As to the appellation which he gave the worldly temporizing Christians, it could not fail of being understood in its proper sense ; because all knew that God called himself the husband of the Church; and consequently, that the violation of the people's engagements to him justly entitled them to the name by which they were addressed.
To the Christians of this age the doctrine of the text should be very fully opened. It is indeed far from being calculated to please men: but we proceed to the consideration of it, in the hope that the word shall not go forth in vain.
We shall endeavour to shew,
I. What we are to understand by the friendship of
[The "world" must be understood in its largest sense, as comprehending not only the people, but also the pleasures, riches, and honours of the worlda. To draw the precise limits of that which is here called “the friendship" of the world, is not so easy. Nevertheless we may ascertain this with as much accuracy as is necessary on the present occasion.
If we love any one person above all others, and strive to please him habitually, not only in common with others, but even in direct opposition to them, we certainly must be acknowledged to have a considerable degree of friendship for him. Let us inquire then,
1. Which do we love more, the world, or God?
2. Which do we strive to please when their commands are irreconcileable with each other?
If conscience testify that the world have in these respects a decided preference, we are, beyond all doubt, the friends of the world.] II. In what respects it is enmity with God
[This may seem a strong expression; but it does not exceed the truth. For the friendship of the world is, in fact, a denial of God's excellency, since it declares that the world is a better portion than he --- It is a contempt of his authority, seeing that when he says, “ My son, give me thy heart," it makes us reply with Pharaoh, "Who is the Lord, that I should serve him? I know not the Lord, neither will I obey his voice" -- - It is also a violation of our most solemn engagements with him. He is our Husband; and we bound ourselves to him in baptism to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil,” and to be his, even his only. But by receiving the world to our bosom, we suffer that to invade his property, and, as the text intimates, are guilty of spiritual adultery Moreover it is (as far as our influence extends) a banishing of the very remembrance of him from the earth. God himself testifies respecting the friends of the world, that “ he is not in all their thoughts:" and it is certain that, while they can converse readily on every worldly subject, they like not to hear or speak of his name: and if there were not a few who stand forth as his witnesses upon earth, his very name would soon be blotted out of our remembrance
If the friends of the world would view their conduct in this light, they would see an extreme malignity in the practices which they now maintain and justify: and they would tremble
a 1 John ii. 15, 16.
at the thought of being found enemies to him, who, as omniscient, sees; as holy, hates; as just, condemns; and, as almighty, will punish, such daring impiety.] III. The state of those who cultivate it
[Nothing can be more express than the declaration of the text: they are “enemies of God.” Whether they intend it or not, whether they think of it or not, they are enemies of God. However sober, modest, kind, generous, and amiable they may be in their deportment, they still are enemies of God. Exalt their characters ever so highly, so that they shall appear in the most enviable light, you must bring them down at last with this melancholy exception, but “they are enemies of Godb"
Nor is this a matter that admits of doubt. St. James even appealed to the very persons whom he was condemning, and made them judges in their own cause;
ye not this?” can ye doubt of it one moment? does not the Scripture fully declare it? does not experience universally attest it?
But there is an emphasis in the text that marks this truth in the strongest manner.
As an avowed desire to compass the death of the king is treason, though that wish should never be accomplished, so the determining to maintain friendship with the world, when God commands us to come out from it and be separate," is treason against the King of kings: the very willing to side in this manner with the world, constitutesc us enemies of God.] ADDRESS 1. The friends of the world
[It is to be feared that even in a Christian assembly the doctrine of the text will be called in question; and that many, whose conduct in other respects is unexceptionable, impute no blame to themselves for their attachment to the world. Yea, so ignorant of their duty are the generality of Christians, that instead of saying, “Know ye not," we must rather say to them, “ Know ye that the friendship of the world is enemity with God?” For, alas! few in this day seem to know it, or even to suspect it: and their reply to us would be, No, I neither know it, nor believe it; nor shall any thing that you can say persuade me to receive a sentiment so unreasonable, and so contrary to common sense.' But, brethren, so it is, whether
know it or not. Let none therefore deceive themselves, or attempt to unite the friendship of the world with friendship with God; for that is impossible, as our Lord has plainly told us: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon."]
6 2 Kings v. 1.
• “Ος αν βουληθή καθίσταται.