Charles Simeon Commentary - James 1:25 - 1:25

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Charles Simeon Commentary - James 1:25 - 1:25

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Jam_1:25. Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

A PROFESSION of religion without the practice of it will avail us little. Obvious as this truth is, it needs to be frequently insisted on. Even in the Apostle’s days there were many who “professed to know God, while in works they denied him.” St. James wrote his epistle with a more immediate view to such persons. He tells them plainly that they only “deceive their own selves [Note: ver. 22.]:” but affirms with equal confidence that the practical Christian shall be blessed.

We shall consider,

I.       The Apostle’s description of the Gospel—

The Gospel is generally thought to be a mere system of restraints—

But it is, in truth, a “law of liberty”—

[It finds us under a worse than Egyptian bondage; and proclaims liberty from our oppressive yoke [Note: Isa_61:1.]. It offers pardon to those who are under the condemnation of the law; and freedom from sin to those over whom it has had dominion. It rescues us from the captivity in which Satan has held us; it breaks the fetters whereby the world has retained its ascendency over us; and opens the way for the unrestrained observance of holy duties. It is to captive sinners, what the jubilee-trumpet was to the enslaved Jews [Note: Lev_25:9-10.]; and effects for the imprisoned soul what the angel wrought for Peter [Note: Act_12:7-10.]. This liberty however it proclaims with the authority of a “law.” It does not merely offer what we may alter or reject: it is properly called by the Apostle “the law of faith.” It prescribes the only possible method of obtaining salvation; it declares that all attempts to find out another will be vain [Note: 1Co_3:11.]; and it enjoins us to embrace this at the peril of our souls [Note: 1Jn_3:23.].]

It is justly called a “perfect” law of liberty—

[Nothing can be added to it to render it more effectual: neither ceremonial nor moral duties can at all improve Christ’s finished work [Note: Gal_5:2; Gal_5:4.]. It will be utterly made void also, if any thing be taken from it. The blood of Christ, not any work of ours, must be regarded as the price of our redemption [Note: 1Pe_1:18-19.]; and the liberty itself must be received as the gift of God through faith [Note: Eph_2:8.]. The Gospel is perfect also with respect to its effects upon the conscience. The Mosaic sacrifices were little more than remembrances of sins [Note: Heb_10:3.]; but in the Gospel we have a sacrifice that takes away our sin [Note: Joh_1:29.]. The soul, once purged by the Redeemer’s blood, is cleansed for ever [Note: Heb_10:14.]; and, once freed by his almighty grace, is free indeed [Note: Joh_8:36.]!]

This beautiful view of the Gospel will easily account for,

II.      The regard which the Christian pays to it—

A man immured in a dungeon, would not treat with indifference a proclamation of pardon; nor can he who is in earnest about salvation, disregard the Gospel—

He endeavours to understand it—

[He does not inspect it to gratify a foolish curiosity: he searches into it with care and diligence. Like the Ber æ ans of old, he maturely weighs its declarations [Note: Act_17:11.], and “proves all things in it, that he may hold fast that which is good.” Even the angels themselves desire to investigate its mysteries: much more does he, who feels so great an interest in its contents. Nor does he do this in a transient manner, but with persevering diligence [Note: It is worthy of observation that as St. Peter, speaking of the angels, uses the word ð á ñ á ê ý ø á é in reference to the bending posture of the cherubims that were over the ark, 1Pe_1:12; so St. James, speaking of the Christian, uses both ð á ñ á ê ý ø á ò and ð á ñ á ì å ß í á ò , in reference to the continuance of the cherubims in that posture. The ark was an eminent type of Christ; in it was contained the law; and over it was placed the mercy-seat: overshadowing all, were the cherubims of glory; Heb_9:4-5. These things were typical of evangelical truths; Heb_10:1. They represented God as reconciled to us through Christ, by whom the law was kept inviolate: compare Psa_40:7-8. with Heb_10:7. And the cherubims represented, not angels only, but men also, as contemplating and searching into this stupendous mystery.].]

He labours also to obey it—

[What he hears or reads is not suffered to escape his memory: he at least “gives earnest heed to it, lest at any time he should let it slip.” He cannot be satisfied to “see his face in a glass, and presently to forget what manner of man he was [Note: ver. 23, 24.].” he desires to have the word engraven on his heart, and transcribed into his life. When he hears of liberty, he feels a solicitude to obtain it; or, having obtained it, he strives to honour his almighty Deliverer. He is well aware that his pretensions to faith must be supported by a suitable life and conversation [Note: Jam_2:17-20.]; and it is his determination, through grace, to shew forth his faith by his works.]

That he does not find it vain to serve God, will appear by considering,

III.     The reward which he ensures to himself thereby—

The world suppose that the service of God is irksome and unprofitable; but the Christian can attest the contrary from his own experience—

In the very act of obeying he finds a rich reward—

[He can adopt, in reference to the law, the declaration of St. Paul [Note: Rom_7:22.]—. However strict the commandments be, he does not account them grievous [Note: 1Jn_5:3.]: on the contrary, he feels “the ways of religion to be pleasantness and peace [Note: Pro_3:17.].” His deliverance from impetuous passions is no small source of happiness: his exercise of benevolent affections greatly tranquillizes his mind [Note: Isa_32:17.]. The testimony of his own conscience is a rich and continual feast [Note: 2Co_1:12.]. Moreover God himself will vouchsafe to him delightful tokens of his approbation. He will shed abroad his love in the hearts of his faithful servants; He will lift upon them the light of his applauding countenance; and “seal them with the Spirit of promise, as the earnest of their inheritance.” Thus, in the most literal sense, is that expression realized [Note: Psa_19:11.]; and the description, alluded to in the text, is abundantly verified [Note: Psa_1:1-3.].]

A still more glorious recompence also awaits him in the future world—

[Many are extremely cautious of asserting this truth. They are afraid lest they should be thought to be advocates for the doctrine of human merit; but there is no truth more clear than that our works shall be rewarded [Note: Rom_2:6.]. Nor does this at all interfere with the doctrines of grace. Our persons and our services are equally accepted through Christ [Note: 1Pe_2:5.], and our happiness will be altogether the gift of God for his sake: but our works will assuredly be the measure of our reward [Note: 1Co_3:8.], and we may with propriety be stimulated by the hope of a future recompence [Note: Heb_11:26.]. Let the Christian then know, that not the meanest of his services shall be forgotten [Note: Mat_10:42.]; but that his weight of glory shall be proportioned to his services [Note: 2Co_4:17.].]


1.       The inconsiderate hearers—

[It is obvious that many hear the word without receiving any saving benefit. This is owing to their own carelessness and inattention. They are like the way-side hearers, from whom Satan catches away the word [Note: Mat_13:19.]; but such hearers do not merely lose the blessings which the faithful Christian obtains. If the word be not “a savour of life, it becomes a savour of death, to their souls.” O that all would remember the admonition once given to the Jews [Note: Joh_12:48.]—. Thus should they know the truth, and the truth should make them free [Note: Joh_8:32.].]

2.       The practical hearers—

[You have been brought from bondage to liberty, from darkness to light; and, doubtless, you experience the blessedness of doing the will of God. “Stand fast then in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free;” “and be not entangled again with any yoke of bondage.” Shew that you consider God’s service as perfect freedom. Seek to have your very “thoughts brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ [Note: 2Co_10:5.].” Thus shall your “peace flow down like a river;” and abundant treasures be laid up for you in the heavenly kingdom [Note: Mat_6:20.].]