Jam_3:17. The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy tube 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,
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 it [Note: Mat_5:8. Act_15:9. 2Co_7:1.].]
In consequence of this it is,
Useful in its tendency—
It renders us,
Amiable in our spirit—
[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.]
Benevolent in our conduct—
[Compassion and diligence are inseparable attributes of true religion. The real Christian is not, like the barren fig-tree, 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,
Uniform in its operations—
To duties without limitation—
[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 [Note: 1Ti_5:21.].]
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.]
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.”]
What reason have the most godly to blush and be ashamed!
[We must not estimate our religion by our opinion? 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!]
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 upbraiding [Note: Jam_1:5.].”]