This epistle is called "general", because not written to any particular
person, as the epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are; nor to any
particular churches, as the epistles to the Romans, Corinthians
but to the believing Jews in general, wherever they were. The author of
it is James; and whereas there were two of this name, who were the
apostles of Christ; some have thought it was written by one, and some
by another: some think it was written by James the son of Zebedee, and
brother of John, which is favoured by the Syriac version, which to this
epistle, and the following, premises these words;

``the three epistles of the three apostles, before whose
eyes our Lord transfigured himself, that is, James, and
Peter, and John.''

Now, that James, who was present at the transfiguration of Christ,
was James the son of Zebedee: but neither the time, nor occasion,
nor matter of this epistle, seem to agree with him, for he was put
to death by Herod, about the year 44, \\#Ac 12:1,2\\, whereas this
epistle was written, as some think, about the year 60, or as others,
63; and it seems pretty manifest that it must be written after the
Gospel had been spread in the Gentile world, and was received by the
Jews, who were scattered abroad in it; and after many hypocrites had
crept into the churches, and many false teachers, and vain boasters,
and wicked men, had arisen among them: it seems therefore more
agreeable to ascribe this epistle to James, the son of Alphaeus,
sometimes called the brother of our Lord, and who was present at the
assembly at Jerusalem, when the necessity of the Gentiles'
circumcision was debated, \\#Ac 15:1-27\\ and is the same whom Eusebius
{a} calls James the just, and Oblias; and who seems to have resided
at Jerusalem, and to have been the bishop, or overseer of the church
there; and therefore in character writes this epistle to the Jews,
in the several parts of the world: nor need there be any doubt of
the authenticity of it. Eusebius indeed says {b}, that it had been
accounted spurious by some, and that not many of the ancient writers
had made mention of it: but he himself says, that it was publicly
read in most churches; and certain it is, that some very early
writers have respect unto it. Irenaeus {c} manifestly refers to it,
and so does Tertullian {d}; and it is expressly mentioned by Origen
{e} among the canonical books of Scripture. The objections against
it are of no weight, which are taken from the seeming disagreement
between the Apostle Paul, and the writer of this epistle, concerning
the doctrine of justification; and from his calling the law the
perfect law of liberty, and insisting so much on the doctrine of
works; all which will be seen to be agreeable to the other parts of
Scripture, and easily reconciled with them; nor is there anything
in it unworthy of an apostle and an inspired writer. The occasion of
it seems to be partly the troubles and persecutions which attended
the saints for the sake of Christ and the Gospel; and the design of it
is to encourage them to patience under them, and to wait and hope for
the speedy coming of Christ; and partly the evil practices of some that
boasted of their faith and knowledge, though they lived very dissolute
lives: and the view of the apostle is to show, that faith, without the
fruits of righteousness, is not genuine; and he very largely in it
exhorts to several duties very becoming Christians, and inveighs
against several vices, which were scandalous to them.

{a} Eccles. Hist. l. 2. c. 23.
{b} Ib. & l. 3. c. 25.
{c} Adv. Haeres. l. 5. c. 1.
{d} Adv. Judaeos, c. 2.
{e} Homil. 7. in Josuam, fol. 156. E.


In this chapter, after the inscription and salutation, the apostle
instructs the saints he writes to, how to behave under afflictions,
and in every state of life; teaches them not to impute their sins to
God, but to themselves; directs them in hearing the word, and
cautions against self-deception in religion. The inscription and
salutation are in \\#Jas 1:1\\ in which the author of the epistle is
described by his name and office; and the persons it is written to,
by the tribes of Israel they belonged to, and by the condition in
which they were scattered about in the world, to whom the apostle
wishes all grace. And as they were in an afflicted state, he begins
with an exhortation to rejoice in their afflictions; because hereby
faith was tried, and that produced patience, and patience being
perfect, is the way to be complete, and want nothing, \\#Jas 1:2-4\\, but
if any wanted wisdom, how to behave under such exercises, he advises
to apply to God for it, from whom it may be expected, since he is
the giver of it, and gives it to all, and that liberally, and does
not upbraid with the former conduct, \\#Jas 1:5\\ but then such should
ask in faith, or otherwise it cannot be thought they should receive,
and besides would justly deserve the characters of fluctuating and
unstable persons, \\#Jas 1:6-8\\. And the exhortations the apostle had
given, he observes, suited all sorts of persons, poor and rich; the
one who is exalted amidst his poverty, and the other who is mean,
and frail, and mortal, amidst all his riches; which is illustrated
by the flower of the grass falling off and perishing, \\#Jas 1:9-11\\.
And upon the whole, he concludes the blessedness of the man that
endures affliction patiently, since a crown of life is promised him,
and he will receive it, \\#Jas 1:12\\ and from external temptations or
afflictions, the apostle proceeds to internal ones, temptations to
sin; and denies them to be of God, and imputes them to the lusts of
men, and gives a very accurate account of the beginning, progress,
and finishing of sin by man; and observes, that to place sin to the
account of God, and not man, is a very great error, \\#Jas 1:13-16\\, which
he proves from the pure and holy nature of God; and from the good
and perfect gifts, which all, and only, come from him; and instances
in regeneration, which is of his will, and by his word, and is the
beginning and spring of all good in man, \\#Jas 1:17,18\\. And having
mentioned the word, as a means of that grace, he gives some rules
about hearing it; that it should be heard with eagerness, and
received with meekness; and whatsoever is contrary thereunto should
be avoided; as a forwardness to be teachers of it: wrath and anger
at the doctrines of it, which do not work the righteousness of God;
and all impurity and naughtiness of the mind, which must render it
inattentive to it; and the rather all this should be regarded, since
the word is the ingrafted word, and able to save the souls of men,
\\#Jas 1:19-21\\ and particular care should be had, that what is
heard is put in practice, or otherwise it will be a self-deception;
and such will be like a man that beholds his face in a glass goes
away, and forgets what sort of a man he is; whereas, if a man looks
into the glass of the Gospel hears the word attentively, remembers
what he hears, and continues in it, he finds many blessed advantages
in so doing, \\#Jas 1:22-25\\ and then the apostle distinguishes between
a vain religion, and a pure one; a vain religion is only a seeming
one, and may be known to be so by a man's having no guard upon his
tongue; wherefore if he thinks himself religious, he is mistaken
and his heart deceived, \\#Jas 1:26\\ but pure and undefiled religion,
which is so in the sight of God, shows itself in a holy life and
conversation in general, and particularly in visiting and assisting
widows and orphans in distress, \\#Jas 1:27\\.

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