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MANY and great are the evils that lodge within the heart of man, and they come forth abundantly both by the tongue and by the hand, yet the heart is not emptied of them ; yeá, the more it vents them outwardly, the more they increase within. Well might He who knows the heart so well, call it an evil treasure. We find the prophet Ezekiel, in his eighth chapter, led by the Lord in vision to Jerusalem, to view the sins of the Jews who remained there in the time of the
captivity : when He had shewed him one abomination, He caused him to dig through the wall, to enter and discover more, and so directed him several times, from one place to another, and still said, I will shew thee yet greater abominations. Thus is it with those whom the Lord leads into an examination of their own hearts, (for men are usually strangers to themselves,) by the light of His word, and His Spirit going before them; He lets them see heaps of abominations in every room, and the vilest in the most retired and darkest corners. should He leave them there, they would despair of remedy. No, He makes this discovery on purpose that they should sue to Him for help. Do so then, as many of you as have taken any notice of the evils of your own hearts. Tell the Lord, those hearts are His own work: He formed the heart of man within him. And they are His own choice too: My son, give me thy heart. Entreat Him to redress all those abuses wherewith Satan and sin have filled it, and then to take possession of it Himself, for therein consists its happiness. This is, or
And truly, should be, a main end of our resortings to His house and service. Wrong not yourselves so far as to turn these serious exercises of religion into an idle divertisement. What a happiness were it, if every time you come to His solemn worship, some of your strongest sins did receive a new wound, and some of your weakest graces a new strength !
JAMES iii. 17. But 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.
God doth know, that in the day that ye shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil, was the first hissing of that old Serpent, by which he poisoned mankind in the root. Man, not contented with the impression of God's image, in which he was created, lost it by catching at a shadow. Climbing higher than his station, he fell far below it: seeking to be more than man, to become as God, he made himself less than man.
He lodged not a night in honour, but became as the beasts that perish. Psal. xlix. 12. Ever since, nature's best wisdom is full of impurity, turbulency, and distemper; nor can any thing rectify it, but a wisdom from above, that both cleanseth and composeth the soul : it is first pure, and then peaceable.
This Epistle, as some that follow, is called General, both by reason of the dispersion of the parties to whom it is addressed, and the universality of the subject which it treats ; containing a great number (if not all) of the necessary directions and comforts of a Christian's life, both for the active and the passive part of it. It is evident that the Apostle's main design, is, to arm the dispersed Jews against all kinds of temptations, both those of affliction, in the first chapter, at the ad verse, and sinful temptations, verse 13th. And having discoursed of two special means of strengthening them against both, speaking to God in prayer, and hearing God speak in His
word, in the two last verses of that first chapter, he recommends, as chief duties of religion, and sure evidences of integrity in religion, first, meekness and moderation, chiefly in their speeches, and then, charity and purity in their actions ; insisting largely upon the latter, in the second chapter, and upon the former, the ruling of the tongue, in this third chapter : and here towards the end of it, he shews the true opposite springs of miscarriage in speech and action, and of right ordering and regulating of both. Evil conversation, strifes and envyings, are the fruits of a base wisdom that is earthly, sensual, and devilish, ver, 15th ; but purity, meekness, and mercy, are the proper effects and certain signs of heavenly wisdom.
The wisdom that is from above, is first pure : its gentleness can agree with any thing except impurity. Then it is peaceable : it offends nobody, except purity offend them. It is not raging and boisterous. It is not only pure, being void of that mire and dirt which the wịcked are said to cast out like the sea, (Isa, lvii, 20.) but peaceable likewise, not swelling, and restless like the sea, as is there said of the wicked. Nor is it only peaceable negatively, not offending, but as the word bears [eignvixn] pacific, disposed to make and seek peace. And as it readily offends none, so, it is not easily offended. It is gentle and moderate, [Teixis,] and if offended, [EUTEGÓS, ] easily entreated to forgive. And as it easily passeth by men's offences, so, it doth not pass by, but looks upon their distresses and wants ; as full of compassion, as it is free from unruly and distempered passions. Nor rests it in an affecting sympathy; its mercy is helpful : full of mercy and good fruits. And it both forgives, and pities, and gives, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. [αδιακριτος και ανυπόκριτος.] The word aòożngitos may as well bear another sense, no less suiting both with this wisdom and these its other qualities; that is, not taking upon it a censorious discerning and judging of others. They that have most of this wisdom, are least rigid to those that have less of it. I know no better evidence of strength in
grace, than to bear much with those that are weak in it. And lastly, as it spares the infirmities of others, so it makes not false and vain shews of its own excellencies; it is without hypocrisy. This denies two things, both dissimulation and ostentation. The art of dissembling, or hypocrite-craft, is no part of this wisdom. And for the other, ostentation, surely the air of applause is too light a purchase for solid wisdom. The works of this wisdom may be seen, yea, they should be seen, and may possibly be now and then commended; but they should not be done for that low end, either to be seen or to be commended. Surely not, being of so noble extraction. This wisdom having descended from Heaven, will be little careful for the estimation of those that are of the earth, and are but too often of the earth, earthly.
The due order of handling these particulars more fully, cannot well be missed. Doubtless, the subject, wisdom from above, requires our first consideration ; next, the excellent qualities that are attributed to it; and lastly, their order is to be considered, the rather, because so clearly expressed, first pure, then peaceable, &c.
Wisdom from above.] There be two things in that : there is the general term of wisdom, common to divers sorts of wisdom, though most eminently and truly belonging to this best wisdom; then there is the birth or original of this wisdom, serving as its difference to specify and distinguish it from all the rest, wisdom from above. Wisdom in the general, is a very plausible word among men. Who is there that would not willingly pass for wise ? Yea, often those that are least of all such, are most desirous to be accounted such; and where this fails them, they usually make up that want in their own conceit and strong opinion. Nor do men only thus love the reputation of wisdom, but they naturally desire to be wise, as they do to be happy: yet, through corrupt nature’s blindness, they do as naturally mistake and fall short both of the one and the other; and being once wrong, the more progress they make, they are further out of the way, and pretending to
wisdom in a false way, they still befool themselves, as the
Our Apostle, ver. 15., speaking of that wicked wisdom that