Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible

James Ch.4 / 5 Ch.s


* Here are cautions against corrupt affections, and love of this
world, which is enmity to God. (1-10) Exhortations to undertake
no affairs of life, without constant regard to the will and
providence of God. (11-17)

#1-10 Since all wars and fightings come from the corruptions of
our own hearts, it is right to mortify those lusts that war in
the members. Wordly and fleshly lusts are distempers, which will
not allow content or satisfaction. Sinful desires and affections
stop prayer, and the working of our desires toward God. And let
us beware that we do not abuse or misuse the mercies received,
by the disposition of the heart when prayers are granted When
men ask of God prosperity, they often ask with wrong aims and
intentions. If we thus seek the things of this world, it is just
in God to deny them. Unbelieving and cold desires beg denials;
and we may be sure that when prayers are rather the language of
lusts than of graces, they will return empty. Here is a decided
warning to avoid all criminal friendships with this world.
Worldly-mindedness is enmity to God. An enemy may be reconciled,
but "enmity" never can be reconciled. A man may have a large
portion in things of this life, and yet be kept in the love of
God; but he who sets his heart upon the world, who will conform
to it rather than lose its friendship, is an enemy to God. So
that any one who resolves at all events to be upon friendly
terms with the world, must be the enemy of God. Did then the
Jews, or the loose professors of Christianity, think the
Scripture spake in vain against this worldly-mindedness? or does
the Holy Spirit who dwells in all Christians, or the new nature
which he creates, produce such fruit? Natural corruption shows
itself by envying. The spirit of the world teaches us to lay up,
or lay out for ourselves, according to our own fancies; God the
Holy Spirit teaches us to be willing to do good to all about us,
as we are able. The grace of God will correct and cure the
spirit by nature in us; and where he gives grace, he gives
another spirit than that of the world. The proud resist God: in
their understanding they resist the truths of God; in their will
they resist the laws of God; in their passions they resist the
providence of God; therefore, no wonder that God resists the
proud. How wretched the state of those who make God their enemy!
God will give more grace to the humble, because they see their
need of it, pray for it are thankful for it, and such shall have
it. Submit to God, ver. #7|. Submit your understanding to the
truth of God; submit your wills to the will of his precept, the
will of his providence. Submit yourselves to God, for he is
ready to do you good. If we yield to temptations, the devil will
continually follow us; but if we put on the whole armour of God,
and stand out against him, he will leave us. Let sinners then
submit to God, and seek his grace and favour; resisting the
devil. All sin must be wept over; here, in godly sorrow, or,
hereafter, in eternal misery. And the Lord will not refuse to
comfort one who really mourns for sin, or to exalt one who
humbles himself before him.

#11-17 Our lips must be governed by the law of kindness, as well
as truth and justice. Christians are brethren. And to break
God's commands, is to speak evil of them, and to judge them, as
if they laid too great a restraint upon us. We have the law of
God, which is a rule to all; let us not presume to set up our
own notions and opinions as a rule to those about us, and let us
be careful that we be not condemned of the Lord. "Go to now," is
a call to any one to consider his conduct as being wrong. How
apt worldly and contriving men are to leave God out of their
plans! How vain it is to look for any thing good without God's
blessing and guidance! The frailty, shortness, and uncertainty
of life, ought to check the vanity and presumptuous confidence
of all projects for futurity. We can fix the hour and minute of
the sun's rising and setting to-morrow, but we cannot fix the
certain time of a vapour being scattered. So short, unreal, and
fading is human life, and all the prosperity or enjoyment that
attends it; though bliss or woe for ever must be according to
our conduct during this fleeting moment. We are always to depend
on the will of God. Our times are not in our own hands, but at
the disposal of God. Our heads may be filled with cares and
contrivances for ourselves, or our families, or our friends; but
Providence often throws our plans into confusion. All we design,
and all we do, should be with submissive dependence on God. It
is foolish, and it is hurtful, to boast of worldly things and
aspiring projects; it will bring great disappointment, and will
prove destruction in the end. Omissions are sins which will be
brought into judgment, as well as commissions. He that does not
the good he knows should be done, as well as he who does the
evil he knows should not be done, will be condemned. Oh that we
were as careful not to omit prayer, and not to neglect to
meditate and examine our consciences, as we are not to commit
gross outward vices against light!