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THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 27

Verse 27. Pure religion. On the word here rendered religion, (yrhskeia,) see Barnes on "Col 2:18".

It is used here evidently in the sense of piety, or as we commonly employ the word religion. The object of the apostle is to describe what enters essentially into religion; what it will do when it is properly and fairly developed. The phrase "pure religion," means that which is genuine and sincere, or which is free from any improper mixture.

And undefiled before God and the Father. That which God sees to be pure and undefiled, Rosenmuller supposes that there is a metaphor here taken from pearls or gems, which should be pure, or without stain.

Is this. That is, this enters into it; or this is religion such as God approves. The apostle does not say that this is the whole of religion, or that there is nothing else essential to it; but his general design clearly is, to show that religion will lead to a holy life, and he mentions this as a specimen, or an instance of what it will lead us to do. The things which he specifies here are in fact two:

(1.) That pure religion will lead to a life of practical benevolence; and

(2) that it will keep us unspotted from the world. If these things are found, they show that there is true piety. If they are not, there is none.

To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. To go to see, to look after, to be ready to aid them. This is an instance or specimen of what true religion will do, showing that it will lead to a life of practical benevolence. It may be remarked in respect to this,

(1,) that this has always been regarded as an essential thing in true religion; for

(a) it is thus an imitation of God, who is "a father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows in his holy habitation," Ps 68:6; and who has always revealed himself as their friend, De 10:18; De 14:29; Ps 10:14; Ps 82:3; Isa 1:17; Jer 7:7; Jer 49:11; Ho 14:3;

(b) religion is represented as leading its friends to do this, or this is required everywhere of those who claim to be religious, Isa 1:17; De 24:17; De 14:29; Ex 22:22; Job 29:11-13.

 

(2.) Where this disposition to be the real friend of the widow and the orphan exists, there will also exist other corresponding things which go to make up the religious character. This will not stand alone. It will show what the heart is, and prove that it will ever be ready to do good. If a man, from proper motives, is the real friend of the widow and the fatherless, he will be the friend of every good word and work, and we may rely on him in any and every way in doing good.

And to keep himself unspotted from the world. See Barnes on "Ro 12:2"; see Barnes on "Jas 4:4;

see Barnes on "1 Jo 2:15-17".

That is, religion will keep us from the maxims, vices, and corruptions which prevail in the world, and make us holy. These two things may, in fact, be said to constitute religion. If a man is truly benevolent, he bears the image of that God who is the fountain of benevolence; if he is pure and uncontaminated in his walk and deportment, he also resembles his Maker, for he is holy. If he has not these things, he cannot have any well-founded evidence that he is a Christian; for it is always the nature and tendency of religion to produce these things. It is, therefore, an easy matter for a man to determine whether he has any religion; and equally easy to see that religion is eminently desirable. Who can doubt that that is good which leads to compassion for the poor and the helpless, and which makes the heart and the life pure?

{a} "visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction"

Isa 1:16-17; Isa 58:6-7

{b} "unspotted from the world" Ro 12:2

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