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226

CHAPTER XIX.
THE SEDUCTIONS OF THE WORLD,
AND THE JEALOUSY OF THE DIVINE LOVE.

"Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God. Or think ye that the Scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the Spirit which He made to dwell in us long unto envying? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore the Scripture saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble."—St. James iv. 4-6.

THE Revisers are certainly right in rejecting, without even mention in the margin, the reading, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses." The difficulty of the revised reading pleads strongly in its favour, and the evidence of MSS. and versions is absolutely decisive. The interpolation of the masculine was doubtless made by those who supposed that the term of reproach was to be understood literally, and who thought it inexplicable that St. James should confine his rebuke to female offenders.

But the context shows that the term is not to be understood literally. It is not a special kind of sensuality, but greed and worldliness generally, that the writer is condemning. It is one of the characteristics of the letter that being addressed to Jewish, and not Gentile converts, and occasionally to Jews whether Christians or not, it says very little about the sins of 227 the flesh; and "adulteresses" here is no exception. The word is used in its common Old Testament sense of spiritual adultery—unfaithfulness to Jehovah regarded as the Husband of His people. "They that are far from Thee shall perish: Thou hast destroyed all them that go a-whoring from Thee" (Ps. lxxiii. 27). "Thus will I make thy lewdness to cease from thee, and thy whoredom brought from the land of Egypt" (Ezek. xxiii. 27). "Plead with your mother, plead; for she is not My wife, neither am I her Husband" (Hos. ii. 2). The fifty-seventh chapter of Isaiah contains a terrible working out of this simile; and indeed the Old Testament is full of it. Our Lord is probably reproducing it when he speaks of the Jews of His own time as an "adulterous and sinful generation" (Matt. xii. 39; xvi. 4; Mark viii. 38). And we find it again in the Apocalypse (ii. 22).

But why does St. James use the feminine? Had he accused his readers of adultery, or called them an adulterous generation, the meaning would have been clear enough. What is the exact meaning of "Ye adulteresses"?

St. James wishes to bring home to those whom he is addressing that not only the Christian Church as a whole, or the chosen people as a whole, is espoused to God, but that each individual soul stands to Him in the relation of a wife to her husband. It is not merely the case that they belong to a generation which in the main has been guilty of unfaithfulness, and that in this guilt they share; but each of them, taken one by one, has in his or her own person committed this sin against the Divine Spouse. The sex of the person does not affect the relationship: any soul that has been wedded to God, and has then transferred its affection and 228 allegiance to other beings, is an unfaithful wife. St. James, with characteristic simplicity, directness, and force, indicates this fact by the stern address, "Ye adulteresses."

"Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" He implies that they might know this, and that they can scarcely help doing so; it is so obvious that to love His opponent is to be unfaithful and hostile to Him. At the beginning of the section St. James had asked whence came the miserable condition in which his readers were found; and he replied that it came from their own desires, which they tried to gratify by intrigue and violence, instead of resorting to prayer; or else from the carnal aims by which they turned their prayers into sin. Here he puts the same fact in a somewhat different way. This vehement pursuit of their own pleasures, in word, and deed, and even in prayer—what is it but a desertion of God for Mammon, a sacrifice of the love of God to the friendship (such as it is) of the world? It is a base yielding to seductions which ought to have no attractiveness, for they involve the unfaithfulness of a wife and the treason of a subject. There can be no true and loyal affection for God while some other than God is loved, and not loved for His sake. If a woman "shall put away her husband, and marry another, she committeth adultery" (Mark xi. 12); and if a soul shall put away its God, and marry another, it committeth adultery. A wife who cultivates friendship with one who is trying to seduce her becomes the enemy of her husband; and every Christian and Jew ought to know "that the friendship of the world is enmity with God."

St. John tells us (and the words are probably not his, but Christ's) that "God loved the world" (John iii. 16). 229 He also charges us not to love the world (1 John ii. 15). And here St. James tells us that to be friends with the world is to be the enemy of God. It is obvious that "the world" which God loves is not identical with "the world" which we are told not to love. "World" (κόσμος) is a term which has various meanings in Scripture, and we shall go seriously astray if we do not carefully distinguish them. Sometimes it means the whole universe in its order and beauty; as when St. Paul says, "For the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made" (Rom. i. 20). Sometimes it means this planet, the earth; as when the evil one showed to Jesus "all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them" (Matt. iv. 8). Again, it means the inhabitants of the earth; as when Christ is said to "take away the sin of the world" (John i. 2; 1 John iv. 14). Lastly, it means those who are alienated from God—unbelievers, faithless Jews and Christians, and especially the great heathen organization of Rome (John viii. 23; xii. 31). Thus a word which originally signified the natural order and beauty of creation comes to signify the unnatural disorder and hideousness of creatures who have rebelled against their Creator. The world which the Father loves is the whole race of mankind, His creatures and His children. The world which we are not to love is that which prevents us from loving Him in return, His rival and His enemy. It is from this world that the truly religious man keeps himself unspotted (i. 25). Sinful men, with their sinful lusts, keeping up a settled attitude of disloyalty and hostility to God, and handing this on as a living tradition, is what St. Paul, and St. James, and St. John mean by "the world."

230 This world has the devil for its ruler (John xiv. 30). It lies wholly in the power of the evil one (1 John v. 19). It cannot hate Christ's enemies, for the very reason that it hates Him (John vii. 7). And for the same reason it hates all those whom He has chosen out of its midst (xv. 18, 19). Just as there is a Spirit of God, which leads us into all the truth, so there is a "spirit of the world," which leads to just the opposite (1 Cor. ii. 12). This world, with its lusts, is passing away (1 John ii. 17), and its very sorrow worketh death (2 Cor. vii. 10). "The world is human nature, sacrificing the spiritual to the material, the future to the present, the unseen and the eternal to that which touches the senses and which perishes with time. The world is a mighty flood of thoughts, feelings, principles of action, conventional prejudices, dislikes, attachments, which have been gathering around human life for ages, impregnating it, impelling it, moulding it, degrading it. Of the millions of millions of human beings who have lived, nearly every one probably has contributed something, his own little addition, to the great tradition of materialized life which St. [James] calls the world. Every one, too, must have received something from it. According to his circumstances the same man acts upon the world, or in turn is acted on by it. And the world at different times wears different forms. Sometimes it is a solid compact mass, an organization of pronounced ungodliness. Sometimes it is a subtle, thin, hardly suspected influence, a power altogether airy and impalpable, which yet does most powerfully penetrate, inform, and shape human life."7676   Liddon, Easter Sermons, vol. ii., pp. 56, 57 (Rivingtons, 1885).

There is no sin in a passionate love of the ordered 231 beauty and harmony of the universe, as exhibited either in this planet or in the countless bodies which people the immensity of space; no sin in devoting the energies of a lifetime to finding out all that can be known about the laws and conditions of nature in all its complex manifestations. Science is no forbidden ground to God's servants, for all truth is God's truth, and to learn it is a revelation of Himself. If only it be studied as His creature, it may be admired and loved without any disloyalty to Him.

Still less is there any sin in "the enthusiasm of humanity," in a passionate zeal for the amelioration of the whole human race. A consuming love for one's fellow-men is so far from involving enmity to God that it is impossible to have any genuine love of God without it. "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen cannot love God whom he hath not seen" (1 John iv. 20). The love of the world which St. James condemns is a passion which more than anything else renders a love of mankind impossible. Its temper is selfishness, and the principle of its action is the conviction that every human being is actuated by purely selfish motives. It has no belief in motives of which it has no experience either in itself or in those among whom it habitually moves. Next to a cultivation of the love of God, a cultivation of the love of man is the best remedy for the deadly paralysis of the heart which is the inevitable consequence of choosing to be a friend of the world.

This choice is a very important element in the matter. It is lost in the Authorized Version, but is rightly restored by the Revisers. "Whosoever, therefore, would be (βουλληθῇ εἶναι) a friend of the world maketh himself (καθίσταται) an enemy of God." It is 232 useless for him to plead that he has no wish to be hostile to God. He has of his own free will adopted a condition of life which of necessity involves hostility to Him. And he has full opportunity of knowing this; for although the world may try to deceive him by confusing the issue, God does not. The world may assure him that there is no need of any choice: he has no need to abandon God; it is quite easy to serve God, and yet remain on excellent terms with the world. But God declares that the choice must be made, and that it is absolute and exclusive. "And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and His statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?" (Deut. x. 12, 13; comp. vi. 5 and xxx. 6).

The next two verses are a passage of known difficulty, the most difficult in this Epistle, and one of the most difficult in the whole of the New Testament. In the intensity of his detestation of the evil against which he is inveighing, St. James has used condensed expressions which can be understood in a variety of ways, and it is scarcely possible to decide which of the three or four possible meanings is the one intended. But the question has been obscured by the suggestion of explanations which are not tenable. The choice lies between those which are given in the margin of the Revised Version and the one before us in the text; for we may safely discard all those which depend upon the reading "dwelleth in us" (κατῴκησεν), and we must stand by the reading "made to dwell in us" (κατῴκισεν).

The questions which cannot be answered with 233 certainty are these: 1. Are two Scriptures quoted, or only one? and if two are quoted, where is the first of them to be found? 2. Who is it that "longeth" or "lusteth?" is it God, or the Holy Spirit, or our own human spirit? 3. What is it that is longed for by God or the Spirit? Let us take these three questions in order.

1. The words which follow "Think ye that the Scripture speaketh in vain?" do not occur in the Old Testament, although the sense of them may be found piecemeal in a variety of passages. Therefore, either the words are not a quotation at all, or they are from some book no longer extant, or they are a condensation of several utterances in the Old Testament.7777   Comp. 1 Cor. ii. 9; ix. 10; Eph. v. 14, in all which places we have quotations the source of which cannot be determined. Similar phenomena are frequent in patristic literature. See A. Resch's Agrapha; Aussercanonische Evangelienfragmente in Texte und Untersuchungen z. Gesch. d. Altchr. Lit. (Leipzig, 1889), p. 256. The first of these suppositions seems to be the best, but neither of the others can be set aside as improbable. We may paraphrase, therefore, the first part of the passage thus:—

"Ye unfaithful spouses of Jehovah! know ye not that to be friendly with the world is to be at enmity with Him? Or do ye think that what the Scripture says about faithlessness to God is idly spoken?" But as regards this first question we must be content to remain in great uncertainty.

2. Who is it that "longeth" or "lusteth" (ἐπιποθεῖ)? To decide whether "longeth" or "lusteth" is the right translation will help us to decide this second point, and it will also help us to decide whether the sentence is interrogative or not. Is this word of 234 desiring used here in the good sense of longing or yearning, or in the bad sense of lusting? The word occurs frequently in the New Testament, and in every one of these passages it is used in a good sense (Rom. i. 11; 2 Cor. v. 2; ix. 14; Phil. i. 8; ii. 26; 1 Thess. iii. 10; 2 Tim. i. 4; 1 Peter ii. 2). Nor is this the whole case. Substantives and adjectives which are closely cognate with it are fairly common, and these are all used in a good sense (Rom. xv. 23; 2 Cor. vii. 7; vii. 11; Phil. iv. 1). We may therefore set aside the interpretations of the sentence which require the rendering "lusteth," whether the statement that man's spirit lusteth enviously, or the question, Doth the Divine Spirit in us lust enviously? The word here expresses the mighty and affectionate longing of the Divine love. And it is the Spirit which God made to dwell in us which longeth over us with a jealous longing. If we make the sentence mean that God longeth, then we are compelled to take the Spirit which He made to dwell in us as that for which He longs; God has a jealous longing for His own Spirit implanted in us. But this does not yield very good sense; we decide, therefore, for the rendering, "Even unto jealousy doth the Spirit which He made to dwell in us yearn over us." "Even unto jealousy;" these words stand first, with great emphasis. No friendship with the world or any alien object can be tolerated.

3. The third question has been solved by the answer to the second. That which is yearned for by the Spirit implanted in us is ourselves. The meaning is not that God longs for man's spirit (the human spirit would hardly be spoken of as that which God "made to dwell in us"), or that He longs for the Holy Spirit in us (a meaning which would be very hard to explain), 235 but that His Holy Spirit yearns for us with a jealous yearning. God is a jealous God, and the Divine love is a jealous love; it brooks no rival. And when His Spirit takes up its abode in us it cannot rest until it possesses us wholly, to the exclusion of all alien affections.

At one of the conferences between the Northern and the Southern States of America during the war of 1861-1866 the representatives of the Southern States stated what cession of territory they were prepared to make, provided that the independence of the portion that was not ceded to the Federal Government was secured. More and more attractive offers were made, the portions to be ceded being increased, and those to be retained in a state of independence being proportionately diminished. All the offers were met by a steadfast refusal. At last President Lincoln placed his hand on the map so as to cover all the Southern States, and in these emphatic words delivered his ultimatum: "Gentlemen, this Government must have the whole." The constitution of the United States was at an end if any part, however small, was allowed to become independent of the rest. It was a vital principle, which did not admit of exceptions or degrees. It must be kept in its entirety, or it was not kept at all.

Just such is the claim which God, by the working of His Spirit, makes upon ourselves. He cannot share us with the world, however much we may offer to Him, and however little to His rival. If a rival is admitted at all, our relation to Him is violated and we have become unfaithful. His government must have the whole.

Do these terms seem to be harsh? They are not 236 really so, for the more we surrender, the more He bestows. We give up the world, and that appears to us to be a great sacrifice. "But He giveth more grace." Even in this world He gives far more than we give up, and adds a crown of life in the world to come (i. 12). "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for My sake, and for the Gospel's sake, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life" (Mark x. 29, 30). "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble." Those who persist in making friends with the world, in seeking its advantages, in adopting its standards, in accepting its praise, God resists. By choosing to throw in their lot with His enemy they have made themselves His enemies, and He cannot but withstand them. But to those who humbly submit their wills to His, who give up the world, with its gifts and its promises, and are willing to be despised by it in order to keep themselves unspotted from it, He gives grace—grace to cling closer to Him, in spite of the attractions of the world; a gift which, unlike the gifts of the world, never loses its savour.

Was St. James acquainted with the Magnificat? May not he, the Lord's brother, have sometimes heard the Mother of the Lord recite it? The passage before us is almost like an echo of some of its words: "His mercy is unto generations and generations of them that fear Him. He hath showed strength with His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their 237 heart. He hath put down princes from their thrones, and hath exalted them of low degree. The hungry He hath filled with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away." At any rate the Magnificat and St. James teach the same lesson as the Book of Proverbs and St. Peter, who, like St. James, quotes it (1 Peter v. 5), that God resists and puts down those who choose to unite themselves with the world in preference to Him, and gives more and more graces and blessings to all who by faith in Him and His Christ have overcome the world. It is only by faith that we can overcome. A conviction that the things which are seen are the most important and pressing, if not the only realities, is sure to betray us into a state of captivity in which the power to work for God, and even the desire to serve Him, will become less and less. We have willed to place ourselves under the world's spell, and such influence as we possess tells not for God, but against Him. But a belief that the chief and noblest realities are unseen enables a man to preserve an attitude of independence and indifference towards things which, even if they are substantial advantages, belong to this world only. He knows how insignificant all that this life has to offer is, compared with the immeasurable joys and woes of the life to come, and he cannot be guilty of the folly of sacrificing a certain and eternal future to a brief and uncertain present. The God in whom he believes is far more to him than the world which he sees and feels. "This is the victory which hath overcome the world, even his faith."


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