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us now such portions of his grace, that we
WHAT RELIGION IS NOT; AND WHAT IT IS.
James i. 26, 27.
If any man among you seem to be religious,
and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father, is this : to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
UPON reading these words, we may
almost think for a moment that we behold St. James standing in the midst of a professedly christian assembly, and speaking in the language of my text to those who had given in their names to Christ. The apostle does not wait for any observation; but he proceeds to show, first, what is not religion ; and then what it is.
He grounds his discourse upon the principle, that the hypocrite's hope must perish. That if the wall be only daubed with untempered mortar, it will fall, and will deceive the man who built it. That if the heart and the tongue do not speak the same language, and this language be not confirmed by the daily life and conversation, that man's religion is vain.
In the days in which St. James lived, there was a great deal of this false profession. Of this we may be sure, from the whole tenor of his epistle. He seems to be fighting with his antagonist throughout. How very plain is his advice !—“A doubleminded man,” he says, “ is unstable in all his ways.” How humiliating, how.contrary to the pride of man, is the exhortation in the nineteenth verse!" Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath : for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” Again : “Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” This sort of religion is no bondage, but liberty, the
But be ye
“ How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation ?" But as the importance is great, so is the danger great of a mere outward profession. How often are we obliged to look to our Lord's rule—wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them. It is so easy
to talk of that which we do not really feel ; so tempting to be thought to be in earnest, and to be a sort of leader to a little band-so easy to fancy we are wise, when we have need to learn over again what are the first rudiments of the Gospel of Christ, that we have reason to pray to be kept very humble in our christian walk, and yet to be going on unto perfection. There are, indeed, certain marks which will clearly prove who are, and who are not, the disciples of Christ. We find them in the text. The tongue will tell.
“ If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.” Here, then, is a deathblow at once to the religion of that man who does not bridle his tongue. If oaths and curses come from them; if excessive anger or passion ; if foolish talking or jesting, which are not convenient; if
backbiting and talebearing, and bearing false witness against a neighbour ; if these evils come from the tongue, we have, I say, (be the profession what it may,) reason to doubt that man's religion. We pass no judgment upon him—to his own Master he standeth or falleth; but we are put upon our guard, and we warn our children, or our families, of such a man. How is it that
you judge of the goodness of money? You examine it, and you weigh it. It looks like the coin, but you are deceived to your loss. You do not throw away the good, because you
have been deceived. No! you are only led to be more careful. Religion stands firm; but you must look to your duty to God, to your faith, to your hope, to your duty to your neighbour, to your charity, in order to see what Christianity really is in the life of a man ; which leads me, 2ndly. To see what it is. It must be
pure and peaceable. “ Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this ! to visit the fatherless and widows." What ! is there anything to be done? Surely, say some high-sounding professors, St. James must have been mistaken. No! he was an