Dearly beloved, be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if a man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass: for he beheld himself and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was. But he that hath looked into perfect law of liberty and hath continued therein, not becoming a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work: this man shall be blessed in his deed. And if any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue but deceiving his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Religion pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: To visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation and to keep one’s self unspotted from this world.
Verse 23. He shall be compared to a man, &c. The sense is, that it is not enough for a man to examine and look into his interior, and the state of his conscience in a negligent and superficial manner, no more than one that goes to a looking-glass, but does not take care to take away the dirt or spots which he might discover. Wi.
Verse 25. The law of Christ, called here the perfect law of liberty, as it is distinguished from the Jewish law of fear and slavery, is as it were a looking-glass, which may make us know ourselves, and discover and correct our failings. Wi.
Verse 26. If any man think, &c. He here blames those hot disputes, which seem to have been frequent amongst the converted Jews, concerning the necessity of observing the legal rites. In vain, says he, do you pique yourselves upon the rigorous observance of the law, and your zeal to unite its ceremonial rites with the practice of the gospel. If you be void of the essence of Christianity, which is charity, prudence, and moderation, your religion will avail you nothing. C. — This may also be understood of those devotees who are fond of making a parade of their virtues, and who, as S. Gregory says, (hom. xii. in Mat.) afflict their bodies indeed with fasting, but for this they expect to be esteemed by men. A. — A man must not imagine himself to be religious, and perfect in the way of virtue, unless he governs and bridles his tongue from oaths, curses, calumnies, detractions, lies, of which more in the third chapter. Wi.
Verse 27. Religion pure and unspotted, &c. S. James may use the word pure, as a proper admonition to the Jews, who were generally mostly solicitous to avoid legal uncleanness, such as were incurred by eating meats forbidden in their law as unclean, by touching a dead body, &c. He therefore tells them that the Christian religion is known by acts of charity, by visiting and assisting widows, the fatherless, and such as are under afflictions, and in general by keeping our consciences interiorly clean, unspotted, and undefiled from this world, from the corrupt maxims and sinful practices so common in this wicked world. Wi.