THE CATHOLIC EPISTLE OF ST. JAMES THE APOSTLE
This Epistle is called Catholic or Universal, as formerly
were also the two Epistles of St. Peter, the first of St.
John and that of St. Jude, because they were not written to
any peculiar people or particular person, but to the
faithful in general. It was written by the apostle St.
James, called the Less, who was also called the brother of
our Lord, being his kinsman (for cousins german with the
Hebrews were called brothers). He was the first Bishop of
Jerusalem. In this Epistle are set forth many precepts
appertaining to faith and morals; particularly, that faith
without good works will not save a man and that true wisdom
is given only from above. In the fifth chapter he publishes
the sacrament of anointing the sick. It was written a short
time before his martyrdom, about twenty-eight years after
our Lord's Ascension.
James Chapter 1
The benefit of tribulations. Prayer with faith. God is the
author of all good, but not of evil. We must be slow to
anger and not hearers only, but doers of the word. Of
bridling the tongue and of pure religion.
1:1. James, the servant of God and of our Lord Jesus
Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,
1:2. My brethren, count it all joy, when you shall fall
into divers temptations:
Into divers temptations... The word temptation, in this
epistle, is sometimes taken for trials by afflictions or
persecutions, as in this place: at other times, it is to be
understood, tempting, enticing, or drawing others into sin.
1:3. Knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience
1:4. And patience hath a perfect work: that you may be
perfect and entire, failing in nothing.
1:5. But if any of you want wisdom, let him ask of God who
giveth to all men abundantly and upbraideth not. And it
shall be given him.
1:6. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he
that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, which is moved and
carried about by the wind.
1:7. Therefore let not that man think that he shall receive
any thing of the Lord.
1:8. A double minded man is inconstant in all his ways.
1:9. But let the brother of low condition glory in his
1:10. And the rich, in his being low: because as the flower
of the grass shall he pass away.
1:11. For the sun rose with a burning heat and parched the
grass: and the flower thereof fell off, and the beauty of
the shape thereof perished. So also shall the rich man fade
away in his ways.
1:12. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for,
when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of
life which God hath promised to them that love him.
1:13. Let no man, when he is tempted, say that he is
tempted by God. For God is not a tempter of evils: and he
tempteth no man.
1:14. But every man is tempted by his own concupiscence,
being drawn away and allured.
1:15. Then, when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth
forth sin. But sin, when it is completed, begetteth death.
1:16. Do not err, therefore, my dearest brethren.
1:17. Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is
no change nor shadow of alteration.
1:18. For of his own will hath he begotten us by the word
of truth, that we might be some beginning of his creature.
Some beginning... That is, a kind of first fruits of his
1:19. You know, my dearest brethren. And let every man be
swift to hear, but slow to speak and slow to anger.
1:20. For the anger of man worketh not the justice of God.
1:21. Wherefore, casting away all uncleanness and abundance
of naughtiness, with meekness receive the ingrafted word,
which is able to save your souls.
1:22. But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only,
deceiving your own selves.
1:23. 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.
1:24. For he beheld himself and went his way and presently
forgot what manner of man he was.
1:25. But he that hath looked into the 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.
1:26. And if any man think himself to be religious, not
bridling his tongue but deceiving his own heart, this man's
religion is vain.
1:27. Religion clean 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
James Chapter 2
Against respect of persons. The danger of transgressing one
point of the law. Faith is dead without works.
2:1. My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus
Christ of glory, with respect of persons.
With respect of persons... The meaning is, that in matters
relating to faith, the administering of the sacraments, and
other spiritual functions in God's church, there should be
no respect of persons; but that the souls of teh poor
should be as much regarded as those of the rich. See Deut.
2:2. For if there shall come into your assembly a man
having a golden ring, in fine apparel; and there shall come
in also a poor man in mean attire:
2:3. And you have respect to him that is clothed with the
fine apparel and shall say to him: Sit thou here well: but
say to the poor man: Stand thou there, or: Sit under my
2:4. Do you not judge within yourselves, and are become
judges of unjust thoughts?
2:5. Hearken, my dearest brethren: Hath not God chosen the
poor in this world, rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom
which God hath promised to them that love him?
2:6. But you have dishonoured the poor man. Do not the rich
oppress you by might? And do not they draw you before the
2:7. Do not they blaspheme the good name that is invoked
2:8. If then you fulfil the royal law, according to the
scriptures: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; you
2:9. But if you have respect to persons, you commit sin,
being reproved by the law as transgressors.
2:10. And whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in
one point, is become guilty of all.
Guilty of all;.. That is, he becomes a transgressor of the
law in such a manner, that the observing of all other
points will not avail him to salvation; for he despises the
lawgiver, and breaks through the great and general
commandment of charity, even by one mortal sin. For all the
precepts of the law are to be considered as one total and
entire law, and as it were a chain of precepts, where, by
breaking one link of this chain, the whole chain is broken,
or the integrity of the law consisting of a collection of
precepts. A sinner, therefore, by a grievous offence
against any one precept, incurs eternal punishment; yet the
punishment in hell shall be greater for those who have been
greater sinners, as a greater reward shall be for those in
heaven who have lived with greater sanctity and perfection.
2:11. For he that said: Thou shalt not commit adultery,
said also: Thou shalt not kill. Now if thou do not commit
adultery, but shalt kill, thou art become a transgressor of
2:12. So speak ye and so do, as being to be judged by the
law of liberty.
2:13. For judgment without mercy to him that hath not done
mercy. And mercy exalteth itself above judgment.
2:14. What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he
hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save
2:15. And if a brother or sister be naked and want daily
2:16. And one of you say to them: Go in peace, be ye warmed
and filled; yet give them not those things that are
necessary for the body, what shall it profit?
2:17. So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in
2:18. But some man will say: Thou hast faith, and I have
works. Shew me thy faith without works; and I will shew
thee, by works, my faith.
2:19. Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well:
the devils also believe and tremble.
2:20. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without
works is dead?
2:21. Was not Abraham our father justified by works,
offering up Isaac his son upon the altar?
2:22. Seest thou that faith did cooperate with his works
and by works faith was made perfect?
2:23. And the scripture was fulfilled, saying: Abraham
believed God, and it was reputed to him to justice, and he
was called the friend of God.
2:24. Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not
by faith only?
2:25. And in like manner also Rahab the harlot, was not she
justified by works, receiving the messengers and sending
them out another way?
2:26. For even as the body without the spirit is dead: so
also faith without works is dead.
James Chapter 3
Of the evils of the tongue. Of the difference between the
earthly and heavenly wisdom.
3:1. Be ye not many masters, my brethren, knowing that you
receive the greater judgment.
3:2. For in many things we all offend. If any man offend
not in word, the same is a perfect man. He is able also
with a bridle to lead about the whole body.
3:3. For if we put bits into the mouths of horses, that
they may obey us: and we turn about their whole body.
3:4. Behold also ships, whereas they are great and are
driven by strong winds, yet are they turned about with a
small helm, whithersoever the force of the governor
3:5. Even so the tongue is indeed a little member and
boasteth great things. Behold how small a fire kindleth a
3:6. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The
tongue is placed among our members, which defileth the
whole body and inflameth the wheel of our nativity, being
set on fire by hell.
3:7. For every nature of beasts and of birds and of
serpents and of the rest is tamed and hath been tamed, by
the nature of man.
3:8. But the tongue no man can tame, an unquiet evil, full
of deadly poison.
3:9. By it we bless God and the Father: and by it we curse
men who are made after the likeness of God.
3:10. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and
cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
3:11. Doth a fountain send forth, out of the same hole,
sweet and bitter water?
3:12. Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear grapes? Or the
vine, figs? So neither can the salt water yield sweet.
3:13. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge, among
you? Let him shew, by a good contestation, his work in the
meekness of wisdom.
3:14. But if you have bitter zeal, and there be contention
in your hearts: glory not and be not liars against the
3:15. For this is not wisdom, descending from above: but
earthly, sensual, devilish.
3:16. For where envying and contention is: there is
inconstancy and every evil work.
3:17. But the wisdom that is from above, first indeed is
chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded,
consenting to the good, full of mercy and good fruits,
without judging, without dissimulation.
3:18. And the fruit of justice is sown in peace, to them
that make peace.
James Chapter 4
The evils that flow from yielding to concupiscence and
being friends to this world. Admonitions against pride,
detraction and the like.
4:1. From whence are wars and contentions among you? Are
they not hence, from your concupiscences, which war in your
4:2. You covet, and have not: you kill and envy and cannot
obtain. You contend and war, and you have not: because you
4:3. You ask and receive not: because you ask amiss, that
you may consume it on your concupiscences.
4:4. Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this
world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a
friend of this world becometh an enemy of God.
4:5. Or do you think that the scripture saith in vain: To
envy doth the spirit covet which dwelleth in you?
4:6. But he giveth greater grace. Wherefore he saith: God
resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.
4:7. Be subject therefore to God. But resist the devil: and
he will fly from you.
4:8. Draw nigh to God: and he will draw nigh to you.
Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye
4:9. Be afflicted and mourn and weep: let your laughter be
turned into mourning and your joy into sorrow.
4:10. Be humbled in the sight of the Lord: and he will
4:11. Detract not one another, my brethren. He that
detracteth his brother, or he that judgeth his brother,
detracteth the law and judgeth the law. But if thou judge
the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
4:12. There is one lawgiver and judge, that is able to
destroy and to deliver.
4:13. But who art thou that judgest thy neighbour? Behold,
now you that say: To-day or to-morrow we will go into such
a city, and there we will spend a year and will traffic and
make our gain.
4:14. Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow.
4:15. For what is your life? It is a vapour which appeareth
for a little while and afterwards shall vanish away. For
that you should say: If the Lord will, and, If we shall
live, we will do this or that.
4:16. But now you rejoice in your arrogancies. All such
rejoicing is wicked.
4:17. To him therefore who knoweth to do good and doth it
not, to him it is sin.
James Chapter 5
A woe to the rich that oppress the poor. Exhortations to
patience and to avoid swearing. Of the anointing the sick,
confession of sins and fervour in prayer.
5:1. Go to now, ye rich men: weep and howl in your
miseries, which shall come upon you.
5:2. Your riches are corrupted: and your garments are
5:3. Your gold and silver is cankered: and the rust of them
shall be for a testimony against you and shall eat your
flesh like fire. You have stored up to yourselves wrath
against the last days.
5:4. Behold the hire of the labourers who have reaped down
your fields, which by fraud has been kept back by you,
crieth: and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of
the Lord of Sabaoth.
5:5. You have feasted upon earth: and in riotousness you
have nourished your hearts, in the day of slaughter.
5:6. You have condemned and put to death the Just One: and
he resisted you not.
5:7. Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of
the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious
fruit of the earth: patiently bearing till he receive the
early and latter rain.
5:8. Be you therefore also patient and strengthen your
hearts: for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
5:9. Grudge not, brethren, one against another, that you
may not be judged. Behold the judge standeth before the
5:10. Take, my brethren, for example of suffering evil, of
labour and patience, the prophets who spoke in the name of
5:11. Behold, we account them blessed who have endured. You
have heard of the patience of Job and you have seen the end
of the Lord, that the Lord is merciful and compassionate.
5:12. But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither
by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath. But let
your speech be: Yea, Yea: No, No: that you fall not under
5:13. Is any of you sad? Let him pray: Is he cheerful in
mind? Let him sing.
5:14. Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the
priests of the church and let them pray over him, anointing
him with oil in the name of the Lord.
Let him bring in, etc... See here a plain warrant of
scripture for the sacrament of extreme unction, that any
controversy against its institution would be against the
express words of the sacred text in the plainest terms.
5:15. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man. And
the Lord shall raise him up: and if he be in sins, they
shall be forgiven him.
5:16. Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray
one for another, that you may be saved. For the continual
prayer of a just man availeth much.
Confess your sins one to another... That is, to the priests
of the church, whom (ver.14) he had ordered to be called
for, and brought in to the sick; moreover, to confess to
persons who had no power to forgive sins, would be useless.
Hence the precept here means, that we must confess to men
whom Gkod hath appointed, and who, by their ordination and
jurisdiction, have received the power of remitting sins in
5:17. Elias was a man passible like unto us: and with
prayer he prayed that it might not rain upon the earth. And
it rained not for three years and six months.
5:18. And he prayed again. And the heaven gave rain: and
the earth brought forth her fruit.
5:19. My brethren, if any of you err from the truth and one
5:20. He must know that he who causeth a sinner to be
converted from the error of his way shall save his soul
from death and shall cover a multitude of sins.
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