James 2:17
(17) Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.--Better, like the margin, is dead in its own self. If to be childless among women were a curse in Israel, so to be barren among God's graces is the condemnation of faith in Christendom. And St. Paul, in substantial harmony with this assertion of his brother Apostle, declares (Romans 2:13) "Not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law shall be justified." There had been no lack of charity under the earlier Jewish teaching; in fact, "righteousness" in many passages of Holy Writ, and in the paraphrases for the unlearned, called the Targums, was explained to be "almsgiving." But the whole system of Rabbinism seems gradually to have destroyed the spiritual life of its scholars; and amongst them now was fast spreading the doctrine of a sterile faith. In the revival of Monotheism under the sword of the prophet of Mecca, the faith of Abraham once more shone in the creed of his descendants; though, alas! the sons of Ishmael, and not Isaac the chosen: and the Muhammedans tell us still that if fasting and prayer bring the believer to the gates of Paradise, alms will let him in.

Verse 17. - Being alone (καθ ἑαυτήν); R.V., in itself. But the rendering of the A.V. appears to be justified by the LXX. in Genesis 43:31, Παρέθηκαν αὐτῷ μόνῳ καὶ αὐτοῖς καθ ἑαυτούς κ.τ.λ..

2:14-26 Those are wrong who put a mere notional belief of the gospel for the whole of evangelical religion, as many now do. No doubt, true faith alone, whereby men have part in Christ's righteousness, atonement, and grace, saves their souls; but it produces holy fruits, and is shown to be real by its effect on their works; while mere assent to any form of doctrine, or mere historical belief of any facts, wholly differs from this saving faith. A bare profession may gain the good opinion of pious people; and it may procure, in some cases, worldly good things; but what profit will it be, for any to gain the whole world, and to lose their souls? Can this faith save him? All things should be accounted profitable or unprofitable to us, as they tend to forward or hinder the salvation of our souls. This place of Scripture plainly shows that an opinion, or assent to the gospel, without works, is not faith. There is no way to show we really believe in Christ, but by being diligent in good works, from gospel motives, and for gospel purposes. Men may boast to others, and be conceited of that which they really have not. There is not only to be assent in faith, but consent; not only an assent to the truth of the word, but a consent to take Christ. True believing is not an act of the understanding only, but a work of the whole heart. That a justifying faith cannot be without works, is shown from two examples, Abraham and Rahab. Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Faith, producing such works, advanced him to peculiar favours. We see then, ver. 24, how that by works a man is justified, not by a bare opinion or profession, or believing without obeying; but by having such faith as produces good works. And to have to deny his own reason, affections, and interests, is an action fit to try a believer. Observe here, the wonderful power of faith in changing sinners. Rahab's conduct proved her faith to be living, or having power; it showed that she believed with her heart, not merely by an assent of the understanding. Let us then take heed, for the best works, without faith, are dead; they want root and principle. By faith any thing we do is really good; as done in obedience to God, and aiming at his acceptance: the root is as though it were dead, when there is no fruit. Faith is the root, good works are the fruits; and we must see to it that we have both. This is the grace of God wherein we stand, and we should stand to it. There is no middle state. Every one must either live God's friend, or God's enemy. Living to God, as it is the consequence of faith, which justifies and will save, obliges us to do nothing against him, but every thing for him and to him.Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. It is like a lifeless carcass, a body without a soul, James 2:26 for as works, without faith, are dead works, so faith, without works, is a dead faith, and not like the lively hope and faith of regenerated persons: and indeed, such who have no other faith than this are dead in trespasses and sins; not that works are the life of faith, or that the life of faith lies in, and flows from works; but, as Dr. Ames observes (b), good works are second acts, necessarily flowing from the life of faith; to which may be added, and by these faith appears to be living, lively and active, or such who perform them appear to be true and living believers.

(b) Medulla Theolog. l. 2. c. 7. sect. 35.

James 2:16
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