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« Let Patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect
and entire, wanting nothing."
1. “MY Brethren,” says the Apostle in the preceding verse, "count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” At first view, this may appear a strange direction; seeing most temptations are," for the present, not joyous, but grievous.” Nevertheless ye know by your own experience, that “the trial of your faith worketh patience :” and if “ patience have its perfect work, ye shall be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
2. It is not to any particular person, or church, that the Apostle gives this instruction; but to all who are partakers of like precious faith, and are seeking after that common salvation. For as long as any of us are upon earth, we are in the region of temptation. He who came into the world, to save his people from their sins, did not come to save them from temptation. He, himself, “knew no sin :" yet while he was in this vale of tears," he suffered, being tempted :” and herein also “ left us an example, that we should tread in his steps.” We are liable to a thousand temptations, from the corruptible body variously affecting the soul. The soul itself, encompassed, as it is, with infirmities, exposes us to ten thousand more. And how many are the temptations which we meet with even from the good men, (such, at least, they are in part, in their general character,) with whom we are called to converse from day to day? Yet what are these to the temptations we may expect to meet with from an evil world ? Seeing we all, in effect, “ dwell with Mesech, and have our habitation in the tents of Kedar!" Add to this, that the most dangerous of our enemies, are not those that assault us openly. No:
“ Angels our march oppose,
Who still in strength excel :
Countless, invisible !" For is not our “ adversary the devil, as a roaring lion,” with all his infernal legions, “ still going about seeking whom he may devour?” This is the case with all the children of men. Yea, and with all the children of God, as long as they sojourn in this strange land. Therefore, if we do not wilfully and carelessly rush into them, yet we shall surely “ fall into divers temptations;" temptations innumerable as the stars of heaven, and those varied and complicated a thousand ways. But instead of counting this a loss, as unbelievers would do : “ count it all joy: knowing that the trial of your faith,” even when it is “ tried as by fire, worketh patience.” But “let patience have its perfect work, and ye shall be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
3. But what is Patience? We do not now speak of a Heathen Virtue: neither of a natural indolence : but of a gracious temper, wrought in the heart of a believer, by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is a disposition to suffer whatever pleases God, in the manner, and for the time that pleases him. We thereby hold the middle way, neither odywgrytes, despising our sufferings, making little of them, passing over them lightly, as if they were owing to chance, or second causes : nor on the other hand enhvollevoi, affected too much, unnerved, dissolved, sinking under them. We may observe, the proper object of Patience is suffering, either in body or mind. Patience does not imply the not feeling this: it is not Apathy or Insensibility. It is at the utmost
distance from Stoical Stupidity! yea, at an equal distance from fretfulness or dejection. The patient believer is preserved from falling into either of these extremes, by considering who is the Author of all his suffering, even God his Father: what is the motive of his giving us to suffer? Not so properly his justice as his love: and what is the end of it? Our “profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness.'
4. Very nearly related to Patience is Meekness: if it be not rather a species of it. For may it not be defined, Patient of Injuries, particularly affronts, reproach, or unjust censure? This teaches not to return evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise, blessing: Our blessed Lord himself, seems to place a peculiar value upon this temper. This he peculiarly calls us to learn of him, if we would find rest for our souls.
5. But what may we understand by the Work of Patience.? " Let patience have its perfect work.” It seems to mean, Let it have its full fruit or effect. And what is the fruit which the Spirit of God is accustomed to produce hereby, in the heart of a believer ? One immediate fruit of Patience is Peace : a sweet tranquillity of mind, a serenity of spirit, which can never be found unless where patience reigns. And this peace often rises into joy. Even in the midst of various temptations, those that are enabled in patience to possess their souls, can witness, not only quietness of spirit, but triumph and exultation. This both
66 Lays the rough paths of peevish nature even,
And opens in each breast a little heaven.” 6. How lively is the account which the Apostle Peter gives, not only of the peace and joy, but of the hope and love which God works in those patient sufferers, “ who are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation?” Indeed he appears herein to have an eye to this very passage of St. James : “ Though ye are grieved for a season, with manifold temptations,” (the very word 701x.dois πειρασμοις) 6 that the trial of your faith,” (the same expression which was used by St. James, “ may be found to
praise, and honour, and glory, at the Revelation of Jesus Christ: whom, having not seen, ye love: in whom, though ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." See here the peace, the joy, and the love, which, through the mighty power of God, are the fruit or work of patience !
7. And as peace, hope, joy and love, are the fruits of patience, both springing from, and confirmed by it, so is also rational, genuine courage, which, indeed, cannot subsist without patience. The brutal courage, or rather fierceness of a lion, may probably spring from impatience. But true fortitude, the courage of a man, springs from just the contrary temper. Christian zeal is likewise confirmed and increased by Patience. And so is activity in every good work: the same Spirit inciting us to be
“ Patient in bearing ill, and doing well;" making us equally willing to do and suffer the whole Will of God.
8. But what is the perfect work of Patience? Is it any thing less than the perfect Love of God, constraining us to love every soul of man, even as Christ loved us?” Is it not the whole of Religion, the whole “ Mind which was also in Christ Jesus?" Is it not the renewal of our soul in the image of God, after the likeness of him that created us?” And is not the fruit of this, the constant resignation of ourselves, body and spirit to God: entirely giving up all we are, all we have, and all we love, as a holy sacrifice, acceptable unto God through the Son of his love ? It seems this is the perfect work of patience, consequent upon the trial of our faith.
9. But how does this work differ from that gracious work which is wrought in every believer, when he first finds redemption in the blood of Jesus, even the remission of his sins ? Many persons that are not only upright of heart, but that fear, nay, and love God, have not spoken warily upon this head, not according to the Oracles of God. They have spoken of the work of sanctification, taking the word in its full sense, as if it were quite of another kind, as if it differed entirely from that which is wrought in justí. fication. But this is a great and dangerous mistake, and has a natural tendency to make us undervalue that glorious work of God, which was wrought in us, when we were justified: whereas, in that moment when we were justified freely by his grace, when we are accepted through the Beloved, we are born again, born from above, born of the Spirit. And there is as great a change wrought in our souls, when we are born of the Spirit, as was wrought in our bodies when we were born of a woman. There is, in that hour, a general change, from inward sinfulness, to inward holiness. The love of the creature is changed to the love of the Creator; the love of the world into the love of God. Earthly desires, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life, are, in that instant, changed by the mighty power of God, into heavenly desires. The whirlwind of our Will is stopped in its mid career, and sinks down into the Will of God. Pride and haughtiness subside into lowliness of heart: as do anger, with all turbulent and unruly passions, into calmness, meekness, and gentleness. In a word, the earthly, sensual, devilish mind, gives place to the mind that was in Christ Jesus.”
10. “Well, but what more than this can be implied in entire sanctification ?" It does not imply any new kind of holiness : let no man imagine this. From the moment we are justified, till we give up our spirits to God, Love is the fulfilling of the Law: of the whole evangelical Law, which took place of the Adamic Law, when the first promise of the Seed of the Woman was made. Love is the sum of Christian Sanctification; it is the one kind of holiness, which is found, only in various degrees, in the believers who are distinguished by St. John into “little children, young men, and fathers." The difference betwen one and the other, properly lies in the degree of love. And herein there is as great a difference in the spiritual, as in the natural sense, between fathers, young men, and babes.
Every one that is born of God, though he be as yet only