*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
But he giveth more grace - The reference here is undoubtedly to God. Some have regarded this clause as a continuation of the quotation in the previous verse, but it is rather to be considered as a declaration of the apostle himself. The writer had just spoken of envy, and of the crimes which grew out of it. He thought of the wars and commotions of the earth, and of the various lusts which reigned among men. In the contemplation of these things, it seems suddenly to have occurred to him that all were not under the influence of these things; that there were cases where men were restrained, and where a spirit opposite to these things prevailed. Another passage of Scripture struck his mind, containing the truth that there was a class of men to whom God gave grace to restrain these passions, and to subdue these carnal propensities. They were the humble, in contradistinction to the proud; and he states the fact that "God giveth more grace;" that is, that in some instances he confers more grace than in the cases referred to; to some he gives more grace to overcome their evil passions, and to subdue their corrupt inclinations, than he does to others. The meaning may be thus expressed: - "It is true that the natural spirit in man is one that tends to envy, and thus leads to all the sad consequences of envy. But there are instances in which higher grace or favor is conferred; in which these feelings are subdued, and these consequences are prevented. They are not indeed to be found among the proud, whom God always resists; but they are to be found among the meek and the humble. Wherefore submit yourselves to his arrangements; resist the devil; draw nigh to God; purify yourselves, and weep over your past offences, and you shall find that the Lord will lift you up, and bestow his favor upon you," James 4:10.
Wherefore he saith - The reference here is to Proverbs 3:34, "Surely he scorneth the scorners; but he giveth grace unto the lowly." The quotation is made exactly from the Septuagint, which, though not entirely literal, expresses the sense of the Hebrew without essential inaccuracy. This passage is also quoted in 1-Peter 5:5.
God resisteth the proud - The proud are those who have an inordinate self-esteem; who have a high and unreasonable conceit of their own excellence or importance. This may extend to anything; to beauty, or strength, or attainments, or family, or country, or equipage, or rank, or even religion. A man may be proud of anything that belongs to him, or which can in any way be construed as a part of himself, or as pertaining to him. This does not, of course, apply to a correct estimate of ourselves, or to the mere knowledge that we may excel others. One may know that he has more strength, or higher attainments in learning or in the mechanic arts, or greater wealth than others, and yet have properly no pride in the case. He has only a correct estimate of himself, and he attaches no undue importance to himself on account of it. His heart is not lifted up; he claims no undue deference to himself; he concedes to all others what is their due; and he is humble before God, feeling that all that he has, and is, is nothing in his sight. He is willing to occupy his appropriate place in the sight of God and men, and to be esteemed just as he is. Pride goes beyond this, and gives to a man a degree of self-estimation which is not warranted by anything that he possesses. God looks at things as they are; and hence he abhors and humbles this arrogant claim, Leviticus 26:19; Job 33:17; Psalm 59:12; Proverbs 8:13; Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 29:13; Isaiah 23:9; Isaiah 28:1; Daniel 4:37; Zac 10:11. This resistance of pride he shows not only in the explicit declarations of his word, but in the arrangements of his providence and grace:
(1) In his providence, in the reverses and disappointments which occur; in the necessity of abandoning the splendid mansion which we had built, or in disappointing us in some favorite plan by which our pride was to be nurtured and gratified.
(2) in sickness, taking away the beauty and strength on which we had so much valued ourselves, and bring us to the sad condition of a sick bed.
(3) in the grave, bringing us down to corruption and worms. Why should one be proud who will soon become so offensive to his best friends that they will gladly hide him in the grave?
(4) in the plan of salvation he opposes our pride. Not a feature of that plan is fitted to foster pride, but all is adapted to make us humble.
(a) The necessity for the plan - that we are guilty and helpless sinners;
(b) the selection of a Saviour - one who was so poor, and who was so much despised by the world, and who was put to death on a cross;
(c) our entire dependence on him for salvation, with the assurance that we have no merit of our own, and that salvation is all of grace;
(d) the fact that we are brought to embrace it only by the agency of the Holy Spirit, and that if we were left to ourselves we should never have one right thought or holy desire - all this is fitted to humble us, and to bring us low before God. God has done nothing to foster the self-estimation of the human heart; but how much has he done to "stain the pride of all glory? See the notes at Isaiah 23:9.
But giveth grace unto the humble - The meaning is, that he shows them favor; he bestows upon them the grace needful to secure their salvation. This he does:
(1) because they feel their need of his favor;
(2) because they will welcome his teaching and value his friendship;
(3) because all the arrangements of his grace are adapted only to such a state of mind. You cannot teach one who is so wise that he already supposes he knows enough; you cannot bestow grace on one who has no sense of the need of it. The arrangements of salvation are adapted only to an humble heart.
But he giveth more grace - Μειζονα χαριν, A greater benefit, than all the goods that the world can bestow; for he gives genuine happiness, and this the world cannot confer. May this be St. James' meaning?
God resisteth the proud - Αντιτασσεται· Sets himself in battle array against him.
Giveth grace unto the humble - The sure way to please God is to submit to the dispensation of his grace and providence; and when a man acknowledges him in all his ways, he will direct all his steps. The covetous man grasps at the shadow, and loses the substance.
But he giveth more grace,.... The Arabic version adds, "to us"; the Ethiopic version, "to you"; and the Syriac version reads the whole thus; "but our Lord gives more grace to us"; or "greater grace"; than the world can give, whose friendship is courted by men; the least measure of grace, of faith, and hope, and love, and of a spiritual knowledge of Christ, and interest in him, and of peace, joy, and comfort, is more worth than all the world, and everything in it: or greater grace, more favours than the saints are able to ask or think; so Solomon had more favours given him than he could think of asking for: or greater grace, and larger measures of it, even of spiritual light and knowledge, under the Gospel dispensation, than under the former dispensation; or where God bestows gifts qualifying for service and usefulness, and these are made use of and employed for such purposes, he gives more: or this may refer to internal grace wrought by the Spirit of God, in the hearts of his people; more of which he may be said to give, when he causes it to abound, as to its acts and exercises; when faith grows exceedingly, hope revives, and is lively, and abounds through his power and influence, and love to God and Christ, and one another, abounds yet more and more; when there is a growth in every grace, and in the knowledge of Christ Jesus, so that this grace becomes a well of living waters, springing up into eternal life, which at last will have its perfection in glory:
wherefore he saith; either the Spirit that gives more grace, or the Scripture, or God in the Scripture, in Proverbs 3:34,
God resisteth the proud: or scorns the scorners; he rejects them that trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others; that say, Stand by thyself, I am holier than thou; that are proud of themselves, their enjoyments, their gifts, their external righteousness, and holiness, and are full, and rich, and increased with goods, and stand in need of nothing; these he opposes, he sets himself against, he thrusts them away from him, he sends them away empty, and scatters them in the imagination of their own hearts; and in the things in which they deal proudly, he is above them; he sits in the heavens and laughs at them, and frustrates all their schemes:
but he giveth grace unto the humble; who are sensible of their own vileness and meanness, and acknowledge it; who think the meanest of themselves, and the best of others; and do not envy the gifts and graces of God bestowed upon others, but rejoice at them; and ascribe all they have, and are, to the free grace of God; and ingenuously confess the deficiency of their duties, and the insufficiency of their righteousness to justify them before God; and that when they have done all they can, or are assisted to do, they are but unprofitable servants: now to these God gives grace; he not only gives grace at first, to make them humble, but he gives them more grace, or increases what he gives: grace is God's gift; he gives all the grace that is in Christ, and all the blessings of grace that are in the covenant, and all the grace that is in the hearts of his people; as faith, hope, love, repentance, humility, patience, self-denial, resignation to his will, and every degree of spiritual knowledge; and grace is only his gift; men cannot give it to themselves, nor can the best of men give it to others; not godly parents to their children; nor ministers to those to whom they preach; no, nor the angels in heaven; nor is it to be obtained by the works of men: it is a free gift; it is given of the sovereign will and good pleasure of God, to whom, and when, and in what measure he pleases; to which he is not induced by any motives in men, for they have nothing in them to move him to it; and it is given by him absolutely, without conditions, not suspending it till the performance of them; and he gives it cheerfully and not grudgingly, largely, bountifully, and in great abundance.
giveth more grace--ever increasing grace; the farther ye depart from "envy" [BENGEL].
he saith--The same God who causes His spirit to dwell in believers (James 4:5), by the Spirit also speaks in Scripture. The quotation here is probably from Proverbs 3:34; as probably Proverbs 21:10 was generally referred to in James 4:5. In Hebrew it is "scorneth the scorners," namely, those who think "Scripture speaketh in vain."
resisteth--literally, "setteth Himself in array against"; even as they, like Pharaoh, set themselves against Him. God repays sinners in their own coin. "Pride" is the mother of "envy" (James 4:5); it is peculiarly satanic, for by it Satan fell.
the proud--The Greek means in derivation one who shows himself above his fellows, and so lifts himself against God.
the humble--the unenvious, uncovetous, and unambitious as to the world. Contrast James 4:4.
God giveth more grace. To enable us to overcome our love of the world.
Wherefore the scripture saith. Quoted from Proverbs 3:34. The passage is quoted to show that the way to secure grace more abundantly is to be humble before the Lord.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. To secure his grace abundantly.
Resist the devil, etc. He always flees before stout resistance. See the Temptation of Christ. If not hurled back, he presses the attack.
Draw nigh to God. If we wish God very near to us we must seek to dwell very near to him. Only sin keeps us afar off.
Cleanse your hands. Of evil doing.
Purify your hearts. Of evil thoughts.
Be afflicted, and mourn. Mourn over your sins and sincerely repent of them.
Humble yourselves. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Matthew 23:12).
*More commentary available at chapter level.