Written by Thomas Goodwin,
Edited for thought and sense.
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you luck wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not , and it shall be given him.” – James I. 1 – 5.
CHRISTIAN patience is my subject, and the perfect work of patience, ver. 4; but as an introduction thereunto, I must first open some things of the words in ver. 1, 2. As to the persons he writes to, they were ‘the twelve tribes scattered,’ that had been and were bereft of their inheritance in their native country, and quitting that, had betaken themselves to banishment.
The other Apostle who wrote to the same persons, comforts them with this – that they were begotten again to a better inheritance than that of Canaan, which now they were deprived of.
I observe that though these had been made thus sufficiently destitute and desolate already, and driven from house and home to seek their livelihoods, with their families, in foreign countries, that yet still great and pressing troubles and miseries did follow them, as one wave doth after another they were continually falling into divers and sundry temptations of all sorts. God ‘tries us every moment,’ as in Job vii. 18 ; we are chastened every morning, Ps. xxxvii. 13; and ‘killed’ – that is, in danger of death – ‘all day long,’ as Rom. viii. God had not yet done with these.
To these Christians he utters the strangest paradox upon this occasion that ever was or can be uttered;
and begins with it ver. 2, ‘My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.’ Thus bluntly and abruptly, without any mollifying preface or sweetening introduction, ‘count it all joy,’ seems to carry a moral contradiction in the face of unto the latter part, ‘when ye fall into divers temptations ‘ and this latter seems to put an impossibility upon the former, which is the duty exhorted unto, that is – All joy; the highest joy, for so ‘all joy’ must needs be supposed to be; as if they were possessed of what God promises shall be the assured and ‘expected end,’ Jer. xxix. 11; and to be beforehand as sure of it as if they had it already.
And, it is not only when they are assaulted with troubles, but when temptations are actually broken in upon them, and they lie under them. So when you fall into them, as into a pit and snare, and so they falling round about you; so as you have nothing to stand or lean upon, but all about you fails with you and under you, so as in all outward appearance ye are sunk and overwhelmed with the ruins. In this case to ‘count it all joy,’ to shout as men in harvest, or that have gotten great spoils; when their miseries are so great that they cannot be endured, that yet their joy must be so great as more cannot be expressed; this is the hardest duty that ever was required of the distressed hearts of men. And yet God would not require it if it were not attainable; and it is attainable by no other principles but of Christianity.
But they might say, You have propounded this hard and strange duty to us;
What ground is there that may rationally and effectually persuade and bring our hearts to it? What considerations that may procure us this joy, and how may we be wrought up to it? For God never gave any commandment but there was a full and sufficient ground and reason to enforce it.
He gives them two grounds:
One at the 3d and 4th verses, ‘Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.’ This is a ground from what follows in this life.
The other is at the 12th verse, ‘Blessed is the man that endures temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.’ This is the reward that follows in the life to come, in the hope and expectation of which you may count it all joy that now you are tried; for the end and issue of them is a crown of glory, which these do work, as 2 Cor. iv. 17, ‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’
Taken from, Patience and its Perfect Work, which was published anonymously in a small volume, and is one of the rarest of all Goodwin’s pieces.
NOTE: Patience and its Perfect Work – was written by Thomas Goodwin just after he had lost most of his library in a fire!
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Goodwin (Rollesby, Norfolk, 5 October 1600 – 23 February 1680), known as ‘the Elder’, was an English Puritan theologian and preacher, and an important leader of religious Independents. Christopher Hill places Goodwin in the ‘main stream of Puritan thought’.
In 1625 he was licensed a preacher of the university; and three years afterwards he became lecturer of Trinity Church, successor to John Preston, to the vicarage of which he was presented by the king in 1632.
In 1639 he fled to Holland to escape persecution. For some time was pastor of a small congregation of English merchants and refugees at Arnheim. He returned shortly after the inception of the Long Parliament.
In 1643 he was chosen a member of the Westminster Assembly, and at once identified himself with the Independent party, generally referred to in contemporary documents as the “dissenting brethren” and was one of the authors of An Apologetical Narration. He frequently preached by appointment before the Commons, and in January 1650 his talents and learning were rewarded by the House with the presidency of Magdalen College, Oxford, a post which he held until the Restoration of 1660. An amusing sketch, from Joseph Addison‘s point of view, of the austere and somewhat fanatical president of Magdalen, is preserved in No. 494 of The Spectator.
He was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell from 1656. He rose into high favour with the Protector, and was one of his intimate advisers, attending him on his death-bed.
He was also a commissioner for the inventory of the Westminster Assembly, 1650, and for the approbation of preachers, 1653, and together with John Owen drew up an amended Westminster Confession in 1658.
From 1660 until his death, he lived in London, and devoted himself exclusively to theological study and to the pastoral charge of the Fetter Lane Independent Church.