Let us start with the day of Pentecost. Take the early chapters of the Acts: how long did the state of things described in the fourth chapter continue? How long could it be said that the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul and had all things common? In the very next chapter we find Ananias and Sapphira lying to the Holy Ghost: in the sixth chapter the Grecian Jews murmur against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily visitation: in the eighth chapter Simon wishes to purchase spiritual gifts with money: in the fifteenth chapter we read of the jealousy of the Jews towards the Gentiles, which almost proved fatal to the infant Church: in the nineteenth Paul meets with disciples who had not so much as heard 'whether there be any Holy Ghost': in the twentieth he warns the elders of the Church at Ephesus that after his departure 'grievous wolves shall enter in, yea, from among your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them': in the twenty-first it seems that Christian Jews joined with others who were zealous for the law, in the attempt to kill Paul. If we turn to the Epistles, we find in Rom. ii. and xiv. many of the faults condemned by St. James. The Corinthians within five years of their conversion are broken up by schisms: they are as much given to vainglory and jealousy and strife and censorious judgments as the churches to which St. James writes. They are more addicted to sins of the flesh: they indulge to excess even when they meet together for the Lord's supper; they go to law one with another in the courts of the heathen; their religious meetings are a scene of confusion and disorder from each man's eagerness to get a hearing; they are falling back into idolatry; they even dispute the authority of their spiritual father and deny his apostleship. So the Galatians within ten years of their conversion have departed from the Gospel which Paul preached, and have to be sternly warned  against the works of the flesh. Even in his earliest Epistle written to the Thessalonians shortly after their conversion, he bids them to be at peace among themselves, admonish the disorderly, encourage the faint-hearted, quench not the Spirit, despise not prophesyings. The Epistle to the Seven Churches in the Apocalypse, the first of St. John, the second of St. Peter, that of St. Jude and that to the Hebrews, give us an even less satisfactory picture of the Christian Church than the Epistle of St. James does.

 

from page clii., Epistle of St. James