Nine lectures on the First Epistle of John

J. N. Darby.

Lecture 1
Lecture 2
Lecture 3
Lecture 4
Lecture 5
Lecture 6
Lecture 7
Lecture 8
Lecture 9

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It should be stated that these Lectures on 1 John were delivered in London more than thirty years ago, and also that, while there is abundant evidence that they were carefully reported, they have never been seen or revised by the Lecturer. Many will be interested in their perusal, as well as in comparing them with the Lectures of a later date; and beyond this, they contain so much valuable truth, and truth so simply put, that, with the Lord's blessing, their publication cannot fail to be for the profit of His people.

London, 1882.

Lecture 1.

The great purpose of God in all His dealings is grace, is to bring us - and to bring us individually, too - into fellowship with Himself. "Truly our fellowship is with the Father." Thus we have the full knowledge of God as far as it can be known, and that in full communion with Himself. It is not in the way of creation; that is, not merely as creatures, for we are made partakers of the Holy Ghost that there may be power. "We dwell in Him and He in us." There cannot be anything more intimate.

It is not knowledge or science that has anything to say to this; for if it be but the human mind working on the things of God, it is but that "high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God." Babes in Christ have possession of these things; they have not to seek them; they are in possession of them, though of course they have to ripen in acquaintance with them. Knowledge itself - mere knowledge - puffs up; but, being brought low, the Spirit of God can act upon the soul and give knowledge in communion with God.

Although the epistle of John is very abstract, yet it is abstract about things that the very feeblest saint knows in Christ. God is brought down to our nature, for God can come down to us in our weakness in Christ. The difference between the writings of Paul and John is this, that Paul unfolds to us the counsels of God in grace; whereas John may be called more abstract, because he speaks of the nature of God Himself. The purpose and object of God is to bring us into full fellowship with Himself.

6 There are three things I would notice here: first, the work of God, by which we can stand in His presence perfectly free from any question of sin, so that we can enjoy all that God is; second, justification by faith and acceptance in the Beloved - the perfect cleansing of the conscience, knowing we are accepted so as to be able to be before Him in perfect peace; third, the new birth, commonly called regeneration. There must be a new nature capable of affections towards God. An orphan who never knew a father has the affections of a child, is capable of loving a father; and is often very unhappy because he is without the object towards whom those affections would naturally flow. So the capacity to love God is that which we get by being partakers of the divine nature.

The Holy Ghost is that which gives us competency to enjoy these things. We have an unction from the Holy One given to us, to enable us to enjoy what God has given to us. There must be our standing in the presence of God without our conscience being at work at all; a nature capable of enjoying God - a new nature, and power to walk in that new nature, which is by the Holy Ghost dwelling in us.

The thing brought especially before us is what that is we are to enjoy - the nature of the thing brought down to the understanding of a poor sinner. That tries the conscience, just as it moves the affections. God is light, and if I am brought into the blessedness of what God is, it must put the conscience to the test; and I ask, "Am I standing in it?" If I am capable of it, then I enjoy all the blessedness of standing in the light, and am in a position to test all that pretends to possess this character. "God is light." He is bringing this home to the hearts of the saints. This must be by presenting Christ Himself.

There was, at the time this epistle was written, a great deal made of development, and he wanted to bring them back to the truth. Science, so called, hat come in. The character of apostolic teaching was to bring them back "earnestly to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints." "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned." "That which was from the beginning."

7 My soul ought to know Christ better every day. The moment I get "God manifest in the flesh," I cannot know anything outside of Him, but that which is false. The question of knowledge is to give place to Christ. If I get there, nothing can shake me; I am in Christ. "These things write we unto you that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." Do you believe on the Son? Then rest here.

Verse 1. First, it was from the beginning; second, it was a real substantial person they had known familiarly, not a doctrine; that is the blessed secret of all. If they have Christ, then they have all that the Father has, all that is revealed of Him; and they cannot go from that without being wrong. They have eternal life, the perfect revelation of God - the power of life in Christ. This is what is presented to us as the full enjoyment and the safeguard of the saint. It is ours, though that which was with the Father, yet was so near to us; not union, but so near to us that nothing could be so near as Christ Himself. Instead of wanting anything between myself and Christ, it is revealed to me, so that nothing could be so near to me as Christ Himself. This is the eternal life that was with the Father.

It is as we contemplate the Lord Jesus Christ that we shall have affections established towards Him, which nothing can break. The poor woman who was a sinner had such confidence in Him that she had come to Him, and loved Him; but the secret of our joy is to know the love of Christ to us; then we have confidence in Him, understanding that God has come so near as to reveal Himself, and inspire confidence.

8 The more we look attentively at Christ - the more we penetrate into His ways - the more we learn the depth of all these riches in Him, the more is His divine fulness revealed to us. If it is His taking little children up in His arms, I see in it what God's character is. "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." Having truth thus revealed in a person, I get it for the humblest, lowest, poorest sinner, because it is a personal act of our Lord Jesus Christ.

"That which was from the beginning." Now, mark, this "Word of life," while it shows what God was in Christ, shows it communicated to us; and everything, true or false, is tested by this. So he asks, "Is there love?" No. Then it is not of God. "He that loveth not knoweth not God." This is now what he teaches. He brings me up to the object - what God was: "That which we have seen with our eyes"; "God is light"; "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin"; the communication of life to the Christian; the height of the source of the life communicated to us. In the Gospel of John we find, "Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace," "which thing is true in Him and in you."

"An old commandment which was from the beginning"; now a new commandment, become true in Him and in you. He called it a new commandment, though an old one - a simple truth that Christ Himself is become our life, "that the life of Jesus might be manifest in our mortal bodies." If a poor sinner is converted, he has the life communicated from Christ up there, which comes down to the lowest need in us; and yet how high it rises!

This gospel begins before creation. Genesis begins with creation, and gives the scene in which all is to be acted; but John gives Him who created. So also in the epistle to the Hebrews: "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth," "Thou art the same" - we get Christ before the creation, and then in creation.

9 "The word was made flesh, and dwelt among us," and became the source of life; and we receive our life from Him who existed, before all worlds, from everlasting. We receive our new nature from Him, and are united to Him who was before the world, and who created the world. This has a double effect (if right with God), lifting our hearts up in ten thousand thousand thanks, if it does manifest the life of Jesus. The least thing manifests the life of Jesus. Whatever does not manifest Him is of the world; whatever is not the manifestation of the life of Christ in our souls, that is sin. Do not think that a hardship. No; rejoice in it. I would have your hearts enlarged; as the Apostle says, "Be ye also enlarged." Oh to have Christ so before the eye as to be able to judge everything in His light! Do not think it is great learning; no, there may be the lust of the mind as well as the lust of the flesh; but if in communion with God, it discerns all things.

I call your minds back to see the way we received the life; it was in the humblest and simplest way. He who came into the world to save sinners, has made us vessels of His fulness. Thus we have fellowship with the Father and with the Son, and display it. "Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ." The effect is, we have the Father and the Son, and we have nothing more to seek. I have the Father and the Son.

Can I get truth outside the Father and Son? I may have more to learn. If a man is on the ocean, there may be a great deal he has to discover of it, but he has not to get there; he says, "I am there." So I am in the truth. I have a great deal to learn; but I am in the Father and the Son, and I am in the truth. I do not want to seek it if I am in it. I have the very eternal God in whom I dwell - I have come to the Father. When there is a consciousness of this, oh, what comfort and what peace! It not only guards us from evils without, but it gives spiritual rest within. If I am striving to get something, I have no communion. If I want to get to the Father, when I am in His presence already, I have no communion; and if I am not brought up there, I cannot have the sense of what the conscience ought to be in God's presence. The joy is, that our fellowship is with the Father, and not in the hope of getting there.

10 "These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." There is where God brings the saint if there is humbleness. If there is not humbleness, we shall slip. When we lose the sense of God's presence - the sense of it, I say (because we are always in His presence in truth) we are at the point to sin. My natural character or flesh will show itself if I am out of His presence.

There is such a thing as the saint's dwelling in the conscious presence of God without fear. If there is anything between me and God, my conscience will be at work; but when the Spirit is not grieved, the soul is in the presence of God for joy, learning holiness, it is true, but in joy, because occupied in communion instead of in detection; and that is a great thing.

There is such a thing as being in His presence without the conscience having to be exercised, and in perfect joy. "My peace I give unto you." What was that peace? There were no wandering affections - there could not be, and so there was full peace of heart with God. Christ was divinely perfect - all His affections always in tune with God. Now, through the grace and power of God, we may be brought to that; Christ having been revealed to the soul, the world is cast out, and Christ is everything, and there is perfect joy. This is often what our experience is after conversion, but afterwards the love of Christ grows less fervent - the world creeps in little by little, and we have less joy.

11 There are three things which characterize a Christian.

First, "he is in the light as God is in the light." Now God had said to Israel, "I will dwell in the thick darkness"; and at Sinai He told them to keep off; "for if so much as a beast touch the mountain it shall be stoned." There was a great deal of good there, but He was in His pavilion of darkness, not seen. God acted towards Israel, but did not show Himself. Now the veil is rent from top to bottom, and all is light. It is the very nature of the truth we are in, that God is now manifestly revealed; and he that is come in through the rent veil stands in the light of God's holiness, perfect purity in itself, and it shows everything that is not so.

Second, "we have fellowship one with another." We are there together, and all have fellowship by the same Holy Ghost dwelling in all.

Third, we can be there because "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." The more thoroughly in the light, the more it is seen that there is no spot on us through that blood. This could not be said of a Jew; but now the righteousness of God is set forth, and we are brought into the light as He is in the light. Is this a thing that makes us unhappy, or that gives you joy of heart? If we are true of heart, we shall be glad of the light to detect the darkness in us. "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." We do not want to escape from the light, but to be searched by it - not with a pretension that we have no sin, but the consciousness that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin. For the effect of being in the light is, that we confess our sins. "In whose spirit there is no guile." There are two things there, the confession and the love.

Verses 1-4 are that there may be no deception. Then in verse 5, "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." Now that is the test when Christ is known in the presence of God: there is no question about sin. How came I there? I came through the blood - then I have peace. If I am reasoning about God, this is another thing; but if we are there, we got there through the blood, and that gives peace, a peace which is never lost. There is a peace which may be lost: happy at first, while fresh from conversion, and all is easy and smooth with us, our hearts are attracted by the grace of Christ; but if failure comes in, conscience is awakened, a sense of sin alarms, and we lose our peace, so that we do not know where we are. Until we have apprehended that we are brought to God - where we never could be brought if there remained a spot of sin upon us - we cannot know settled peace in our souls, as spoken of in Hebrews [ch. 10:3], "no more conscience of sin[s]"; and that is enduring peace. The power of the affections of the new nature forms a link of fellowship with God; and only as we keep in the light, shall we know the practical enjoyment of it. We must be in the light that evil thoughts may be shut out, so that we may have fellowship with God. In how many things, in our intercourse with one another or with the world, self comes in and is not judged by us! There is a practical consciousness in the Christian that he cannot go on without God, and he judges, waits, and confesses, trusting in God, and thus his heart is kept calm and in peace.

12 There are two things: first, the manifestation of the eternal life - for it has been manifested to us; second, we are partakers of it - I have fellowship with the Father and the Son. He has communicated to us that nature, so that we can delight in His fellowship.

The Lord give us to keep ourselves in the love of God - in His presence, in the light, detecting everything that is not of Him, judging it, and thus to be in the enjoyment of His love.


Lecture 2.

The beginning of this chapter refers to the preceding chapter; there he is speaking of the manifestation of the light and life, for the life is the light of men. "If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." Then in the second chapter he is speaking of the resources of a Christian when he fails, as, alas! we know we all do fail.

In the former chapter, as we are seeing, he speaks of three things: first, in the light, as God is in the light; second, fellowship with God; and third, the blood of Christ cleansing from all sin. There, in the second chapter, the Christian having sinned, has an Advocate with the Father - this is bringing out quite another principle altogether.

It is not merely having a divine nature, because he has that when he fails; but he is not walking in the power of it, and consequently fails, and therefore needs an Advocate with the Father. This is quite another aspect; it is not joying in God, but the interference of Got in grace in the person of a Mediator, one between God and us. This is not a question of justification; there is no possibility of anything being imputed to me. Christ was made sin for us, and His work has put us in God's presence without any question, and that we never lose. It is not that here, but another thing of importance to me the daily exercise of affection. It is not said that we will fail before Him, but down here we do. In many things we offend all; we fail constantly, inwardly and outwardly; but there is the exercise of affections, according to what we are town here, an increasing in the knowledge of God, what His love is, and what our real state is.

14 God demands righteousness; but it is not, as many think, that the work has to be done over again; for the moment I believe, I am God's righteousness in Christ. There is no decay of it; it is always of the same value; it is a question of who He is; it is founded on the fact that in virtue of this sacrifice I can now exercise my conscience in a way I could not. He is Jesus Christ the righteous. The righteousness is always in the presence of God. He has not to look for that now in His dealing with us; He is always there. God has been perfectly displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and now I can go into His presence and not be afraid, because of this righteousness.

How is my intercourse with God to be carried on by such a poor, failing thing as I am? It goes on in virtue of what I am in Christ. Christ's righteousness does not need to be maintained, but I need to be sustained. Suppose I have failed - well here the advocacy comes in; Christ's intercession comes in to meet me. It does not acquire the righteousness, but lifts me up if I fail. The intercession of Christ as the Advocate with the Father leads me to judge myself according to the light I have been brought into by this righteousness. My discernment of good and evil increases as I grow up into God.

Here are two things needed: grace to keep us in the way, and mercy to restore us to communion. There is all the grace we need by the road, and he is assuring us constantly of the certainty of our position before God. Peter did not lose his trust and confidence in God, though he denied his Master. Satan might come and say to the soul, "It is all over with you; you are too bad; His sentence is gone out against you, and there is no hope." So confidence in God may be lost; but before Peter failed, Christ had prayed for him. Thus he learned what he was in himself, and knew the grace that sustained him - then he uses it to profit. "Strengthen thy brethren." He was competent to help those who were weak and failing like himself. It is exactly the same grace that met us at the first that sustains us all the journey through.

15 Here is the government of God, as a father with his family. It is not like "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone"; no, God having an interest in us will never leave w alone or give us up; but He will deal with us according to our ways. As I have before remarked, His governmental operations depend on our acts and doings, as in John 14:23; 15:10; but God's love to us is not made to depend on our love to Him, or on our conduct; for after all it is grace that enables us to go on well. God, and Christ as a Son over His own house, deals with the children.

If we speak rashly to our brother, or walk abroad carelessly through the streets, and see some vanity; we shall find the effect of it in our own souls at the end of the day with God. If any angry word escapes me, I feel the effect at the end of the day with God; but grace will restore us; He will follow us and bring us back. If we have a child that is unruly we will not give it up, but wait upon it in love, and correct it in hope of reclaiming it. I may see a child go wrong and leave it; but because it is my own child I must go after it and bring it back. This is the patience of His grace. At the same time God can never give up His holiness; no, He could not pass by or suffer unholiness in His child, therefore it was needful Christ should die. Thus God was debtor to Christ, on account of His work for the glory of His character. "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again." "I have glorified thee on the earth."

The same thing is true in regard to His advocacy in virtue of the propitiation. Christ exercises His advocacy for us. If there is failure God sees it; but Jesus comes in and intercedes for us. Some say that we have to use the advocacy of Christ, but it is not so. Christ uses it for us. Why do I turn to God when I have failed? It is because He uses advocacy, and fresh grace is applied - fresh grace is wrought in my mind. There is nothing in us that brings us back to God but fresh grace working in our conscience. Therefore it is said, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father." It is not "if any man repent."

16 It is just as much pure grace as at the first looked upon us when we were in our sins. In the case of Peter, the Lord foretold him what would take place. "Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." We all need sifting; "but I have prayed for thee." Before Peter got into the danger the Lord had prayed for him, and His grace is in exercise, and at the moment when it is needed. "He looked at Peter," and his weeping was an avowal of Christ's intercession.

The grace and intercession of Jesus is towards us in all the grace and wisdom of God. It is grace which makes our very failure the occasion of God's coming in with more grace. The righteousness is not called in question; it is not touched. It is through the intercession of Christ that I can get to God about my evil thoughts. All the consciousness of failure, all the exercises of heart, are the occasion of my going to the Father, and so many links to link my soul to God. We learn it in our every-day wants and failures; we are all astray if we do not see that God has a holy foundation for all this.

It does not follow that we must fail any more than that we must sin. We ought not to fail, though we all do. Our wretched self-confidence makes us fail, and then comes in the advocacy.

In a similar manner it was Aaron's rod that swallowed up every other rod, showing divine power in Priesthood; that is the way grace takes away the murmuring of the heart. Two years Israel were in the desert, and thirty-eight years more because they did not go up and take the land as they had been told; and if we, like Israel, will not go up it detects our state - we are making the long way. Israel had not the faith to go up to the Anakims.

17 If we would break with the world, and take up the cross properly, it would give us the enjoyment of the full power of communion with God at once; if not, we must learn by its daily mortification in the desert what flesh is. If we think to escape dangers by leaving the path of faith, we shall surely get into sin. Israel found the same people were there, the giants still there, when they got into the land at last that had frightened them at the first, and hindered their taking possession.

What is the reason Christians have often more joy on a death-bed than all their life through before? Why, the reason is, they have never till then surrendered up all for Christ, and never learned Christ to be everything, and everything else to be dung and dross. Israel's raiment had not waxed old for forty years in the wilderness, neither did their feet swell. They learned in all this way the wonderful detail of all God's goodness.

The manna never ceased, and the patient grace never failed to the end; but our foolish hearts will not trust God, and so the Lord shows us the patience of His grace. He goes with us wherever we go, even in our failures. If our hearts have experienced the exercises of the desert, we have learned the vanity of earthly things, and after all have found it better to give it all up, and trust God, that He may be everything to us. If we had done that at first we should have had it at once.

Now as to the constant exercise of Christ's intercession; it is carried on in heaven in connection with our heavenly standing, and is also made to bear on our actual daily state down here. Christ was a man down here; we are joined to Christ by one Spirit. "He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit" - mark the effect.

18 What was Christ? Not only the obedient Man, the perfect Man under the law, but He was the perfect manifestation of the divine nature in man; there was in a Man all the effect that Godhead could produce of goodness in a man. I am not speaking of miracles, patience, endurance, love, etc.

It is not that we can be as Christ was, because sin is in us but there was none in Him. We are called to walk as He walked; we are called not to walk in the flesh; but we do not walk as He walked; there is not a willingness to walk, there is a will in us. He must break our will so long as our walk does not flow from the word of God.

There is flesh working and must be weakness. Well, but one may say, "I am so young a Christian, I am so weak." It is not a question of age in grace; Christ would not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able, but would, with the temptation, make a way for you to escape

We may be weak, but that is no hindrance to our walking as He walked, for His strength is made perfect in weakness; but He cannot be the strength of our will. One born only yesterday may follow Christ as much as an old Christian, and Christ is as much for him. There may not be so much wisdom, but in the child there is often more singleness of eye, and more of undividedness of heart. The great thing is, that the will does not work. There again we see where Christ was so perfect.

The will of God was the spring of all Christ's conduct. He came to do His will - "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." "Mine ears hast thou opened" - put Himself in the place of obedience. "A body hast thou prepared me," He became a man, took the place of a servant. He was to walk by what He heard. He was willing to do this: "Lo, I come." "Not my will, but thine, be done." The will of God was the spring of all His conduct. He was not only the obedient One, conformed to it - "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." We are not only so to walk, as He walked, but the way He walked.

19 The spring of Christ's conduct was never His own will; not that His will had to be corrected, but He came to do His Father's will. Satan tried to hinder, man tried to hinder, but He goes through it all. He takes the place first, He must go first in the difficulties; when He putteth forth His own sheep He goeth before them. He was led by the Spirit to be tempted; everything that could put His obedience to the test must be tried on Him.

We see the difference in the glory of Christ's person from another. Moses had to fast forty days to be with God on the mount. Christ as a living man on earth was always with God. He fasts forty days to be with Satan tempted in the wilderness, and you could not see Him in those circumstances without seeing who was there. If all the glory of the world was offered to Christ there, it is offered to you every day, and we see in a day like this people are hurrying after it with all their hearts. Well, Christ meets him. "Make these stones bread," satisfy your hunger by your own will. He had no word from God for it. His will was never shown; it was perfect obedience - the humble, holy, patient life that does not stir without God. If you will not do anything without a word from God, then you are sure to have the strength of God in what you do. "Cast thyself down." No; He would not put God to the test. He was not going to tempt God by trying whether He would protect Him. He had confidence in God; so we read, "The people tempted God, saying, Is God among us?" They would prove whether He was among them or not, and this is called "tempting God." He was sure in the way of obedience to find Him.

20 When Mary and Martha sent to the Lord, saying, "Lazarus is sick," He did not stir. He had no word from God, and Lazarus died. Mary might think it cruel that He should abide two days in the same place, and not come immediately to heal him. If He had been there He might have wrought a common miracle; but His raising him from the dead is for the glory of God.

Satan then tries Him in another way: "If thou wilt fall down and worship me, all shall be thine." "Get thee behind me, Satan," He again takes the word, "It is written." Satan has power against pretension, against knowledge, but no power against obedience if we are acting by the Word - no will of our own. He ordered His conduct from the Word. It was the source of His conduct.

If we say we abide in Him, we ought to walk even as Christ also walked. Satan was baffled, the strong man was bound, and that is how He bound him, by simple obedience. The exercise of power, as healing the sick, is a distinct subject. He would have set men right if they had been capable of happiness and prepared to enjoy God.

Christ passed through everything that could be put before Him to hinder Him in the path of godliness, everything that could test the divine life. Christ knew in that sense what it was to be tempted; it was all the exercises He went through which prepared Him to be our High Priest. We need sympathy in the exercises of the divine life in our souls, not sympathy in our lusts; those we must mortify. Everything that could try a living man, He passed through, perfect in all. He learned the application of it all in the peace which He experienced, and now He can say, "My peace and my joy."

If the world has hated me it will hate you; but "be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." He knew, and understood experimentally and practically, as a man in passing through this world, how the grace from above, in the comforts and applyings of divine grace to His soul, was sufficient for every soul's need to live in holiness, not applied to a testing from sin, but a life of holiness. "He suffered being tempted." The Lord knew what trouble was; His soul was bowed down with trouble; but the first word is, "Father."

21 The first moment we are in sorrow, instead of looking around for comfort, for sympathy, or to the actings of the flesh, as to what I have done, or what I have not done, and pouring forth our sorrow in nothing but fleshly murmuring, let us turn immediately to God; then the heart would be cast down in perfect submission to the will of God, and thus the sting of the sorrow would be removed. The instant there is perfect submission there is perfect peace. "Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour"; "not my will, but thine, be done."

Another thing: He could have raised Abraham and Isaac as He did Lazarus, and have brought in all the promised blessing at once; but men did not like Him to be there. Man showed himself to be alienated from God, and was proved utterly incapable of enjoying happiness. "Now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." Christ could not have anything to do with the world in its mortal state. He now had to meet the effect of sin in the power of Satan - holding man captive under death to the judgment and wrath of God against sin - to redeem man, and now He takes His place in resurrection to apply redemption.

The righteousness was worked out that we should take our place in heaven. We must be broken off from the world. He gives us everything needed in the way, but never presents that as our end. This world is neither Canaan nor Egypt, but a wilderness. By clinging to it we are not in the wilderness but in Egypt, and that is why we need chastening; for if we make a Canaan of this world, then it becomes Egypt to us. The moment we make it our home, and settle down in it, it is our Egypt.

22 The Lord must break our will. He says, "A little while and the world seeth me no more." It is all done with. He puts a distinction between Himself and the world; therefore if we take Him we cannot have the world, and if we take the world we cannot have Him - we cannot have both. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world."

Men are everywhere playing into the infidel's hands in thinking to make the world better with their brotherly love, their arts and sciences, their social intercourse, making themselves happy without God; for while they make a show of their cleverness, and talk a great deal about acknowledging God's gift in the skill and ability He has bestowed upon man, they continue still to reject both God and His gifts, and will not have a "God in Christ."

Men think the world can be set right by cultivation and science, by encouraging the arts, and such like. Why, Christ could not set it right. Infidels are saying, Christianity is all a figment, for it has not set the world right. Men are taking the words of Christ in their mouths, saying, "Men should love one another as brethren," and bringing all nations together to cultivate amity and goodwill; and the very words that they take in their mouths while they are thus seeking to make the world happy are the words that the infidels use. The world - its day is over. Christ was rejected by the world, and its day is closed. God's grace is gathering out sinners; but as to the world, the Lord said, it "seeth me no more." Either it is to get better without Christ, or not to get better at all. "It has hated both me and my Father," and its day is over. "I have got one Son; it may be they will reverence my Son." They took Him and slew Him, and said, "The inheritance will be ours," and they are making the world comfortable. The Lord preserve us from all deception which by the side of Christ we so soon detect. He has taken a heavenly place. "Such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, made higher than the heavens." He exercises His ministry where we belong. We do not belong to the earth; we have a heavenly calling, and need a heavenly Priest, who has gone up on high to take our hearts up with Him. Our bodies have not gone up yet, but we have our place with Him up there. Christ Himself, who was a man on earth, manifested a heavenly character down here.

23 Christ, having given us our place down here, and taken away all our sins, sends down the Comforter, that we, being the living epistle of Christ, known and read of all men, may manifest Him in our walk down here. God loved us when we hated Him; we are to love those who do not love us, and thus show the character of God down here. Christ was the living expression of it as a man. "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself so to walk, even as He walked." By His intercession Christ obtains for us all we need, and lifts us up if we do fall. He sustains us to walk as He walked, having the word of God as the source of our actions, as God was the source of all His thoughts; but if we fail there is grace to restore us.

"These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Flesh ought never to work; your life ought never to be an expression of the flesh, but the obedience of a child. The youngest child in Christ cannot walk as a father in Christ, but he can walk in the obedience of a child with Christ. I have the flesh; but if I am in the light practically with God I know all about the flesh; then all that I am is judged. A child of two years old can be as obedient as a child of twelve years. It is not a question of age, of strength, but obedience. We have the pattern of Christ at twelve years old. He was obedient to His father and mother, and went home with them, being subject unto them.

24 "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself so to walk, even as He walked." Is this the delight of your soul, to walk as He walked, as self-denying, as separated from the world, with as much love? or would you spare something - a little bit of the world, a little bit of comfort? Christ never did, or you could not have been saved. Peter said this, "Be it far from thee, Lord; spare thyself." His reply was, "Get thee behind me, Satan." How often does our wretched heart say, "Spare thyself"? That is not walking as Christ walked, not doing His bidding as our Master.

Have your hearts been attracted by the beauty of Christ? It is real liberty. The world is merely a snare to entrap us - not that I would scorn the world. Christ did not scorn it; but the world is just this, Satan using all manner of things to seduce the flesh. Satan attracts us by his snares, and has the soul in bondage; but the liberty in which the Son has set us free from the flesh, the world, and sin, and Satan; not only to walk as He walked, but to walk with Him in perfect freedom, and in the comfort and consciousness of walking with Him. May we find our joy in Him, not pursuing a life of our own hearts, but a life of His grace and goodness, and may He keep our hearts fixed on Him and on a crown with Him.

25 Lecture 3.

It was not my thought to go through the epistle; but as we were lingering last week on the intercession of Christ, I take up the subject again - that is, the communication of divine life from the Father Himself in the person of the Son, who comes down on earth, and by Him it is communicated to us. There is the manifestation of all we ought to be, and a test by which we may prove what is of Christ, and detect that which is not.

The greater part of the New Testament (the epistles) owes its origin to the mischief Satan did in the Church. The mischief was only permitted that the folly of these things might be made manifest, and that the full glory of the truth might be brought out. "These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you." The things here written of are what some pretenders held; they were persons of the highest pretensions, that would seduce them. Not the gospels of course, but the great body of the epistles, of which those to the Thessalonians, Corinthians and Galatians are examples were occasioned by the mischief the adversary brought in.

The attack of the enemy brought out in the epistle to the Corinthians the truth of the resurrection; in Thessalonians the coming of the Lord; in Galatians justification by faith. This was hardly the case in Philippians, because Paul was comforted by the love of those at Philippi. It is the same in regard to the mischief he has done from the beginning. The fall itself is the occasion of God's introducing greater blessing than before.

Whatever Satan seeks to do, as he has done from the beginning, must ultimately tend to the divine glory, and the comfort and blessing of our souls, who seek to serve God. Of course man gets humbled in it; but God overrules it for greater good. If we turn to Christ's rejection by the Jews, it brings out the Church. Though He wept over Jerusalem, the energy of Satan was there exhibited against the Lord Himself, so He said, "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour … For I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." He looked with sorrow at the evil; but it was the occasion of infinite blessing brought out; for if Jesus had not died, we had not been saved; and though Satan thought he had triumphed over Him by the cross, God raised Him from the dead. So whatever Satan does, it is always bringing out on God's part of greater blessing, and so it is in our day.

26 We find man spoiling that which has been committed to him, and God bringing in something much better. What do we find here? Antichrist was going on, and it led to the bringing out of the workings of divine life. It is the occasion in God's hands of bringing into greater blessing them that trust Him. The history from the beginning is just that, so will it be to the end, until Satan is cast into the burning lake of fire and brimstone. It will be then to bring in heavenly blessing. The power of divine life, first manifested in Christ, is then manifested in us. We shall see the instructions He gave, guiding us by His precepts according to His life. "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself so to walk, even as He walked" - not so to be, because we have sin, and He had none; but so to walk. "Again a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth." Here we get a very important principle of the divine life - what is our life, and whence its source.

There are two points of the manifestation of the divine life. What He was in His own person down here, and now what He is as exalted - what He manifests through and in us of the divine life.

27 First, Christ is the source of it for us. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us."

Second, He is the manifestation of it through and in us. There we can correct every estimate we form of our lives, because we have the perfect and wonderful model of it in Christ Himself, who is the power of it. He is the very eternal life that was with the Father, and He has given us that eternal life. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life." He was eternally with God before He created. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us;" and he adds, "Of His fulness have all we received."

There are two things: first, "The Word was made flesh," as also in Hebrews: "The brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person." "The image of the invisible God," as in Colossians, the perfect representation of what God was. "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." We get in His person the life itself that was with the Father "from the beginning." He was the life, it was in Him. Now it is never said eternal life is in us - it is in Him; but it is given to us; that is a different thing. He Himself is our life - He has life in Himself. "God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son"; but the Son has life in Himself. My hand is alive, but my life is not in my hand; my hand lives by virtue of its union with my body; take it off, and I shall live still. So the Church or an individual soul lives by virtue of its union with Christ, the Head. It is in Him the reality of the life is.

Second, when Christ was down here, all His instructions were the expression of this life. It was not like a commandment given by the law, because the law exacted from man what was becoming, and what man ought to be in relation to God. It took the responsibility that attached to man's character as man, and did not go beyond it; but we get in Christ the manifestation of what God was to man - love acting in the midst of evil. It was no part of the law to love sinners; but it was a part of the Lord to come down to love. Another thing - in all His thoughts and tones of feeling for us He went far beyond the mere letter of the law; for the law could not say, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" - that must arise from an estimate of God. The law could not proclaim, "Blessed are the peacemakers"; Christ was Himself the Prince of Peace, showing there was peace to be made. There was a spirituality in the law beyond what we see; but there was a power of good in Christ, that went beyond the evil. The law never manifested power over evil in the shape of love - there was manifested in Christ the power of good over evil - and that was Christ's life. We get in all His actings the character and expression of what God was in man when on earth - and that is lovely. He was the eternal life that was with the Father.

28 John the Baptist - who was next to Christ, and immediately preceded Him, of whom the Lord testified, "Of them that are born of women there has not been a greater than John the Baptist" - came in the way of righteousness, and therefore went away from men altogether. He was in the desert, kept no company with any, was a herald before Christ to announce Him, had nothing to do with any, ate locusts and wild honey. God, being the person that was offended, could come in grace near to them, in the person of Christ, and speak to them in the spirit of grace, which rises above and overrides the evil, and expresses what God is; and they said, "Never man spake like this man." Then it is said, "He went about doing good." In Him was found the activity of good; the suffering for righteousness' sake, and for "His name's sake"; the exercise of love in the activities of grace.

29 There is another thing which specially characterizes the divine life of Christ: the discernment of it in those who possess this life, the power of discerning the spirit of life in another. It has been said, "It requires much grace in oneself to discern a little grace in another." There is an attractive power in grace which recognizes the spirit of Christ in another. He could say, "Forasmuch as this man also is a child of Abraham." There was that in Christ which attracted. The moment a Christian recognizes divine life in another, in spite of difference of education, rank, and many other things, he will be drawn towards him. It is characteristic; he cannot help it. The moment a man discerns the Spirit of Christ in another, there is a necessary attraction to him. At once they are united together in love. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." The instant the Spirit and character of Christ is manifested, there is necessarily an attraction of where the Spirit of Christ is. "He went about doing good." Then there is the blessed discernment of the traits of it - its discerning Christ, "Love your enemies … do good to them that hate you." In Christ we see God coming down, and manifesting this life in a man on the earth, so as to attract towards Him, and to bring into His presence in rest. "As I have loved you, you ought also to love one another." "Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect." He overcometh evil with good; you must do as God does - love your enemies. It proved Him to be God, in that He could love that in which there was nothing lovable. In God, the spring of love is from Himself; but we need something to attract us.

The primary revelation is that which was from the beginning, and however much we may go on, we must come back after all to it. It is always perfect, because it is God Himself who is manifested. You never can bring me to anything where God was manifested but to the living word of Christ, or the written word of Scripture. We have only to ask, "Is it that which you have had from the beginning?" If not, it is evil seducers. If it is that which we have had from the beginning, it is of God, and that must test everything, for that is the character of the Word. Bring a sinner opposite the Word, and you learn what he is, as in the case of the poor Samaritan woman.

30 The written Word is the manifestation of Christ, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Man cannot judge God's word without judging himself; so if he judges it to be wrong, he is judged himself. "He that believeth not is condemned already." He is incapable of seeing Christ, who was God manifested in the flesh, and the Word judges him. You may talk about colours or light to a blind man; but if a man is blind he cannot understand you; it is his non-perception of light and colours that proves he is blind. It must be so where God is manifested. If I am incapable of discerning what manifests Christ, and the Word does not reach my soul, it is that which judges me. "The Word that I speak, the same shall judge you in the last day."

All God's ways now are presenting His moral manifestation; next it will be His judicial manifestation. If the moral manifestation is not received, "the Word which I have spoken will judge him in the last day." The Lord did not accompany the Word with judgment when it was spoken; but that Word will judge him at the last day, and he will be condemned; and man still is proved. The first way God taught them was through the Lord Jesus Christ, "whom ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." Being rejected, and having ascended up on high, and become the expression of what we should be, the Church should be the manifestation of what Christ is.

31 Then comes the communication of the life from Him in heaven. This was the new thing: "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another." It was not a new commandment to love one another; it was the old commandment, and yet new, because it was now given in the power of it, being not merely commanded in His word, but communicated to you by the power of the Holy Ghost, to reproduce in you the life of Christ. There is a new thing, and you are to manifest it. The Church of God is to be that vessel for the manifestation of Christ down here, according to the power of the life of its head in heaven.

God acted in government towards Israel when He dwelt in thick darkness; He acted in government according to a known law; but He was hid behind a veil, "set bounds about the mount." But now, when Christ died, the darkness was passed in the cross, and there was a full display of the holiness of God. At the same moment His wrath burst forth against sin, the light burst forth which fully manifested His character. "The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth." The veil is rent, and we can now enter into the presence of God Himself, into the holiest, which is opened to us. "Walk in the light, as God is in the light." "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now ye are light in the Lord." "If we walk in the light as God is in the light." Nothing must be allowed that cannot bear the light. Men perish for lack of knowledge, alienation from the life of God. "The true light now shineth."

The veil is rent. God is fully manifested in truth and love. If He had been only just, we should have perished. If He had been only love, there would have been no justice; but there was justice and holiness with love, and God has been glorified about our sins in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

32 The light now is shining. Christ is the source of that light, to be manifested in us, which thing is true in Him and in you. It is an old commandment which was from the beginning, Christ Himself. You cannot have a better than that; and now the manifestation of it is learned in us. If we want it as a test, it must not be the imperfect light that is in us, but in Christ Himself. While it is given to us as the means of detecting errors, it is also to build us up in what Christ is. In looking at these traits we discover more and more that they are thoroughly divine. I learn in Christ such and such a trait, and I say, "That is God manifest in the flesh"; and thus I learn what I shall know in heaven. You have "seen the Father."

We learn the beauty in Jesus, and learn that it is divine; and learning what God is, we are happy and peaceful. If you have seen a saint dying, who has faith in the blood of Christ, he will have peace; but if you look for joy, it must spring from the affections being acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ. You will sometimes see a saint, and there is joy, but by-and-by his peace is gone. That is where the soul is not settled; there ought to be both. The blood gives peace; but it is my acquaintance with and knowledge of Christ that gives me joy.

Three characters are presented here. He says, "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother." The Apostle always speaks of the abstract principle, "He that loveth his brother." "Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin." "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him." If he stumble at Christ, it is his own fault. We should never be, by not being like Christ, a stumbling-block. There is no greater snare than the fear of offending, and no greater sin than the fear of offending, if Christ is the offence. If it is Christ that offends, the offence of the cross has not ceased; you will never please the world with the cross of Christ. If I am walking in perfect love, my love will flow out to others; if I have the affection in myself, I shall love my brother, and shall not stumble. If I am not walking in love of the brethren, I am going all crooked myself. I may rebuke, Christ did that; but if the desire to do them good is not in me, I am going crooked myself, I have not the Spirit of Christ.

33 (Verse 12). "I write unto you, children" (not little children, but all saints) "because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake." A settled thing - you are not Christians at all unless your sins are forgiven you. The poor jailer wanted salvation, and that is what he got. He cried out, "What must I do to be saved?" That is what he wanted. If I come to hear the testimony of God, what I want is to be saved, to get life. Nicodemus came by night with his question. The Lord said, "You must be born again." He that is in Christ is a new creation. The jailer did not know what being in Christ meant, but he believed. What is the consequence? He was saved by a work which was accomplished before ever he asked to be saved. If he believed in Christ, he was saved; he had eternal life. If the light gets into the soul men cannot be happy until they have peace with God.

There is difficulty now with Christians having peace. Before Christianity became a profession in the world a Christian was counted and understood to be saved; but now all pretend to be Christians, and they who really are want to know if they are true Christians, whereby the simple fact of redemption is very much lost sight of. "Your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake." God's judgment is passed already on your sins in Christ. If I looked to Christ to be saved, as bearing my sins, His judgment is, "You have eternal life." That is just as much the judgment of God as if Christ had pronounced it on His judgment-seat. God knows the value of the work of His Son. He is the judge, and not you.

34 "I write unto you, little children." He can add a great deal to the little children; but to the fathers He has only one thing to say, "You have known Him that is from the beginning." Whatever else it might be, it ends all in this, "Known Him that is from the beginning"; that is, Christ. If anything is brought to me that is not of Christ, I reject it. If I know a person, it is himself that I know. I am to know that my sins are forgiven me for His name's sake; but I am to know Him that was from the beginning. "No man knoweth the Son but the Father." What is the object of all this knowledge of Christ? All the promises are in Christ; He is the object of the Father's delight.

The Apostle distinguishes growth. The fathers have known Christ, who is from the beginning, the true Christ who guards the soul, knowing Him perfectly - no ambiguity, no uncertainty; and all the exercises and experiences of the Christian, which are often so much dwelt on, are but the scaffolding of the soul to get at this - "known Him that is from the beginning."

The young Christian is full of the joy, and is thus taken up with himself, whereas the old Christian speaks less about the joy; but says, "It is Christ Himself possessed that makes me happy." His heart trusts in the Lord. The things of the world, even the things of the Church, do not disturb him. He counts on the love ever watchful, and is not afraid of any evil tidings. He knows that though heaven and earth were to dissolve and crumble into pieces, and even the Church itself (which is impossible) God's throne remains. There is a steadiness in the man's soul, because he knows "Him that is from the beginning" - knows and manifests Christ; one whom John had looked upon with his eyes, and his hands had handled. He was speaking of a Christ he had known, and seen, and handled, and which was from the beginning and says, "There is the Father's character"; and he has nothing to add.

35 How far have your souls found steady rest in Christ? or how far are they satisfied with Christ? Forsaken of friends, are you still satisfied with Him? or how far are there things that you crave and have to resist? Have you done with the world, not as tired of its vanities, and weary of its pleasures, but because your souls have found something in Christ that satisfies for all? Is He found such a manifestation of God to your souls that you rest in Him? Have you found such a ripeness in Christ that the soul is satisfied, so as not to want other things? Then, if you have, you can say, "None of these things move me."

The two points to young men and little children are: first, the young men have overcome the wicked one, the prince of this world.

Second, the little children have known the Father through believing in Christ, and have therefore the Spirit of adoption, and have no doubt of the Father's love.

The young men overcoming the wicked one is connected with their having the word of God abiding in them, and overcoming the world. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world."

Then the little children are warned against the seductions of false doctrines, etc. "But the anointing ye have received of Him … Abide in Him."

I would remark that what specially characterizes the young men is conflict with the world, and if we would be satisfied with the knowledge of Him that is from the beginning, there must be the overcoming of the world. "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." There must be conflict with the world if the soul is to grow up into Christ in all things; there must be the giving up of the world. "They are not of the world."

36 May we so see the excellency of Christ, and so know, in the ways of that lowly man, the full expression, unfolding, and manifestation of the character of God, that our hearts may be knit to Him; and soon we shall see Him face to face, "and know, even as we are known."