Nine lectures on the First Epistle of John

J. N. Darby.

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Lecture 4.

Any of you who were here last Tuesday will remember we were dwelling a little on the three characters of the common position of Christians, which are twice repeated; viz., fathers, young men, and little children. Fathers are addressed in the fourteenth verse, young men from the fourteenth verse to the seventeenth, and little children from the eighteenth to the twenty-seventh. That which characterizes the fathers is the knowledge of Him that is from the beginning. "Ye have known Him that was from the beginning"; that is, Christ. In the Gospels we get what He was from the beginning; but John goes further than the other Gospels. These pretenders thought to bring in something else, to add something else by the way of precept to what He was down here, and the Apostle draws their attention to Him that was from the beginning.

Now Christ being risen, and ascended up on high, has become the communication of that life (which we have received) of which He was the expression. The fulness of eternal life was manifested in Him, and is reproduced in us. The only real value of experiences is, that they are the means of developing what Christ is, - breaking down what we are, so that we may gradually lose sight of ourselves, and grow up into Him. When he comes to young men and little children he has a great deal to say; when speaking to the fathers he has nothing to say but "ye have known Him that is from the beginning" - simply tells them of the fulness of Christ, and that is sufficient to draw forth their affections; but to the young men and children it is different: "I have written to you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one." The characteristic is not that of knowledge of Him that is from the beginning, but conflict with Satan. That which characterizes the babes in Christ is the knowledge of the Father. They were more sensible of His love as little children, and as such were in danger of being seduced; "but ye have an unction from the Holy One" to judge them that would seduce you. The Apostle refers to that which is the power by which they are to overcome them.

37 You will find three great contrasts: Christ in contrast with Satan; Spirit in contrast with flesh; and the Father in contrast with the world. Christ put the world to the test, and found it wanting when He says, "But when the Spirit of truth is come, He shall convince the world of sin" - not wicked men of their sins, but the world that rejected Christ. "The Word was made flesh." The Son of God came and is gone away.

What the Holy Ghost calls the world to account about is the absence of Christ; as in the case of Cain and Abel: "Where is Abel thy brother?" Adam had been turned out of Paradise because he did not obey God in the garden. Now in his posterity there is hatred in his heart against his brother, but more than this, against Christ. Christ was presented, and man's enmity broke out. It was not only that Cain had slain Abel, but his blood cried from the ground; and as God said to Cain, "Where is Abel?" so now He says by the Holy Ghost, "What have you done with my Son?" It is not merely that the law of God has been outraged, but when God Himself came into the world as a man they rejected Him.

38 Satan is the prince of this world, was always so from the fall of man, but was first called so in connection with the scene of Gethsemane. "I have yet one Son"; and I will send Him, it may be they will reverence my Son; and when He came they said, "This is the heir, come let us kill Him, and the inheritance will be ours." They crucified God's Son, and there is no more to be offered to the world, nothing to be presented, as if it were a question whether the world should be condemned or not. Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the promises made unto the fathers; but the Jews would not have Him, and the Jew now has no title whatever to the promises, but must come in as a sinner on the same ground of mercy and grace as the Gentiles.

The testimony of the Holy Ghost is, "that the whole world lieth in wickedness" - all that is in the world. Therefore these things are valuable in the world: "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." Satan manages the world by them, and men manage one another as well as they can. Satan is of the world, the Son is of the Father. He gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, and the energy of nature.

Just so far as we have the Spirit of Christ in us we shall be dead to the world, not for peace, for that God gave us in Christ - inward peace I mean. Here he puts the young men in contrast, as overcoming the world, and shows where their real strength is - divine strength. "The word of God abideth in you," not merely you refer to it, but it abideth in you. If you look to Christ in the temptation, His answers to Satan, there was no lust of the flesh, there could be none; but He was hungry. Satan says, "Make these stones bread," to tempt Him; "Cast thyself down"; then shows Him all the glory of the world, and says, "All the glory of this world is given to me; the world is given to me; worship me, and all shall be thine; own me as the prince of this world, and you shall have it all." His answer was in every case the word of God.

39 All Christ's thoughts and life were the expression of the word of God abiding in Him. He was the Word, the living Word. So what characterizes the young men is having the Word abiding in them. It is not merely recollecting something to say, or finding out something in the Word when one wants it; but the word of God must be the spring of one's actions, and that's what he means by the word of God "abiding in you." A "young man" does not fly to it just when he wants it, but lives in it. God's words living in his mind, he knows all that is in the world is not of the Father.

If I get my thoughts from this world, and talk of riches, I shall say, "That man has a fine fortune." The Lord says it is almost impossible for a man with a fine fortune to get to heaven, though all things are possible with God. Many are the expressions of our desires in this world. If the mind is living in that sphere of thought, our taste and habit will be formed by it. The Spirit of God has a world of His own, and the written Word becomes the guide for everything. That is how we are to judge everything by the word of God. I can do so according to the state of my soul. If the word of God is abiding in me, the world and everything beside will be judged by it.

For example, Israel was called out to be put into the land, and certain things were stated on the ground of which they might get into the land; but they had totally failed, and they were in a peculiar condition. One book (Deuteronomy) contained the precepts which were to conduct them into Canaan. Well, Christ was sent in the proper time as Messiah to take this position with the poor people, but their consciences did not recognize Him. That book formed His mind. The Lord quotes out of that book: "Cast thyself down." No, He was with His people to obey God. He had got into Israel's place where God's mind and Spirit put the godly. His soul was fixed: His soul and life were in God's thoughts, and so if your mind were habitually formed by God's word, instead of living in the world, you would not want to be getting a text for what you do, but you would be living in the Word, and the world would be at once judged; that is what it is to have the word of God abiding in you.

40 Some did not discern Christ, because, as He says, "Ye have not the word of God abiding in you." If their hearts had not been in a fleshly state they would have known John the Baptist. All the poor and needy ones did. They would have known Christ; but they said, "He hath a devil, and is mad." John came in the way of righteousness, dwelt in the desert apart from all men, and ate locusts and wild honey, and they said, "He hath a devil." Christ came in grace, eating and drinking with men, and they said He was a glutton, and a wine-bibber; but God's wisdom was in Christ, and in John, and wisdom is justified of her children. John proclaimed that the axe was laid to the root of the tree; but when Christ came it was to "bind up the broken-hearted." The poor broken heart said, "That is what I want." Wisdom is justified of her children.

The Word abode in Him, that is how the strong man was bound. It was not by a miracle wrought by the putting forth of His power, or we could not be enjoined to do it; but by meeting him with "It is written." We are to use Scripture as He did, not looking for a scripture to meet it when the temptation comes, but having the soul in that state through the word of God abiding in us, that Satan cannot reach us. Satan attacks the flesh; but if I am walking in the Spirit he cannot touch me, for the new nature cannot sin when cast into temptation.

Thus I have not to seek the Word for a text to suit my case, but to be living in it; for it is the delight of the new man to be living by every word of God. There is strength and real liberty, and Satan cannot touch me if my soul is living in that; all the rest is set aside. I am not harassed or uncertain. I may have sin in me, but my meat is to do the will of God. The heart is at liberty, and the Spirit of God feeds it with Christ.

41 We are not perfect (indeed, none of us is as perfect here as he might be); but we have the privilege, that though we have the flesh in us, we are not obliged to live and walk after it, or even to think of it. "The word of God abideth in you," not for you to fly to it when temptation comes. We are to keep Satan out, to have the door barred against him. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." A woman may be alone in a house, and a robber be attempting to break in; but if the door is shut, she is not in danger. As long as she keeps the door shut she need not fear robbers; for the question is not as regards her own weakness, but the strength of the door. So we are to be dwelling in the Word to keep out Satan. Having Christ between us and Satan we are safe, whatever his artifices.

A Christian has no right to have a will of his own, nor should he desire it, but rather "to know what is that good and perfect will of God." All that is in the world is not of the Father; the affections of the flesh are in the world, and there is the power of Satan. The Father delights in Christ. If I delight in Christ, there is communion of affection. I have the affections of the Father: "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him," and the fashion of this world passeth away; "but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." All His counsels He will make good morally. I am brought into the way of God's will, and He is not going to destroy His own will; it abideth for ever. I am to grow up into Christ.

42 The address to the little children would be esteemed by many the most obscure part of Scripture. It is the last time. The thing that marks it is, there are many Antichrists. That which characterizes the last time is the corrupting and spoiling of God's last testimony of good, and thus bringing weakness where there should be power. We see in the case of the disciples and the dumb spirit that man is not able to use the power God gave to cast out Satan's power. "Why could not we cast him out?" This brought out the exclamation: "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?" It is as much as to say, "It is no use my staying here if there is not power to put out the evil."

It is the last time. There are many Antichrists. That is a solemn thing. God's patience, how wonderful! As long as there is a soul to win, God's patience goes on bearing with wickedness and corruption; but many Antichrists are come in. It is often thought to be something requiring depth of knowledge. No; little children are told of it; it is a common truth. Antichrist was to come in; but that before he comes there are many Antichrists, and they might seduce them - there is danger. The Antichrist is to come, who will deny both the Father and the Son.

They cannot mistake him; there is no subtlety in Antichrist. His is a bold, open denial; but John speaks of Antichrists already come. He says, "They went out from us because they were not of us." Jude says, "There are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation." It was a common doctrine that Antichrist was to come, and the babes knew he would come in opposition to Christ, to oppose and set aside what Christ had done, but the Apostle tells them there are many Antichrists now; there were those before the Antichrist came. He tells them they will need the unction of the Holy One, as well as the warning of the Apostle, to be able to detect; for "Satan transforms himself into an angel of light." It is the seductions of the Antichrists now in the world, against which he warns them; those who, by the power of Satan, set up to seduce away from Christ, not to frighten away, but to ensnare those who have not the unction from the Holy One.

43 He does not tell them there were many Antichrists to come; but many now, and it is the direct power of Satan. That is what characterizes properly Antichrist. Satan is not only called a liar, but a serpent. Antichrist is a religious character; he works miracles, and all that have not received the love of the truth are seduced by him. He is a prophet, and has a religious character, as spoken of in Thessalonians, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, not merely civil power.

Of what is Satan the Prince? Of this world. And how? By the lusts of this world. Where the object of the heart is the grandeur of the world, or prosperity in this world, the character of it is to obliterate that which shows what man is. The spirit of the world hides from man the secret of man's departure from God. I must keep myself from it. The saint has to be kept out of the spirit of the world. Whatever has not the character of the word of God is of the world, and Satan is the prince of it, and I cannot have Satan's prosperity without having Satan's idols.

If you take Christ and His glory, you must take His cross; you cannot have Christ and the world that rejected Him. Where there is the unction from the Holy One (if the Spirit is not grieved in us), though only a babe, we can say at once, "It is not of the Father, but of the world." The Apostle said, "He that is of God heareth us." Where there is not due place given to the word of God, there is no protection against the seducers. Is the place of the Church of God in the world that rejected Christ? No; it is in heaven, joined to Christ, and the Church takes the word of God as a guide while on earth. If I desire for a single thing in the world, it is not of the Father, it is of the world. Speaking of responsibility in Christ, I do not see how we can be kept from imbibing the spirit of Antichrist, except it is as being not of the world, even as Christ is not of the world.

44 First, then, we must have the word of God abiding in us; next, there must be the unction from the Holy One, by which everything will be judged; and, lastly, there must be the perception of the distinctness and definiteness of the place of the Church of God. The world cannot know the place of the Church. "They went out from us, but they were not of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things."

We are to judge before the Antichrist comes, the many Antichrists, who minister to the flesh and seduce from the Father. "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." It is a moral thing to be kept from the things of the world; they are not of the Father. We must be identified with Christ if we would realize joy and strength.

Lecture 5.

In speaking of the three classes of Christians, we were led to see, in the last specially, it is warning against the seductions of Antichrist.

In the first, to the fathers, it is, that they have known Him that is from the beginning. In the second, to the young men, they have overcome the world; and in the last, to the little children, it is warning them against the seductions of Antichrist. Now we resume at the 28th verse, "And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness is born of Him." On this the third chapter is founded. Being born of Him, there will be the nature and character of Him of whom we are born.

45 That is the character throughout the epistle. "He that does righteousness is righteous." If the life of Christ is there it will show itself; if the eternal life that was with the Father was manifested in righteousness, it will be manifested in righteousness in us. If I see righteousness in the sense that Christ is righteous, I say the eternal life is there; that person is born of God. I do not mean righteousness as between man and man. We see in Christ that righteousness is having no will of one's own; that is never found in an unconverted man. Again, we see He never did a single thing for Himself, yet we find Him full of joy. Well, that kind of righteousness is only to be found where divine life is.

Where God is the motive for everything to the heart and conscience, the motive of the heart characterizes the man, the thought of the presence of God governs the conduct. Take an honest man in the world. There is righteousness between man and man, but what detects the unrighteousness of the world is, God is entirely shut out. It is man's righteousness, and not Christ's righteousness.

If a man has wronged his neighbour, he is condemned by all as a bad man. God may be wronged over and over again, all their life through, and they do not care. They say nothing about it; they will let God be what a man pleases, and say, "It is between man and God; it does not concern us. We have nothing to do with it, provided only that he is honest with men." That is horrid unrighteousness, because self is the centre from beginning to end; that is how the world is governed. It may be seen in a child at school wanting to get a prize, to the exclusion of others; for only one can get it. That is what is called emulation, which men are so ready to praise.

46 Self is the spring of everything, and not God; so if there is righteousness in the things of men, righteousness in the things of God is altogether left out, and God must call that horrid unrighteousness which is called honour in the world. We should be thankful for government; but when the young man in the Gospel came to Jesus, and said, "Speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me," He replied, "Who made me a divider and a judge?" He leaves the question of right according to man (for it was right that he should have that which belonged to him), and shows what is under the surface: "Beware of covetousness." The Lord is our pattern in everything, and when the Lord is the pattern it detects the motives of the heart; so He said, "Beware of covetousness." The one desired to have it, the other desired not to give it up. Take care that the motive and spring of conduct is God, and not self. There He strikes at the principles of covetousness; there must be that state of heart in which God is the spring of the will. Christ is the test - "He that is born of God."

Chapter 3. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." Now let us see what are the privileges and condition of those in such a state. Born of God, think of the love expressed in our being called "sons of God." What a thought it is; not merely I am safe, but I am connected with God's nature. I can delight in God's nature and affections. I have the nature of God to delight in, and enjoy God in the character of a son; and knowledge of the nature Christ came to tell of and to declare in the character of Father. He who knew it as dwelling in His bosom from all eternity - "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him" - told us God's character. He who had enjoyed the outgoings of the Father's love, came to tell us of that love as He knew it to be. If I am to give you the character of my father, it must be as I have known him.

47 Christ has entered into, apprehended, and enjoyed all that God was as the Father. "In Him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." He in whom all the divine nature rested, has declared Him. Christ having become a man, and come down from heaven to declare the Father, takes this place as Son on the earth, that we might know the relationship of sons; and the heart of the Father came out in approbation, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Christ having enjoyed His sonship down here, desires that we should know down here all that love, that our souls should understand the relationship of what God was to Christ down here, and know that the Father loves us as He loved Him. "I have declared thy name unto my brethren, and will declare it, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" - this our souls may know. It may be very feeble, but we are called to know God in fellowship with Christ; that while down here we are to see in what He was to Christ, what He is to us, called sons of God, "that the same love may be in them, and I in them." He is the conductor of all this love into our souls.

How can we know God? The mind can never find out God. "Who by searching can find out God?" Nothing but faith can put God in His place. If I am to find out God by searching, my mind must be master of my subject, and then God would not be God. The mind cannot judge the character of God; we can only take it where it is revealed. It is in Christ. We learn it there, not as a matter of knowledge, but as that which should sanctify our souls. I know we fail, but there is such a thing as dwelling in God.

48 There is acquaintance with God, so as to give settled peace. "Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace." "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Do not say it is too high for us, as if it were an attainment in philosophy. No, it is not the mind. How do I begin to know God is love? Why, He loved me, a sinner. I thus begin at the lowest point. "Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." I know it by the incarnation of the Son of God; He is become everything to us. He is perfect love, perfect patience, perfect goodness; all that is nearest to the every-day needs of a soul, the commonest needs of humanity.

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God" - we are called sons of God, thus called by the same name as Christ, and the world knows us not, but thinks we are mad - "therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not." It was just the same thing with Christ. They said He was mad, had a devil. No wonder they do not understand what we are: "Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not." Who? Him, Christ.

The Apostle's mind was so occupied with Christ, he did not even name Him; he thought everyone must know. Suppose your child was sick, and I were to ask, "How is he?" you would know directly I meant your sick child, because your mind would be dwelling on nothing else, so here it is taken for granted, you know; therefore he does not tell us, does not say who it is. His mind is occupied with Christ, the eternal life that was with the Father, and has been manifested to us. He dwells in you, and you in Him; that is where the world has no knowledge, and that is how the world is no match for a Christian. It does not know his resources; nay, it will taunt him on that score, even as Rabshakeh did Hezekiah, when he said, "Now I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them."

49 "Now are we the sons of God"; not merely when we are up where we shall be, but now. It is the only relationship we can be in to God. A man under the law was a servant; but now the Son has come, born of a woman, born under law, and we are sons. We cannot be anything else, as in the case of the prodigal son. God cannot take His child into His house as a servant, because His heart could not be satisfied. He could not treat as a servant for this reason one whom He loved as a son. When the prodigal knows the father's love, he does not say as he had intended to say, "Make me as one of thy hired servants." How could he say it when his father's arms were hanging on his neck, and when all the house was to be happy because the father was happy and satisfied with his son? He could do nothing but wonder and adore; and, as it has been remarked, we lose sight of the prodigal, and all we think about is the father and his house. Now as the father's house was approached, what fears and tremblings, what questionings were in his mind, such as, What will he say to me? and the like; and the nearer he got, the more uneasy he grew, until the father was on his neck, then all was over. So it is with a soul getting to God.

There is uneasiness, if the work of the Spirit is there, until God's mind has been accepted from Himself; not from any progress or experience we may have known, but from Himself; and the nearer our hearts get to God, the more uneasy we are until we know God's mind and get it from Himself. Then we know it for ourselves. When we have learned to take our thought of our case from God's mind we get peace. It would be inconsistent for us to say we are not sons because we are so failing; for if the Father is Father, the son must be son. He has no other place to give us but sons; for He cannot take us out of Christ and make us something else. "Now are we the sons of God." We have our place as sons on earth. We know the perfect relationship, but we do not know the glory yet, "what we shall be." "We, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness." I do not wait to be a child, I am one, neither do I wait for righteousness which I have already in Christ; but I wait for the glory which is the hope of righteousness.

50 How am I to know the clue for all this, that I may understand it? I must get back to Christ as the pattern of revelation, the model Man; "for we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him." He is the first-born among many brethren. "We shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." All the glory is His who became a man, that He might take us back into all the joy of the Father's presence. It is this that makes Christ's coming again the one object, the one hope of our heart, though death would be gain to me. I do not hope for death. I might rejoice, but I do not hope to die. I hope for Christ to come; "not that I would be unclothed, but clothed upon"; not to put off this tabernacle, but that mortality may be swallowed up of life.

Paul had eternal life, having got hold of it in Christ; and he has such a sense of the power of life, that he longs to be in the enjoyment of all its consequences. He is always confident: "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." If I drop the body I have life, eternal life, in my soul, and I am looking for the glory if I die. Blessed as it is to see a saint die (and it is the most lovely sight in the world), that is not the hope of the saint. Our only hope is, when Christ shall appear "we shall be like Him." We shall not all die, but we shall all be conformed to the likeness of God's Son.

It is God's intention to conform us to the likeness of His Son in glory. I do not look to be conformed to Him in the grave, but as He is; for we shall be witnesses of His victory over death. The thief on the cross said, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." Christ said, You shall not wait till then; you shall be happy today with me in Paradise, thus bringing in the separate state of blessedness of a soul; and it surely is a blessed thing. God's intention is to conform us to Christ in glory, and Christ's coming is the only hope of the Church. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him." What is more, "We shall see Him as He is"; not see Him as He was, but as He is. In one sense, I am not nearer to His likeness at the day of my death than at the day of my conversion; but morally I am, and they are never separated. The revelation of the glory of my soul shuts out everything inconsistent with it.

51 Paul says to the Philippians, "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" - nothing can ever satisfy my soul but that. There is present fellowship with His sufferings, looking forward to the prize of His high calling; but he says, I have not got it yet, "I press toward the mark." "Our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body." It will be actual glory with and in Christ, "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before." He would not have or allow one atom of his life to be inconsistent with the resurrection. We ought all to be able to say, "This one thing I do; forgetting the things which are behind, I am reaching forward to be like Christ." "He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure."

Take Christ's love in Ephesians: "Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church." The application of the Word did not make the glory brighter, but was preparing for it.

52 The revelation of Christ as He is, forms the soul to think, "If I am to be like Him by-and-by, I will be as like Him as I can now." "He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure"; so that he may be like Him now, having the blessed privilege to get this as the measure, "even as He is pure." "I sanctify myself"; that is, He is set apart as the one according to God's mind, as the model, that we may look at Him and be like Him. "That they also might be sanctified through the truth," is the Holy Ghost taking of the things of Christ and showing them unto us.

"We beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory." The real practical power of the hope of the coming of the Lord sanctifies and forms the affections of the heart; and the revelation of the glory of Christ is the means of my purifying myself as He is pure, the Word revealing Christ, and drawing forth the affections of the heart to Him, that I may grow up to Him in all things.

In Colossians it is that he might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus; that is, having the heart fully set on everything that belongs to Christ, "who is the image of the invisible God," in whom all the fulness was pleased to dwell. After developing all these things of Christ's glory, he says, "I want to get every man perfect according to these glories of Christ"; and that which makes it so blessed is, that it is the joy of being like Christ. It is not as giving us a law to walk by, or precepts to guide us. There are precepts; but that which purifies is the affections being set on Christ, to be like Christ now, as it is the purpose of God that we should be conformed to the image of His Son.

53 I would just say, Christ's coming is to receive the Church to Himself before He appears, as in Thessalonians; and this is the delight of the heart's affections (it is a little different to the appearing with Him in glory); "so shall we ever be with the Lord." We get the thought, we are all to be caught up together to meet the Lord. I might say, "There's one so strong in faith and good works, he will surely go up first." No; all distinction fades away in Christ; all is gone in the thought, we all get there together. When I look back and see the devotedness of Paul, I think of the love of Christ, who takes us all up together, to be with Him for ever. That there may be no difference, all alike are to be conformed to the image of God's own Son.

Christ's love rests perfectly upon the Church, because it is Himself; He cannot hate His own flesh. That which is most intimate in affection is common to us all. We go to be with the Lord; not to appear with Christ, blessed as that is, but to be with Him. It is a special blessing to be with Christ, which is far better than to appear with Him as partaker of the glory. It is a marvelous honour to be honoured with Him, but it is better to be with Him; therefore, the apostle says, "So shall we ever be with the Lord." He is satisfied with that.

In Colossians it is, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory"; and he immediately connects it with responsibility. "Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth"; but when he speaks of being with the Lord, oh, that will not be connected with any growth or progress I may have made, but on the common ground of Christ's love to His own! I can look at the saints, even at Paul, and say, "We shall be with Him together." The appearing with Christ is connected with responsibility of service.

54 I shall delight in the Thessalonian believers when in the glory as well as Paul; but they will not be my crown of rejoicing, but Paul's - the reward of his service. That principle is never to be the motive of our conduct.

The hope of reward should never lead me into service; but when tried in service, as we surely shall be, then it sustains the soul in the path. What was Christ's motive? Infinite, divine love. What is said of Him, "who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross," is also said of Moses: "He endured, as seeing Him who is invisible; for he had respect unto the recompense of reward." If I am preaching to sinners the love of Christ constrains me, but I want something to sustain me in the path. Love is the motive, but we need to be sustained by the hope set before us as we tread the path from the cross to the crown, when we shall be conformed to Him.

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God." We have not to enquire if we are sons, but take that as the ground of our now being conformed to Him.

Our souls must get to delight in God. God has unfolded Himself. "Oh," you will say, "that is so high!" Well, but Christ has come as the link to what is so high by coming so low (and He stooped lower than any), and He made Himself our only object. It is not the power of the mind that thinks about it, but the singleness of the eye that looks at it; the single eye has no object but Christ. The old nature is not to act. The new man has no other object than Christ.

You are called to know God. "Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace." That was always true, but you are now called to know God in Christ. Oh that the world may not get into our hearts in such sort as to make us incapable of enjoying God! He is leading us from circumstances by the communication of the divine nature to the knowledge and enjoyment of God. If I am in sorrow, God is my comfort; if I have suffered loss, Christ is everything to me. We are to cast all our cares upon Him, great and small; and so "the peace of God shall keep our hearts and minds by Christ Jesus." Is His throne shaken by our cares, because they are so many, and so great? No; His throne is unaffected by them all. Thus, while it is applicable to the commonest cares, all these things but bring us into the knowledge of God.

55 May our communion and fellowship be such as that we may know His peace; not peace with Him, but the peace in which He dwells; to know that His throne is not disturbed by all our cares, and thus to know Him, and find our joy in Him, and wait to be like Him, "purifying ourselves even as He is pure!"

Lecture 6.

It was not simply now (any more than with us) the setting forth of the grace and goodness of God in a world that knew Him not, in the midst of a world of sin and misery, though it was a blessed privilege that one should be permitted to be the channel of such a testimony as the Gospel, the messenger to bring in the wondrous message of love to this wretched world. That, of course, met with opposition, but it was a wonderful and sensible blessing to man.

The Spirit had another service to perform, another truth to unfold. "Ungodly men had crept in unawares," and it became necessary to warn against evil. It is far more difficult to preserve blessing when it is brought in than to testify of it at the first. So we find in Jude the exhortation given to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, not merely to publish the tidings of the blessing that had been brought in pure and uncorrupted. "Believe not every spirit." Far happier to say, "Believe the Spirit"; but because of error it had to be said, "Believe not" - the mystery of iniquity which was to come in, and was already in the world, required it. All the Apostles had to warn thus against the evil which had come in, and John more especially, as being the last of them.

56 "Try the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world." Men had slept, and the enemy had sown tares. Satan always seeks by violence and opposition to resist the coming in of truth, and to hinder its reception; or if he cannot do that, then, when it is come in, he will corrupt the truth. "Evil men have crept in unawares," false prophets (or false spirits) are gone out into the world - holy kind of men, it may be, in their way, but false prophets, who attack true and simple souls, with great apparent power, a mingling of much real truth; but error must be put down in the heart and conscience.

It is a great mercy to have orthodoxy professed; by orthodoxy, I mean the cardinal truths of the Gospel, although, of course, the profession of orthodoxy is not life. There may be orthodoxy, and yet not life, especially in these days; and we have come back to where the Spirit of God will keep the soul in possession of the truth. There may not be salvation, though there may be orthodoxy of profession.

The Lord may allow intellect to work, and then the question may arise, as with Pilate, "What is truth?" We find in men two things: scepticism and infidelity. The sceptic doubts all the truth; the infidel denies the truth altogether, and says there is no truth, no knowledge, no doctrine; that is what infidelity always will do. There is difficulty in every truth; the consequence is, that when men get tired of their sins, and think about giving them up, or are troubled about the consequences, they begin to enquire about truth, turn very serious for a while, attend to their religious duties, as they call it, and all that. Finding it difficult, though, they tire, and soon grow weary of it, and seek to get hold of something that promises certainty, and at the same time saves them the trouble of knowing truth for themselves. So they look for something established on human authority, and lean on the judgment and opinions of men. This is authority in a bad sense, man's word.

57 God exercises true authority over the conscience. The truth is authority, but men want something that will save them the exercise of their hearts and consciences before God. On human authority the conscience is not with God, and they would be independent of God. Now this degrades man beneath what he was intended to be; for his true position was to be dependent on God. This is man's true glory. The conscience must be brought into contact with God, into the presence of God, and this is true ministry. Whatever ministry fails to do this, or has not this for its object, is not of God, because it is putting something between the soul and God.

If ministry be real, it brings God directly to the conscience through the Word, whereas that which is false stands between God and the conscience; and this will enable us to detect the difference, and to discern at once what is false or true ministry. God has promised to guide the humble, and He will secure the humble soul against false prophets.

The word of God never treats man's mind as being competent to judge it; for it would be the judgment of what is authority itself over the conscience. People have confounded the power of the Word to work in the conscience, with a competency to judge the Word, and it is an awful thing! Man's mind is incapable of judging God's word. If he could, it would not be God's at all; for that would be supposing man's mind equal to God's, and there would be no God. The natural conscience may judge of individual commands; such as, "Thou shalt not steal." I am capable of also judging, so far as to know that it is good when it has acted on my soul. It is like taking food. I may be entirely ignorant of the process of nutrition and digestion, yet I may know the full value of food, and be conscious of the invigorating effect produced by the food when eaten.

58 There are many things that may be estimated when they have acted on me, though I may have no competency to judge of them but by their effect. God's word tells me that I am thus or thus. The soul receives the effect by divine power. That is the Word judging me, not my judging the Word; but the Word can produce in me the competency to judge, and these are often confounded in reasoning, Where am I to find the competency? that is the question. It is in the Word, because it comes and approves itself to the heart by acting with power on the conscience.

Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; it begins with power. "Believe not every spirit." It is not simply the truth, and men's minds at work; there are false spirits acting on man's mind, certain energies are at work acting on man's mind. While poor man thinks himself independent, there is a spirit working which is either of God or of the devil, either truth or error to the soul. "False prophets are gone out into the world."

The confession of Jesus Christ come in the flesh is of God. That which puts all to the test is the real acknowledgment of Christ come in the flesh. It proves the truth of the person; it is the proper faith of him that speaks, and not a mere confession, because if I have faith in a thing I am subject to it; that is, I am subject to Christ. No evil spirit is so subject. It would not be an evil spirit if it were. "Try the spirits." Unless Jesus Christ is owned as God manifest in the flesh, it is not of God. "Many false prophets are gone out into the world," and the owning of the lordship and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be the test of everything. You will find a thousand things set up instead; but that spirit that does not bow to the Lord Jesus Christ is not of God. "Ye are of God, little children." There is no thought of putting them on their own competency or ability to judge, or on the authority of other men, but on the Spirit of God; "for greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." It is as much as to say, "If the Holy Ghost is in you, He will overcome; if not, Satan will surely get the better."

59 The Church of God is, as it were, the great prize between Satan and God. So with Pharaoh and Israel when he refuses to let the people go. "Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go." Immediately the answer is, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him?" There, though it was to bring out the manifestation of the power of God in His judgment upon Pharaoh that He might prove Himself the mightier, as Jethro speaks, "Now I know the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly He was above them." (Ex. 18:11). By-and-by He will show this out more fully. When the Lord appears, and Satan is bound, there will be an end to this conflict; but now it is carried on in our individual walk, and God would now exercise men's faith and conscience, and manifest His power in keeping them. We get here the power of walk: "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world."

One of the most alarming symptoms in the religious world at the present day is the idea that there is power in the truth to preserve. There is no power in the truth to preserve; but the question is, whether the soul holds fast the truth. Unless my thoughts, my heart, are in the truth, there will be no power in the truth to me. It is very certain that God will keep His truth; but is my heart kept? If not, it is the mere confidence of man's mind; for "greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world."

60 The only ground of victory is the power of the Spirit of God in the affections and consciences of the saints; and then the heart will be set on Christ, and the things of Christ, to love Him, enjoy Him, and serve Him better. The conflict and difficulty are rather when the truth is brought in question than when it first goes forth in power. If I am not kept by the Spirit of God, I shall not be able to resist the daily solicitations of sin.

Man may grow tired of his sins, and tired of the world; for he has long been in bondage to them, and desires sincerely too, to break off from his sins. He is attracted at first by that which promises him deliverance, and is glad to close with the offer, and so breaks off from his sins for a while, and is very religious, and seems devoted too; but his soul does not continue. He does not like the trials and tribulations which arise. He cannot bear to lose his friends, and his prosperity, and his place in the world, and then error is found the easier thing, and there must come a falling away, and so it will be but a little flock.

False religion might make a monk, but can never put the conscience into the presence of God. Error quarrels not with men's passions; for false religion in the man ever ministers to the passions, the thoughts, the feelings of men. Thus, it is false religion that suits the world better than truth, because it suits itself to man, and the mass will ever follow error. Paul had to say, "All in Asia are turned away from me." The Apostle did not expect that truth would have power over the world, but plainly declared that error would. So we see, when the Lord allows the sifting of a large body of people on a point of truth, the greater number will adopt the error.

61 "They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them"; but "ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them." If God were in them, they were kept; if not, they would fall away from the truth. We must rely on what has been declared by the Spirit of God, rather than on what is the expectation of men.

The Apostle himself believed in the power of truth as much as anyone, but he had not the vain expectation that the truth had power to reform the world. "Ye are of God, little children." This is the guard, not of the power, but of the means. We are of God. "He that knoweth God heareth us." It is not said "overcomes," but heareth us - he is of the truth. They had the spiritual power of discovering what was truth. The means of ascertaining truth from error was the recognition of the Word. Whosoever did not submit to the inspired Word was not to be listened to. Though they might speak like angels, it was not of God, it was of themselves.

"He that is of God heareth us." I could not say, "You must hear me or you will be lost"; but I could say this: "If you do not hear the message of the Gospel which I speak to you, you will perish, because it is the truth of God, and you are to search for yourselves and see." I am no guarantee of truth. I have it from God; but in the Apostles themselves I get the guarantee and the test of truth. If you are of God you will believe it; but if anyone hindered another from hearing an Apostle he could say at once such a one was not of God; for "he that is of God heareth us." Their immediate testimony was the test God was using of truth and error. No man now is the immediate vessel or guarantee of truth.

62 Mark further, the moment I require anything to establish the authority of the Word, I take the authority of the Word away; for the thing rested on is, of course, that which is supposed to establish the Word, and not the Word itself. If I take anything as proving the Word of God, and so believe it, that is not believing the Word.

The Spirit of God and the word of God must go together. The word of God will not do alone; for I may attempt to judge the Word by my own private judgment, and so get wrong. The Spirit of God will not do alone either; for I may mistake my own fancies for the Spirit; they go together. Then the moment the Word reaches my heart it is absolute authority, and the Word judges me. When they are both received into the heart, when thus in complete possession of me, Satan cannot touch me, because they will allow nothing of the flesh, self-will, etc., to work. Is there evil in me? They will enable me to judge it in myself and in everything around me. Such a one is guaranteed against all error; he has the Spirit and the word of God. These are the comforting, peaceful, blessed means of guarding us from all evil.

The effect of a man's being saved is that he is brought to God, having perfect peace - brought into an entirely new world. He has his soul constantly delighting in the Word, where all the wisdom of God is brought out for his soul to be exercised in, endless and safe, learning all that God is. What we all have to seek is to be occupied with the truth every day, knowing more of delighting and feeding on Christ, as the true God, and as the perfect Man, subject in all things to His Father; and all this is not so as to be able to write an essay on it, but as the Christ, in whom I know God and man, the One who lived by the Father, depending on the Father. Then everything that is not of Him strikes upon my soul. It is THAT CHRIST who is touched, and it affects the whole harmony of the soul.

63 Be sure of this, if it is not the living power of a living Christ known and enjoyed in your soul, you cannot withstand error. It must be truth held in connection with the person of Christ or it will not guard you against error; the mere truth is no match for Satan. I would not venture to meet Satan on the truth if I were not called to do it, to warn the saints, and for the glory of God, because I should be afraid, but I know God will keep me when in His service. I do not therefore cast myself down from off the pinnacle of the temple, because it is written in the Word, "He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."

We get set forth in Cain and Abel the traits of the two families; viz., in Cain, hatred, violence, and wickedness; in Abel, suffering, righteousness, and love. The eternal life which was with the Father is communicated to the Christian, producing in him Christ's ways, thoughts, and feelings. "Everyone that loveth is born of God." "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God," for God is love. Love is the inner development of the divine nature. As I cannot enjoy or exercise the faculties and affections of a man if I have not the nature of a man, no more can I enjoy God's affections unless I have the nature of God.

It is an old remark, that "knowledge cannot love." You must have this nature, be born of God, or you cannot love. Man's searching gets nothing. Unless he know the love of God in the Lord Jesus Christ he cannot love.

Suppose there is a general notion of God, and that His eternal Godhead is seen and acknowledged. If I have knowledge, and try to understand things, I shall be confounded; for when the state of the whole world is looked upon, what do I see? Why, three-fourths of it given up to idolatry, worshipping the devil, and oppression, degradation, and misery overwhelming multitudes even in this great city; and the mind gets into confusion. Men may try to say that it is all needful for the general government of man, but this will not do for those who are suffering. If it be said, "Sin is the cause of it all," then I say, "If sin has come in, what can I have, as a sinner, to say to God? How can I meet God?" It is of no use to tell me that He is good. He is that; but I am responsible to God, and the more I get into the truth, the more I am confounded, and thrown almost into despair.

64 Neither scepticism nor authority will do anything for me here; but the moment I get Christ the whole thing is clear; Christ clears it all up. I have not something now that can deal with it, but God who has dealt with it. God is seen in Him as dealing with this creation in all its sin and misery. Then, I say sin has ruined us; all are guilty. I am guilty; but He has met my sin in the very way I wanted it.

When I was in perplexity and despair about my sins, and when I found no way of meeting God, then it was God who met me, and showed me how He had settled it all to His glory in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has met all for me. He came into the world to be a propitiation for our sins, into all the misery, to put it away, and give Himself as the source of life, and putting away of that sin which would hinder the enjoyment of God; and then, to the perfecting of this love, to introduce us into that which is above. He came down that He might take us up with Him.

"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." "Herein is our love made perfect" (or love with us made perfect), "that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world." I get the love manifested in His coming to me, and taking me up into the presence of God perfect in Himself.

65 The communication of the nature gives the power to love, and then it is, "Not that we love God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins"; thus giving us the object for our love to rest upon and work upon, always elevating, always satisfying. It is not the mysticism that delights in its own exercise working on itself; but there is an infinite and blessed object, and we are brought into association with and likeness to that blessed object, not allowing in us the least fear, all being taken away by His divine work, and we at rest, perfectly happy with God. Whatever does not make our hearts know God as perfect in love to ourselves and in ourselves, is not the whole truth; whatever does not set me in the presence of God without a single fear remaining, so that I can enjoy His love, is not adequate to His love to me.