Nine lectures on the First Epistle of John

J. N. Darby.

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Lecture 7.

The apostle in this part of the chapter returns to the great doctrine of the whole epistle. It is not here so much the great truth which sets the soul before God, but the truth we have when we are before God.

We have already been noticing the difference between Paul and John. While Paul sets the Church as justified before God, opening out the counsels of God, etc., John brings out the nature of God in the saints. It is not so much the ground of that which brought the soul to God, although he does speak of that too, but it is the character of the life that is communicated - the life which is in God the Father, derived through Christ; it is first in Christ, and then manifested in the saints. The traits of the divine nature are brought out through the Christian, and this is particularly brought out in John.

66 There is also another thing in this chapter. It is not merely that there is a nature and capacity to enjoy God, but the Holy Ghost is given as the power of that nature. The Holy Ghost dwelling in us gives us the power of enjoyment; but that there may not be mysticism, that there may be no vacillation or uncertainty, he grounds the testimony in the public manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The capacity of enjoying the source of the life is by the power of the Holy Ghost dwelling in us.

God is love, and that is first openly seen at the cross of Christ; and then in the new nature we have a capacity to enjoy that love; but the fear must be taken away, because fear hath torment, and torment is not enjoyment. Then he shows what removes the fear. "Perfect love casteth out fear" - not perfect righteousness; that had given the peace before God, but the revelation of Himself, and what He is, alone casteth out fear.

If it be asked, "How do you know God loves you?" "Oh," I reply, "I have a certain and constant proof of that in the gift of His Son! Besides that I have the daily and hourly enjoyment of God as my Father, and I know it because I am enjoying it." I may prove to another the love of God by certain acts, such as the gift of His own Son, which is an open manifestation of God's love; but this does not take away from the daily enjoyment of God, the capacity for which I get in the new nature and by the power of the Spirit.

It is remarkable to see how the apostle guards from mysticism by bringing the mind back to the plain statement of the gospel. "We have seen, and do testify, that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." In the seventh verse be begins by saying, "Beloved, let us love one another." Here we have the love of God in exercise in the new nature, and the characteristic of this nature is to recognize it in another. If I have this divine nature, I cannot help liking it in another. I may have many prejudices to overcome, but there is an attractive power in the thing itself. I do not speak of it as a mere duty; it is there in the nature, and being divine it is much above angels, although they are higher creatures.

67 We are to love all men, to do good to all; that is, benevolence which acts toward that which is in need. I do not speak of that now; but there is an attractive power in the communication of the divine nature which necessitates love, which links one to another, and to Christ. There is power there; it may be very imperfect in us, but it is real, and attracts to the Divine Person.

We need something more than the new nature, because it is a dependent nature, therefore wants something else. Christ, when down here, lived a dependent life. "I live by the Father."

The old man sets himself up and pretends to be independent, but all the while is under the power of Satan; but the new nature is a dependent nature. It leans on power, and delights to do so.

The Holy Ghost is the power, "strengthened with all might by His SPIRIT in the inner man." That is the full blessing, both in the individual soul and in the Church of God. Though we have the new nature, we want the power of the Holy Ghost in us to remove the obstacles to its display.

Labour will not do; you may labour, but just as a mountain of cold snow, which no labour may remove, melts before the bright shining of the sun, and all vanishes away; so nothing but the warm kindlings of divine affection in the soul by the power of the Holy Ghost will dissolve the thick ice of our hearts, and melt away all that which is in us to obstruct and hinder its fuller manifestation.

"Love is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God." When I have received this nature I am born of God, and am brought into a position to refer everything up to God; for the nature we get from God has God for the object of that new nature to act upon. When I see the traits of this nature in another I say he is born of God. I see love in natural affection, but here it is in a divine sense. In natural affection selfishness is the ground of it all; but in the saint "he that loveth is born of God," while selfishness is the spring of everything out of God.

68 We find in the soul that is born of God another principle which takes a man entirely out of himself. A man makes himself a fortune by some new invention that makes the world more comfortable, and what is this but selfishness? All that gives an impulse to the progress of the world is selfishness. Here is the difference - we are in a world where we all have to follow our various occupations and callings. In a Christian it is not selfishness; it is love. He has got out of every other motive; he is born of God, and love is the spring of all his actions, as love is the principle of God's nature. It may be very feeble in me; but am I to be satisfied that it should remain so?

Whatever is born of God came down from God, and returns to God again; therefore "be ye imitators of God, as dear children." This perfect love came down from God that it might return to God again; for whom did Christ come down to glorify but His Father? For all that Christ did, returned to God, a sweet-smelling savour, or else it would have been lost.

There are many beautiful qualities in a creature of God; but do they return to God again? No; then it becomes sin. I get a good thing, and enjoy it, and leave God out. That is man's sin. There may be a great deal of selfishness under that which outwardly appears like liberality.

You will see a Christian help his brother, and look up to God as doing it to God, because He loves God; but if he helps him and says to himself, "I have done well," it ceases to be love; it is self-applause, and that is selfishness.

69 The new nature gets God as the source, and God as the object, and thus is the truth of the new nature guarded, by being connected with this counter truth, that God is the object for this new nature to act upon. The new nature acts in us like God, so that others can see it; but then it knows God, and I can conceive of nothing higher than to know God. "Everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God"; and it is a great comfort to say in everything, I have found God.

Then mark another truth (v. 8), "He that loveth not knoweth not God." There is no knowledge of God but in the possession of the nature of God - there is no power to apprehend Him. You may see His works, and say there must be a God; but is that knowing Him? I must have God's nature to know Him, because none can know love but by loving, and he who thus knows Him will apprehend Him. Take a philosopher who talks about God, and set him in the presence of God - you would find it is the last place he would like to be in; and why so? Because he has never been there before.

"In this was manifested the love of God toward us." This is no abstract notion about love; it is not said merely, "In this was manifested the love of God", but, "In this was manifested the love of God toward us."

Man's mind cannot measure God; mind can only measure mind, measure thoughts; but mind cannot measure love, for love is only known by loving and being loved. If man's mind were a competent judge of what God should be, God would not be God, and how must this love of God be found? In a most humble way (so much the better) the soul must come in as wanting this love; for if it can come in any other way, it does not want God.

The moment any soul finds its need of God, there and then God is waiting to meet its need. It was so in the case of the Syrophoenician woman, who brought forth that word of the Lord - "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt!" The great faith is knowing my need, counting on God's willingness to meet it. It may be vague; it was in the woman who came into the house; but still there was faith. When I find that manifested in God which meets my need, that is faith. I never get into the place of God's meeting my need till I know God is God and I am a sinner.

70 When we are in our place we shall find God in His; when I am brought down to the sense that the only thing I have is sin, then God can act - "when we were yet without strength" God acted "in due time." God being the doer, He does it in the perfectness of His own love and time. "In this was manifested the love of God toward us." I can stand before God and talk to sinners, and say, "I know God in a way in which angels do not know Him, which things the angels desire to look into - God's love toward us." I do not say me, but toward us, taking in all the saints - that little word, us, ceaselessly rung in our ears by the Holy Ghost putting us in the full consciousness of the favour of God toward us, "that we might live through Him."

Not only is God's love manifested when it is needed, but where it must have its own proper perfectness, and it comes out perfectly where nothing depends on man to bring it out or make it clear. It was manifested when we were dead, "that we might live through Him."

If I examine my own heart I cannot find it out. I know more of God's heart than I do of my own; for my own is so subtle I cannot get to the bottom of it; for "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" and the best man upon earth will be the first to confess this.

71 I do not get the full character of God to my soul till I see it in the cross; for what was in man was nothing but sin, and when that sin was met there was nothing between God and His Son; and if He was alone in that work, this is a proof of what God has done in my circumstances of death.

He sent His Son that I might live through Him, and not only live through Him, but my sins being all put away, I see eternal life through Him for me, and He being the propitiation for my sins, I find my sins are gone, and life is come. Well then, after such a proof of God's love, let us not be thinking of our love to God. Who am I that I should be coupling God's love with mine? Do not talk to me about loving God; it is a wretched poor thing (I do love Him); but let us talk of God's loving us. The moment I begin to think of my love to God, that moment it ceases, it is gone; the manna I gathered yesterday has turned to corruption.

Heaven will be when I have entirely forgotten myself, and am filled with God. That very same love which will fill heaven was manifested in the cross; for there it put all my sins away, and in heaven there are none. I want something on which my soul may be stayed. Well, God loves me; and that which makes me know how much He loves me is, that He gave His Son for me. Then, as my soul rests upon this love of God, no measure of failure can be adequate to shake my confidence, as I estimate God's love in the gift of His Son. His love is not exhausted, though my need may be great and my failures many; but I have a constant abiding proof, which follows me all my life through.

How much He loves me is shown in the gift of His Son; and my soul rests in peace on this love, as manifested in the cross, which is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." It was proved at the cross, and abides there; it was outside us in the world, and it made known to us when we wanted it in getting life, finding nothing in us but the need that depends upon it. The enjoyment of this love is another thing, and that is carried on by the daily and hourly communion with God as our Father, by the Spirit in us.

72 Verse 11. The Apostle having given a proof of God's love goes on to the exercise of it in us while down here. "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another," and this principle we find brought out in other parts of the Word, as in Eph. 4:3 2: "Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you"; also in Col. 3:13.

Verse 12. "No man hath seen God at any time." I cannot know God by seeing Him; but in John's Gospel (John 1:18 ), "The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." He who knew what was God's love has told it out - the Son who dwelt in the bosom of the Father, who enjoyed the Father's love without any alloy, He is the One who comes to tell it to me, as He knew and enjoyed it Himself, and I know God according to that revelation He has made; for "He hath declared Him." In the Epistle of John he goes a step further. It is communicated livingly to us. "True in Him and in you." (1 John 2:8). It was true in Him, and now it is true in you who believe.

"If we love one another, God dwelleth in us." That is the source of it, and the enjoyment of it is by the power of the Holy Ghost. "His love is perfected in us." It is not my love perfected in God, but His love is perfected in me; and I know, being in Him that is infinite, I shall never get out of it. It is not that I am infinite myself, but I am in Him who is infinite. His love is perfected in us. "Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit" (v. 13). Here it is communion, and not merely power. It is in the nature of God, and not merely the power of God. I enjoy it because He has given me of His own Spirit, the joy of communion being by the power of His Spirit.

73 Angels know not this joy; and why is this? Because they never have the Holy Ghost dwelling in them; but God hath "given us of His Spirit," because we are members of Christ, the fruit of the travail of His soul, what He desires (not we), for we are lost in Him. Therefore, having received of His own Spirit, we ought to seek to have the life of Jesus made manifest in our mortal bodies. The divine nature in a man is shown by having God for its object.

"And we have seen and do testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world" (v. 14). Observe, the apostle gets back to the person of the Son, but in a more advanced state of soul, as knowing Him who sent the Son. "We have seen." Thus it was a known and enjoyed love. While Paul gives us the Church and the purposes and counsels of God, John speaks of the nature in which God dwells; and what is the effect of this? It is Worship, because that is the highest thing we can enjoy in the knowledge of God. Look at the scene in the Revelation. God is on His throne, and the elders are on thrones around. Can anything be higher than this? Yes, they fall down and worship before Him who sat on the throne, and cast down their crowns before the throne, saying, "Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power." Then observe, when the apostle realized the privilege of getting up to the Giver of every good and perfect gift, then he turns to the very simplest truth - "The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of he world."

Thus we see the very highest saints are the best evangelists. The father in Christ links himself with the weakest babe, and the very way of bringing God into a world of sinners was by linking Himself with the most needy thing on the face of the earth. It is not the extent of knowledge that is needed, but the knowledge of God in the power of living communion, that is the power of evangelizing. The love that reaches the highest will stoop the lowest. The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world; it is not here merely as the Messiah to the Jews, but as the Saviour of the world.

74 "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God" (v. 15). God dwelleth in the soul that has this fellowship and communion, and it in God; for "whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God." "The Father sent the Son." Here we have the subordination of the Son in connection with the Father. "The Father sent the Son." His eye rests on Him, on the Man Christ Jesus. We are not to reason about it. I must not have philosophy, but faith; and the soul taught of God can say, "I know that the Man Christ Jesus was the Son of God."

"Herein is love with us made perfect … because as He is, so are we in this world." (v. 17). Here he is not speaking of the love of God manifested to the sinner on the cross, but the extent of it in the saint, who is taken up in and with Christ. As He has been made sin for you on the cross, so you will be made the righteousness of God in Him in heaven, therefore there can be no question of judgment unless Christ can be judged.

"We have known and believed the love that God hath to us." Love cannot be enjoyed where there is a bad conscience, therefore you must get the conscience purged.

Satan may act on the conscience, as well as the Spirit of God, but you may always detect the difference, as Satan always acts in the way of despair; while the Spirit of God always points to a resource in God, and the soul, however much distressed, feels there is goodness in God if it can only get at it. So the prodigal knew his need, and said, "There is bread enough and to spare in my father's house." Thus the soul knows God's love, and believes in it; and when the Father is on the neck of the prodigal that settles every question; for the son is lost in the testimony of what the Father is. Having peace with God, we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.

75 "God is love." There is not a word here of what man is. God is love; that is the only God I know, and the only way that I can know Him. If I am in Christ, is God going to impute to me the sin Christ has put away? Certainly not. I have sins, but they have all been judged in Christ; then God will not judge them again. What difficulty we have in believing what God really is, because we have been so long away from God, that we have become so narrowed in ourselves; but if we do come to know Him, then our hearts should be as wax, ready to receive the impressions of His love.

Lecture 8.

The last time, speaking on the preceding verses of this chapter (4), I was, in closing, referring to two things here the first, in verse 9, the love of God as manifested to the world in giving His Son for us; and the second, in verse 17, its double fruit of love and life in us. God's love, in contrast with man's, is distinguished by this, that while man must have something to draw out his love (as it is said, "For a good man some would even dare to die; but God commandeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us"), God's love is without motive, their being nothing attractive in the object that draws it out. "In due time Christ died for the ungodly." God's love sees no good in us.

76 The brightest proof of God's love and man's enmity was seen in the cross; they met there, and thus showed the superiority of God's love. As Jethro says, "In the thing wherein they dealt proudly He was above them" (Ex. 18:11). Verse 9 sets out the open manifestations of His love to us while we were yet sinners.

We learn His purposes and counsels about us as saints, in the second place, in verse 17: "Herein is 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." This is a very different thing from His first visiting us in our sins. "Herein is love with us made perfect." The perfectness of God's love towards His saints is seen in the bringing them to be like Christ Himself.

The sovereign grace of God puts the saint into the same place as Christ, that we may have the same kind of fellowship with the Father that Christ had. So in John 14, the Lord says, "My peace I give unto you" - that is, the peace He had with His Father - "not as the world giveth, give I unto you."

The world has the character of a benefactor; and that it sometimes gives generously I do not deny. It is done by helping a man as he is, out of the resources which it has - which may be all very well; yet, while helping him, it is only taking care of itself. It is evidently a different thing here; for Christ takes us entirely out of our condition, putting us into the same relationship with the Father as Himself. The world cannot give in this way.

There is no guarding anything for self in Christ's unjealous love; but in us there is. Therefore He could say, "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you." His delight was to show that the Father loved them as He loved Him. "The glory thou hast given me I have given them … that the world may know that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me." Jesus not only loves them Himself, but He will have it known by the world that they are loved by the Father as He Himself is loved. Can there be anything more disinterested than this? (although the word "disinterested" fails to give the full meaning). Still all this is guarded; for Christ ever keeps His place as the eternal Son of God.

77 At the mount of transfiguration, the moment there is the question of putting Moses and Elias on an equality with Jesus, they both disappear; for when Peter said, "Let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses and one for Elias … While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them," and instantly the glorified men vanished. "And there came a voice out of the cloud saying, This is my beloved Son: Hear Him." It is not said, "Hear them," but "Hear Him." "And when the voice was passed, Jesus was found alone." If Christ, in His wondrous grace, reveals Moses and Elias as His companions and associates in the glory, the moment Peter, in his foolishness, gives utterance to the thought that would place them on an equality with Christ, they must both vanish from the scene.

It does not say, "As the Father has loved them," but "As He has loved Me" (as a man); for however Christ may bring us into the same place with Himself, He abides the object of homage and honour, even as the Father. If we elevate ourselves to an equality with Christ, immediately we set ourselves above Him; but it is ever the case, that the more a saint enters into his elevation, as being brought by grace into the same place with Christ, the more he adores Christ as over all, God blessed for evermore. This is ever to be borne in mind.

The thought in verse 17, "As He is, so are we in this world," is that the saints are in the same place as Christ. If I have righteousness, it is a divine righteousness: we are "made the righteousness of God in Him." If I have life, it is a divine eternal life. "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear." If I have glory, it is the same glory: "The glory thou hast given me, I have given them." If we have an inheritance, we are "joint-heirs with Christ"; if love, it is the same love wherewith the Father loved Christ: "Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me."

78 The love is the most difficult thing for us to enter into, but the Lord would have our hearts enjoying it. All that we have in Christ is brought out in this passage, in the general expression: "As He is, so are we." It is the thought and purpose of God's grace to bless us not only by Christ, but with Christ. Christ could not be satisfied unless it were so, we being the fruit of the travail of His soul. "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me." Again, "I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." The Father's love is seen in giving His Son for us, and the Son's love in His giving Himself for us, and thus bringing us into His perfect place.

Some Christians do not give this verse 17 all its power; they refer it simply to our position before God respecting the day of judgment. Whatever judgment may come, the saint has nothing to do with it; for where there is a question about judgment, there can be no boldness. There is nothing more comforting than the perfect confidence of having God as my Father. I cannot get the affections in full play if I think God is going to judge me; but I have the Spirit of adoption, and if I sin or do wrong, I run to my Father directly, because I know my Father is not going to judge me for it; for God is my Father, and will not judge (save as a Father, now, for my correction, by the way). Therefore boldness is needed for the exercise of the spiritual affections in me. We ought to remember this, for Christians often shrink from it; but it is evident that if I am hesitating whether God is going to bless me or to judge me, I cannot love Him.

79 Then observe another thing - there is a great difference between spiritual desires and spiritual affections, although they both have the same root. The spiritual desires (if the relationship which would meet them be not known) only produce sorrow. Take an orphan, for instance, in a family where the parent's love to the children is witnessed every day - the sorrowful experience would be, "Oh that I too had a father!" The child who has his parent has the same desires, but he knows the joy and gladness which flows from the relationship existing between himself and his parents. So also that we may have joy and gladness as the children of God, we must have the consciousness of the relationship in which we stand to God. It is not merely that we have a divine nature which gives us spiritual desires, but we must also have the consciousness of the relationship into which we are brought by the power of what Christ has done.

It is clear there never could be a question between Christ and His Father. He daily and hourly enjoyed the consciousness of His Father's love. "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." So also He says, "My peace I give unto you." Again He says, "That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves." The Father's delight was in Christ, and He knew it in the daily enjoyment of it. Now "as He is, so are we in this world."

While Christ lays the ground of our relationship by being the propitiation for our sins, and the source of our life, yet it is not by Christ's righteousness that I get "boldness." I must be righteous, of course - I cannot have boldness without it; but besides this there is the character God has towards me that of a Father; and I have another character towards God - as a child. I have not only righteousness, but I am a son.

80 Here I would notice the defectiveness of some of our hymns which call Christ our brother. We never find in Scripture that Christ is called our Elder Brother. In the fulness of His grace He is not ashamed to own us as and call us His brethren. My father is a man, but I do not call him a man; it would show a want of filial reverence in me if I did. In nothing is the power of the Spirit of God more shown in the child of God than in the suitableness of his expressions and feelings towards God. If we are really enjoying our place of infinite privileges, the Source and Giver of them will maintain His own proper place in our hearts.

Theorizing about it will not do. A common expression is, "We cannot be always on the mount." So far that is true, because we all have our place of service down here. I would observe, however, that when we are in the mount of God, it always humbles; although when a saint gets down again, he may be proud of having been there. He is never so when there. Paul was not puffed up when he was caught up into the third heavens; but after he had been there, he needed the thorn in the flesh to keep him humble. The heart is never proud in God's presence, and only when it is really there is it in its right place; for when out of it, the flesh turns everything into mischief.

"As He is, so are we in this world" - not only in the same standing as to acceptance with God in Christ, but we are brought by the communication of His life into the same relationship as Himself. While in the beginning of the epistle the foundation is laid deep and wide in the blood which cleanses fully, still the grand subject of the epistle is the place into which we are brought.

"Herein is love with us made perfect." If my heart has seized the truth that God as a Father is acting in grace towards me, there is no place for fear. In all my need, and even in all my sin (with which I ought to have nothing to do) I fly to Him. I could not in my sin fly to my Judge, but I have confidence in my Father's love, and I fly to Him because "perfect love casteth out fear." In all my sins and follies I can look to Him who gave His Son for me. That is where grace puts me.

81 The proof of God's love is, that He has given His Son; the perfection of it is, that we are as He is; and fear is cast out even in view of judgment. If we ask how this came to pass, the answer is, "We love Him because He first loved us." (v. 19). There we are brought back to the simplest principles - we love God because He first loved us. We did not come to God because of His loveliness: "we love Him because He first loved us." We do not come in by loving God, but we come in as sinners, as debtors to His grace; and then, having come in as such, and finding God to be what He is - love, meeting us in our every need - then we love Him.

Verse 20: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar." Here is a check upon man's deceitful heart. If a man does not love his brother he cannot love God. Wherever the divine nature is, it is attractive to one born of God.

Verse 21: "And this commandment have we from Him." We have another important principle in this verse: whatever the energy of the divine life in me, it always will have the character of obedience. While there was in Christ the devotedness of love, there was also obedience. We are to love the brethren as being led by the energy of the Spirit; but I am to love them in the path of holy obedience. There is nothing so humble as obedience, and love never takes us out of the place of obedience.

The Lord Jesus said, "As the Father gave me commandment, even so I do." When Lazarus was sick, and they sent to Jesus, He abode two days in the same place where He was, because He had no word from His Father; and so, if I have any little service to do for my brother, it must be as in the path of obedience to the word of God. This is what Satan tried to get the Lord out of in the wilderness. "Oh," says Satan, "have your own will, if it is only in ever so little a bit, by making these stones into bread since you are hungry!" "No," the Lord says, "it is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Here we get a countercheck to all the workings of nature; for if it is not a command, it is not of God, and we are here to obey.

82 1 John 5:1: "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." Here we get the link between God and the family. When anyone is born of God, he is my brother. If the question is asked, "Who is my brother? How am I to know my brother?" Everyone that is born of God is my brother. I may have to sorrow over him sometimes, but still he is my brother, because I am related to him by the same divine nature. It is of great importance to remember this in the present day, because, where the Holy Ghost really acts, there will be a constant tendency to follow different courses.

There has been an awaking from the dead mass around by the power of the Spirit. There are glimmerings of light. Mere stones would be motionless, but there is life; therefore the moving power would lead in different directions, because of what we are. If we were all subject to the Spirit of God, we should all go one way. There is another thing also to be observed - we are not at the beginning of Christianity, but at the dark end, and escaping as it were by different roads. The very fact of the operation of the Spirit would be to produce perfect unity if we were subject, but we are not so.

The remedy for this is for the heart to be in close fellowship with Christ; and in proportion as this is the case, will love for all saints be there. To the same extent as Christ is valued will the saint be valued. In proportion as Christ's thoughts about His saints are known to me, will all saints be in my thoughts. I do not know Christ's love aright if one saint is left out; as it is said in Ephesians 3:18, "Ye … may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ." I can only enter into this in any measure when I embrace all saints. If I should leave one out, I leave out part of Christ's heart.

83 In Colossians we have "your love to all saints"; and in that epistle we have the fulness of the Head; in Ephesians the fulness of the body. God's grace working in me makes every one born of God the object of my affections. I cannot go every way at once, and a real difficulty arises how to walk in fidelity to Christ, and in love to the brethren, so as not to let the affections get into a loose and general way. I cannot be loving God without loving all the children of God. "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments." (v. 2). Now men would say that is reasoning in a circle, but there is in it a deeply practical check against the evil of my own heart. If I love the Father, I shall love the children for the Father's sake, and not lead them into wrong paths, because this would displease and grieve the Father. If I should lead them into anything wrong, I should prove that I do not love them for the Father's sake, but for my own pleasure and comfort. If you truly love them, you at the same time love God and keep His commandments.

Obedience and faith in your own walk will prove that it is as God's children you love the brethren. If I know that a member of Christ's body is going wrong, does this make me cease to love him? No; but because he is going wrong my soul is more deeply and affectionately going out after him, as being one with Christ. To be able to love the brethren faithfully we must keep close to Christ.

84 Again, we have another counter-check: if one comes to me with a vast amount of truth without holiness, or if there be a great show of holiness and truth be absent, neither is of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Satan never touches that which is born of God; he cannot touch it.

Worldliness is a terrible hindrance to the saint. We have the threefold opposition: the world, the flesh and the devil. The world is opposed to the Father, as the flesh opposes the Spirit, and the devil opposes Christ.

The difficulty lies in not maintaining nearness to Christ, which the world would come in and hinder. Then I am open to all sorts of error, for I shall not take the trouble to be right if I am not near Christ. It is very troublesome and disagreeable sometimes to have to do even with saints: one will not give up this thing, and another that; and if we are at a distance from Christ, we shall be ready to give them up, and shall not take the pains to get them right when they are wrong. So Moses said, when in a wrong spirit, "Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom?"

Paul says, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." You have got off the right ground, and I must have you, as it were, born again. I am travailing over again for you, that you may be right, because you belong to Christ. When Paul looked at them in confusion, as they were, away from Christ, he could only say, "I stand in doubt of you"; but when he looked at them as in Christ, he could say, "I have confidence in you through the Lord."

Faith not only sees Christ in the glory, but sees also the connection between the glory of Christ and the saints, the link and tie between God and His people, and it is that which enables one to get on. So Moses said of Israel, not only God was their God, but they are "Thy people." The real hindrance is the world.

85 See Gehazi in the king's court: his heart had drawn in the spirit of the world, and he was able to entertain the world with accounts of the mighty actings of the Spirit. The world must be entertained, and it will be entertained with religion if it cannot get anything else.

All that I know of the world's path, spirit, affections, and conduct is, that it has crucified my Lord; not in its affections and lusts merely, but by wicked hands it has crucified my Master. Suppose it were but yesterday that you had seen Pontius Pilate the governor, and the chief priests, and the elders, putting Christ to death, would you feel happy to-day in holding communion with them? The stain of Christ's blood is as fresh in God's sight as if it had been done but yesterday; the time which has elapsed since then makes no difference in its moral guilt.

The question then is: "Am I to get under the power of this world, or am I to overcome it (in my heart I mean)?" When Christ was down here, in all the beauty and attractive grace in which God the Father could delight, there was not found in the world one thought or sentiment of common interest or feeling with Him. The world in all its classes - rulers, priests, Pharisees, and the multitude - have all been associated in hanging the Son of God upon a gibbet. Such is the world's heart. If I have seen the glory of Christ's person, and see that He is the very Son of God who came down and was turned out by the world, can I be happy with it? The link between the natural thoughts and affections and the world exists in every heart; so that in all kinds of things, even in walking through the streets, I constantly find that which attracts my eye, and my eye affects my heart.

86 Nothing will overcome the world in my heart but the deep consciousness of how it has treated Christ. Take my children for instance. Do I want them to get along well in the world? must I have good places for them in it? Nothing but knowing the place Christ had in it will overcome the world in my heart. There is no possibility of getting on with God unless the world is given up, and the heart is satisfied with Christ. Christ must be everything.

Look at Abraham's history. He sojourned in a strange country, where he had not a place so much as to set his foot on. So we are not of the world; and this is the test of our affections; for as we are not at once taken out of evil, we must have our hearts exercised to godliness. It is very easy to overcome the world when the love of Christ has made it distasteful. Satan is the god of this world. Perhaps you will say, "That is true of the heathen world." Yes; but it is true of the whole world; although it was not till after the rejection of Christ that it was brought out, it was true before.

God has spoken by His servants and prophets, and the world had beaten one, and stoned another, and killed another; then He said, "I will send my beloved Son: it may be they will reverence Him when they see Him." But Him they crucified, thus proving that Satan was master of man. So the Lord said, "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee."

You will not have spiritual discernment or power of motive unless the heart be kept near to Christ. I shall not want the world, if Christ is in my heart; if my delight is in that in which God delights - that is, in Christ - then I can overcome. "Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."

What! must I do everything to Christ? Oh, that very question proves a heart away from Christ, showing it is bondage for you to do all to the glory of God. It is not that we are to scorn the world in the least; for God's grace is for every poor sinner that will receive it. It is the spirit of the world in my own heart which I have to overcome - that which my heart is in danger of being led by.

87 I will now just look back to the three points on which I have touched.

First, there is not merely the manifestation of God's love to the poor sinner, but perfect love with us, the association with Christ's life, putting us into relationship with God.

Second, we are to love every saint - love them as God's children, and keep ourselves in the exercise of love to God and keeping His commandments.

Third, we are to overcome the world. The heart, resting on, looking to, eating, feeding on Christ, gets the consciousness of what the world is, and overcomes.

The Lord keep us in humble dependence on Himself. His grace is sufficient for us; His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Lecture 9.

We were noticing last evening in the preceding verses that the question between God and the world is brought to an issue; for the Son of God having been seen in the world, and in the world and by the world crucified - thus putting the world to the test - God could do nothing in the world in the hope of finding good in it, after it had crucified His Son. Jesus had to say, "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee." Having hung God's Son on the cross, it is plain that this act cut the world off from all possible association with God, and thus the world has become a thing to be overcome by the saint, as the apostle says (v. 5), "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" He then adds, "This is He that came by water and blood."

88 That is, he now presents the character and value of the cross - "He came by water and blood." The water and the blood are as a witness on God's part, or the testimony that God gives; for it should be observed that the words "witness," "record," and "testimony," are all the same word in the original.

You may remark here that "this is the witness, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." This is the thing witnessed. "This is the record" (or testimony) "that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." It is not in the first Adam, but in His Son; not in man, nor by his works, nor by any means whatever, but it is God's gift. "He hath given," and though we possess the life, it is not properly and intrinsically in us. but IN HIS SON.

When we are quickened, the life is not looked at as in us; for Christ says, "Because I live, ye shall live also." It is therefore immutable. If Christ's life, indeed, can in any way be annulled or set aside, then can the life in us be so likewise, and not otherwise. If Christ can die, so can we; but if death has no more dominion over Him, no more has it over us. This it is that gives the amazing value and the most blessed character of this life; namely, that its spring and source is in Christ.

It is given to the Son to have life in Himself (John 5:26). Thus He becomes, through grace, our life. For example, my finger has life, my natural life flowing through it; but the seat of my life is not there. My finger may be cut off (I am not here supposing that a member of Christ can be cut off, which is impossible); but if my finger be cut off, the life still remains in my body, the seat of life not being in my finger. My finger was as much alive as the rest of my body, but the seat of life was not there. The seat of life is in Christ: "Our life is hid with Christ in God." Hence all the character of the life and all the communion flows from the blessed truth - "in His Son." The character of this life is nearness to God. Christ Himself is my life.

89 It is of the last importance for the strength and comfort of our souls, and for all blessed delight in God, clearly to understand what our life is; for our thoughts on regeneration are necessarily altogether imperfect until we apprehend that it is a real life which we have, a life associating us with God's Son, a life not possessed before, and in virtue of which we get communion with the Father, who has given us eternal life - not in us, but "in His Son."

We get brought out in various testimonies what Christ is to us, as in 1 Cor. 6:9-11, where the Apostle, speaking of the offscouring of the earth, says, "Such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." So here we get a corresponding testimony brought out in these three witnesses - the water, the blood, and the Spirit.

In John 19:34 it is recorded that "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water." The blood and the water flowed from a dead Christ. Hence we see how manifestly the link between the natural man and God is broken, and broken for ever. For "in that He died, He died unto sin once." All that Christ could have blessed in nature is now entirely and for ever gone; and if there is to be any blessing now, it must be in a new nature, and through a dead Christ; as also all connection and association with God. Expiation, purity, life, can alone be had through a dead Christ. It is a dead Christ that must purify me if I am to be purified; for it was from a dead Christ that the water (the symbol of cleansing) flowed.

90 Until the death of Christ, God was dealing with nature, to see (or rather to teach us, for He knew what it was) if any good thing could come out of nature. The cross, however, proved - God's rejected Son proved - that it was not possible that any good thing could come out of nature. Man is not merely a sinner driven out of paradise, as we know Adam was; but man's state now results not only from his being turned out of God's presence because of sin, but from the will and energy of his evil nature, which has cast God out of His own world.

The cross shows that man's nature is utterly incapable of being acted on by any motive whatever which could set it right. This is very humbling, yet very blessed. Heaven will not do, earth will not do, the law will not do. "I have yet one thing in heaven - my beloved Son; I will send Him. It may be that they will reverence Him when they see Him." But no. The determination of man's will is to have the world without God. This is what man wants. He will not have God in any sense. Here it is brought to a climax; and the very worst display of Christianity will be just this.

If any of you should be seeking pleasure in the world, you know you do not want to find God there; for if you did, it would upset it all. Thus are you saying in spirit, "Let us kill the heir, and the inheritance shall be ours." You may not have lifted up your hand to slay God's Son, but you have kept Him out of your heart.

Man's great abilities will be much more developed in the day that is just approaching, than they have ever yet been, in trying to make the world go on thoroughly well without God. When was there ever a time when everything was going on so well, as men speak, such unity among nations as now, or such drawing out of resources? The cry is, "Peace, peace," by the energies and working of man's will without God.

91 Man looks for progress in the philosophy, commerce, politics, and comfort of this world; but still there is in his heart a dread of the consequences of the progress of this self-will. Thus is fulfilled the apparent paradox of Scripture, the cry of peace combined with "men's hearts failing them for fear." Now, men would say this is a contradiction, but it is not; for while men are building up commerce and arts and science in the energy of self-will, who is there among them that would undertake to answer for the state of any nation in three years' time, or for even a much shorter period? Man is afraid of the working of self-will in his neighbour, though he likes to exert it in himself. The Christian has learned that the question as to the world is settled in the rejection of Christ. At that moment it was all over with the world.

The question between God and man is settled as to man himself; for not only is man turned out of paradise, but when God's Son came, they crucified Him, and now grace comes in; and the Christian goes outside the world to get, in God's rejected Son, the life which is to be had in Him alone. This is God's record, that He has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Amidst all this turmoil and trouble where shall I get peace? The moment I see a pierced Christ, I have that which expiates and purifies. All this is not a theory, not a doctrine merely, but a reality; for the moment my conscience begins to work, I find that by nature I am separate from God; that my carnal mind is enmity against God; that it is not only the world that has crucified God's Son, but my sins pierced Him. This is an individual thing, for this is how individual souls are brought into the blessing. When I have real faith in what God's Word tells me about my own evil, then the question arises, "What am I to do?" All that which makes me a mere moral man declares that I could have nothing to do with God; but through a pierced Christ I have three witnesses that I can have to do with God.

92 First, the highest act of insolence that it was possible for man to do against God brought out the very thing that put guilt away, even the blood and water flowing from Christ's pierced side. Suppose it was but yesterday that I wielded the spear against Jesus; the very act that showed my enmity brought out that which put it away. I cannot estimate sin aright until I see the water and blood flowing out of the pierced side of Christ, putting it away. Then I must be brought to the consciousness that in spirit I was there; my enmity to God did it; my sins pierced Him. It was thus God addressed the Jews, telling them that they had killed their heir; that is, their hearts had consented to it.

Those Jews whom Peter addressed, saying, "Ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain," had not actually murdered the Prince of life. They did not hold the spear any more than you did; but in the same spirit they refused Christ a place in their hearts; and it is thus God deals with the world. His question with the world is, "What have you done with my Son?" With Cain it is "Where is Abel thy brother?" The only answer they can give is, "We have slain Him."

The moment the Messiah was rejected, that moment all title to the promises was lost to the Jews. All hope of salvation - everything is now gone from them as a people; and now, if they would get blessing, they must come in as sinners, and have their sins put away by the blood that flowed from the pierced side of the Messiah. Now, then, as all title on the part of man to everything is gone, God is giving eternal life.

93 God must direct the heart away from itself (except to the sense of its sinfulness) to Christ. Have I estimated my own sin as the murderer of Christ? Well, the blood has put the sin away; for the blood has cleansed the man who held the spear that pierced His side. We are nothing but sin; well, Christ was made sin for us, and through a dead Christ we get the blood as a witness that our sins are all put away; the blood being a witness of the perfect expiation of all sin. Christ "hath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." Here, however, it is not looking at the part man took in it, but at what Christ came into the world for, and what He accomplished.

Second, there is, however, the water as well as the blood; and what is that? The water cleanses as the blood expiates, "that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word." While the blood expiates, the water cleanses. The water bears witness to the same life-giving power. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

The Spirit of God is the source of life and the power of the Word, and gives life. Practically, the Word is the instrument, the incorruptible seed; and it is also a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; and it is that by which God's thoughts are communicated to us. It is out of the pierced side of Christ that these testimonies of God flow, thus writing death upon every production of nature. For it is not a modifying of the nature which now exists that the cross brings in, but the counting everything outside Christ to be dead, as there is not a thought, lust or desire about the world upon which Christ does not write death; and thus it is that we get altogether new affections, "dead unto sin, but alive unto God," through the life in His Son. The real character of purifying is this writing death upon everything that flows not from a pierced Christ. The water is the purification, but the purification is through a dead Christ. Christ all His life through was the pattern in man of what man ought to be; but our participating in this could only be by the cleansing of His death.

94 There is a third thing - we have not only the blood which expiates, and the water which purifies, through which we are dead to sin, but He has obtained for us the Spirit, the presence of the Holy Ghost, as the power of the Word. It may perhaps be objected, that I do not find myself thus dead to sin and purified. You have a hatred to sin, however, which is a proof of your having died to it. "In that Christ died, He died unto sin once: … likewise RECKON ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin"; for God ever treats us according to what He has really given us, treating us as though we had realized it all. So in John the Lord says, "And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." Now they did know HIM who was truly the way to the Father, yet Thomas objected, and said, "We know not the way," because they had never realized it.

The instant I believe in Jesus, I am called on to reckon myself dead. I am never told to die, but I am told to mortify my members that are upon the earth. A man under the law will be trying to die with all his might, but he will never succeed. A Christian is dead, and his life is hid with Christ in God, and therefore he mortifies his members which are upon the earth, as living in the power of the life he has in the Son of God.

Observe, he does not speak of our life being on the earth, for that is above with Christ in God; therefore he treats us as dead, but our members which are upon the earth we are to mortify. He never tells us to kill ourselves, but faith takes God's testimony as true, therefore I say I am dead, and because I am dead, I have to mortify my members, being as dead to the world as Christ was, for I have God telling me that I am dead through believing. This is most practical as to peace of soul; for the moment I believe in Christ, I am delivered from all these things.

95 I am not seeking to die, for I have the secret of power, and count myself dead. There is a practical difficulty as to the water; for how can I say I am washed, if I still find myself to be dirty? I can say I am dead with Christ though, for I shall never succeed in killing myself. The moment that I believe in Christ, all that He has done as a Saviour is mine, and God appropriates and applies it to me. I may have failed to realize it, but the treasure is put into my possession.

Some souls often say, "I believe all the value and efficacy of Christ's work, but I cannot apply it." Who asks you to do so? It is God who applies it, and He has applied it to you, if you believe in its value and efficacy. The moment we believe in Christ, we have the Holy Ghost as bearing witness: "He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." Just as the Son came down to do God's will, and then ascended up again into heaven, so, at the Son's ascension, the Holy Ghost came down as a person on the earth; for the Holy Ghost is always spoken of as being now on earth, and it is this which gives the true and peculiar character of the Church of God.

Here we get the third witness in the Spirit of truth coming down to the earth. The moment I believe, I am sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise. All that I can produce of God's good fruits as a Christian is in consequence of being sealed by the Holy Ghost. Redemption being perfectly accomplished, then the Holy Ghost comes down in person; so that the position of the Church on earth is between these two things - the redemption made, and the glory in prospect - as the Holy Ghost comes down between the Church's redemption and the Church's glory.

96 The knowledge of being dead with Christ gives me a pure heart as being myself dead to sin, the world, and law. By the blood I get perfect peace and a good conscience; and then the Holy Ghost comes down from God; thus we have perfect peace with God, having God's own witness. Well, then, I have left the whole scene; I have done with it altogether; my sins are all gone, the blood has put them away, and I am now dead unto sin, and alive unto God. The cross, the wounds of Christ, are the door by which I entered, and the presence of the Holy Ghost is the power by which I enjoy the fruits of it. As we have seen, the witnesses of God on the earth are three - the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one; "for this is the witness of God, which He hath testified of His Son."

The heart is constantly looking for God to give it a testimony about itself; but God is giving a testimony about His Son, and not about what we are. If God were to give a testimony about us, it must be about our sin and unbelief of heart. It is of great importance in this day of infidelity to see that, if God gives a testimony, it is about His Son, and what He is to the sinner. If you believe that, you will get peace.

If I am going about to get a standing before God on the ground of my holiness, that would be self-righteousness, and of course I shall not get a witness from God as to that; but if my soul takes its stand with God, on the testimony God has given as to His Son, then I get the witness in myself. When I have this faith, I have the thing in my own soul. For instance, look at Paul before Agrippa: "I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds." He was so thoroughly conscious that the Christ in his soul was the Christ in heaven, and he was so happy in this consciousness, that he wished the whole company were like himself (except the bonds), having Christ as a well of water springing up within.

97 That which makes heaven to be a heaven to the saint is just this - that he finds the same Christ in heaven that he has in his own soul; and all the subtleties of infidelity cannot touch the soul that possesses Christ thus within. No reasoning of an infidel can shake my confidence if I am happy in Christ; for if a man came to tell me there was no Christ, when my soul was happy in Him, I should not believe him.

There may be no intellectual or logical proof on my part, but there will be, to a certain extent, a moral testimony in the happiness of my soul, and the warmth of my affections being centred in Christ. I have often found how much it tells with men of all conditions to assure them that I am perfectly happy in Christ, and quite sure of going to heaven. "Are you so?" they say; "I only wish I could say it." It would not be a proof to an infidel, his merely seeing you were happy; but it comes home to the heart of man, as there is a craving in man's heart that will never be met till he gets Christ there; for man is never happy without Christ, whatever he may say.

"He that believeth not God, hath made Him a liar." The sin of men is in making God a liar when they do not believe the record God has given of His Son; for men do quarrel with you when you tell them you know that you are saved. They ask how you can know that - which is just as much as saying that God is not capable of communicating any blessing to man. It is calling God's wisdom in question, as well as His power, in the testimony of His mercy and grace. This is what I have felt in the great question about the Bible. It is not whether it is the people's right to have the Bible, but it is questioning God's right in giving it. The treason is in keeping away God's message from His servants. It is not merely the servant's right to have the message, but it is God's right in giving it that is called in question, as it is interfering with God's right of communicating His thoughts in His word. Whenever God gives a revelation, man is responsible to receive it. God has given a witness in which He reveals the glory of His Son; and when man calls in question that word, he is disputing with God in the testimony of His grace as to what He is.

98 Who can explain the riddle of this miserable world without Christ? Go into the alleys and lanes of this vast city, and see the woe and degradation even in this best and most civilized of countries, and learn there what sin does. In the drawing-room you may philosophize about it, but it is not in a drawing-room that you will learn what the world is. When you tell me that it was because of all this sin and wretchedness that God's Son came down into this world to put the sin away, then I can understand it; and God gives eternal life - not life for a moment, or a life we can sin away, as Adam's, but eternal life, which is above and beyond sin altogether - being in His Son, and therefore as near to God as can be. "This life is in His Son," who was ever the object of His Father's delight; for when Christ was down here God could not be silent in His expression of joy, "This is my beloved Son."

God, in giving me eternal life, has also given me a nature and capacity to enjoy Him for ever. I am brought into an association with God, a relationship to God, and an enjoyment of God, which the angels know not, although holy in their nature, and exalted. We are thus brought near that we might "know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled to all the fulness of God."

99 In what a wondrous place we are set, if we could but be purged from the vanity and earthliness that fills our minds, to enter into all our blessedness, and the association which we have thus with God, the very same which Christ has! He has borne the wrath of God for our sins, that this full cup of blessing might be given to us. In all this God would have simplicity of heart. A man may talk about many things, but knowledge apart from Christ will never do. If we possess Christ within, however, Satan can never touch us; and if he comes, he will find Christ there, who has overcome him. It is a sweet, and blessed thing, that any saint, though born but yesterday, has all in Christ that I have. If one says, "But I am such a great sinner"; well, the blood has put sin away, and settled that question for ever.

"And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us." Here is a confidence in God that applies itself to all the details of life through which I may be called to pass. This is the confidence we have in Him: His ear being open to us, we have what we ask for, when we ask according to God's will. How wondrous this is, that God's ear is ever open to us; for surely we should not desire to ask for anything contrary to His will. "And if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him." I am so made to know the love that, if I ask, I shall have. If I am really in earnest to do God's will, to preach the gospel for instance, and there are hindrances in the way - Satan in the way - I have only to ask, and I have all God's power at my disposal, His ear being open to me. If you know what conflict and difficulty are, what a blessing is this, to have God's ear open to you, and to know, if you are doing God's will, you will always succeed in doing His will.

"There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it." Temporal death is here intended as chastening in the way of God's government. There is a sin not unto death. If there be real intercession, God will forgive us (James 5:4-15). See also the case of Stephen, when he said, "Lay not this sin to their charge." If you ask me what the sin unto death is, it may be any sin; it may be the telling of a lie, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira. Peter did not pray for them. In Corinthians, "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." The horribly confused state of the church causes the government to be kept more in the hands of God; and from the saints incompetency to walk in the power of the Spirit, they are necessarily more thrown on the Lord, whose faithfulness to us will not allow our sins to go unjudged. "He withdraweth not His eye from the righteous."

100 May we be so walking in the power of holiness, that we may not be struggling with sin under His correcting hand; may we be walking in full communion with His grace. Amen.