Epistles of John — Addresses 10 - 20.

W. Kelly.

Part 2 of An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, with a new version.


1 JOHN 3:11-17.

For this is the message which ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another: not as Cain was of the wicked one, and slew his brother; and for what did he slay him? Because his works were wicked, and those of his brother righteous. Wonder not,* brethren, if the world hateth you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not the brother abideth in death. Every one that hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath life eternal abiding in him. Herein we know love, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought for the brethren to lay down our lives. But whoso may have the world's means of living, and behold his brother having need, and shut up his bowels from him, how abideth the love of God in him?"

* "My," of the common text, is wanting in the best copies.

The last clause, as was noticed, is the link of transition from righteousness to love. Men set these two things in opposition one to another: but they are perfectly united in Christ, the perfection of both righteousness and love. Hence it is thoroughly applicable to the Christian, since Christ is the life of the Christian. We really and truly receive by faith that life which was in the Lord Himself; not the life of Adam that all men have, but a new life possessed by none of us until we believed in the Lord Jesus. Being life, it is not capable of any outward mark of a sensible nature; still less is there a visible presentation of itself to us, though we know where it exists by its operations and effects. If this be so with the natural life, how much less could it be expected of the supernatural or spiritual life? We ought not to ask for it, and thereby show that we do not know what life is; yet however difficult it may be to define life, everybody knows that, when life departs, death sets in. There may be the working of death before we depart, and there is, since sin came into the world. There is mortality, but death is when mortality has come to its issue. Everyone can tell as the general rule when a man, or any other animal, is dead. We know exceptions occur now and then: there are exceptions to every rule probably, and there are difficulties as to all truths. But there is no difficulty about God's word to make any real hindrance to spiritual intelligence. Doubtless an insuperable difficulty exists for those who have no knowledge of God; but this knowledge is communicated by the faith of Christ. "This is life eternal to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou didst send."

Who have got the new nature? Every Christian, and from the beginning; and now in the fullest form for Christians, for even our Lord here below spoke about our having life abundantly. "I am come that ye might have life, and that ye might have it abundantly." There is no need to say "more abundantly": "abundantly" is all that the Lord really did say. But what a difference that makes! The life that the disciples possessed when our Lord was here never tended openly to break with the temple and with the Jewish system. But when our Lord Jesus, Who deigned to be subject to the Jewish system as to the law generally, died and rose, what had He to do with the law? It would have been an absurdity to speak of the risen Christ going up to the temple, or partaking in any ceremonial of the Jew, such as the feasts or anything whatever. This is exactly what was intended in doctrine for the disciples. They did not realise it all at once. We are apt to be slow in learning these great changes. But the risen life of Christ was in the believer, whereby he died to all these things. Christ died not merely for our sins but died to sin which He never had in Himself, but in which we were deeply concerned. He had no more to do with it; He died to it once for all. Himself was all the while perfectly unaffected by its working. All that it drew out in His life was His grief and pity for those that were misled. But when He died, the mightiest work that God could do was done by the Lord Jesus.

Even when He comes again in His glory, it will be only drawing out, as it were, for that day in a public and powerful way the virtues involved in Him crucified. So this new life, although not at all of an outwardly sensible nature, is a life of indissoluble power. And power is given to it by the Holy Ghost. He is a spirit, not of cowardice, but of power and love, and of sound mind. The apostles were to receive power. They were to be not only witnesses to others, but they had to learn for themselves also much greater things which they could not then bear. These things came out when there was not merely risen life but the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. We ought never to confound these two things, nor confine His action to tongues, miracles, or any of these powers, which were only outward vouchers. The inward power of the Spirit was much greater than any of the external signs that accompanied it. The external signs were withdrawn as the church failed and broke down in love, truth, and light. How could God continue His stamp of approval on an unworthy state of things? We find that even the church in Ephesus was threatened, for it had fallen from its first love when John wrote. This was really what became the general state after John departed. For the apostles were a great check upon the declension which was setting in so strongly.

We may well dwell on the new life thus, for it is what unites the practical righteousness and the active love of the believer. He is here speaking not of God's love, though this comes in, but of our love; just as he speaks not of righteousness in Christ, which is outside ourselves for justification, but of our righteousness. It is clear that this righteousness consists of good fruit. And how can there be good fruit without a good tree? Certainly in our natural state there was anything but a good tree; ours then was only a bad tree which bore bad fruit. For good fruit we must have a divine nature communicated to us, as it is with the bad tree, by introducing a good graft, in order to produce good fruit. It cannot be otherwise, and with this life, life eternal, John is occupied. It is not righteousness for us who had none, which we become in Christ, but righteousness within which produces our righteousness day by day. People may not like the truth, but here it is in the apostle's words.

After all it is too solemn for any to trifle with, because no man is a real Christian without both righteousness outside us in Christ, and the righteous nature within us, which is the new nature in virtue of what is proper to Christ. We have therefore the two things; what is called "objective" outside, and "subjective," or what we are; and this because Christians have necessarily the life of Christ. And this life does not differ from Himself. It is life He gives us to live in and by, the very same life that Christ had and was.

Thus he begins, "For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning." You will remember perhaps, that in verse 5 of the first chapter we had the same phrase: "This then is the message which we have heard from him." Here it is still more precise. It was not before the beginning, but "from the beginning." Both make it decisive. What men added is of no account. This abides, the unchangeable truth of practical Christianity, and it is all the more important, because it is dead opposed to the prevalent ideas of men. In particular it openly contradicts the notion of what is called development. And development is utterly false, and more evil in divine things than in natural. It is a heathen guess reproduced of late as to nature. It denies God's power and will in determining species. For species, as fixed as in other natural laws so-called, is the true principle of Zoology, not human classification on superficial resemblance. It therefore is at issue with creation in any real sense — that is, with the rights of God in creation; but how humbling that such a daring idea of the heathen should revive! It was quite natural to the benighted "who knew not God." They had it long before Darwin or his coadjutors. It now seems to be the craze of the so-called "philosophers" and their hangers on, the humble servants of a purely fanciful idea. But if bad in the lower creatures, it would not much matter, unless for the rights of God, how a mouse or a monkey or any like creature was thought to be developed. But when it touches man and man's relationship to God, the idea that he could have come out of seaweed or anything else they are pleased to make primary in nature, it is serious so to swamp conscience and responsibility, and God's claims in mankind, His offspring. The infidelity of the theory makes it intolerable, and therefore it is far better to speak out plainly.

Here is matter of fresh interest, because this is "the message," as well as that in the introductory words of 1 John 1, which follow the manifestation of divine love and life in the Son of man on earth. There it was a message that God is light, bringing this to bear upon us, which is as certainly the truth of Christianity as that God is love; indeed it was so stated before the actual announcement that God is love. Yet that God is love was clearly implied in the early four verses; still it was not announced in actual terms till later. But it was all important that man, if brought to God in sovereign grace, should never forget that God is light. Our receiving life eternal in Christ was not to make our practical holiness an optional matter. Our new blessing from God was intended to make sin as hateful to our souls as God proved it to be when He forsook the Lord Jesus bearing that intolerable burden. If He has given us already inestimable blessing, we cannot escape the moral responsibility of walking as in the light. It is a great privilege too. How blessed that, as we were creatures of darkness through sin we are translated into that marvellous light, not when we get to heaven but now in this world, and are called to walk accordingly. Were we sent forth to walk without the constant watching of our Father over us, it would be quite beyond us, because we should break away from God every time we sinned. Sin does interrupt communion, but it does not destroy the life of Christ. His life differs from all other life in that it cannot come to nought. It is of its own nature eternal. Herein we have the greatest comfort, although we have a solemn appeal to our hearts and our consciences.

Again the apostle says, "For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning." Then Christ came in love; then He gave us life; and the call followed, not only that we should believe in God's love in Him to us, but that we should love one another as He did.

It was a blessing, and a wonderful call worthy of Christ; and it supposes a complete change for and in us. If there is any one thing which stamps a fallen man, it is that he is always the centre of his thoughts and feelings. We are what we seek and value. Self certainly is not love. Therefore what the world calls it in its own slang is "Number one." For man "Number one" is not God, but poor wretched fallen self every man his own god. For the One, the Supreme is and ought to be God. "Number one" ought to be assuredly God's place to my soul; and it would be if I were not a fallen, sinful man. Now the Lord puts an end to all that distance by the call of grace. At any rate it is the fruit of God coming down in Him to be our Blesser; and our Blesser not only by a work done for us but in a life given to us. Thus practical Christianity becomes a living to God and according to His word, not only resting on Christ and His work outside but having Christ in us also. Both are true, and true from the earliest days. From this no change can be but for evil. But "from the beginning" this message was heard. How plainly "from" is not "in the beginning" when the Godhead alone existed! There was not even an angel to hear them, much less a man. But "from the beginning" ye heard it, evidently from the time Christ was here. Yet neither was it a mere call to love one's neighbour as one's self. This was the law.

"Our neighbour" then, as it must be interpreted, meant the Jew primarily. They did not love the Gentiles. They might perhaps have a little difficulty about the Gentile that came to take refuge under the wings of the God of Israel. Such might be counted their neighbours in grace. These Gentile neighbours were comparatively few, putting them all together, in comparison with the rest of mankind. Ruth came under the protection of the God of Israel. Though she was not of the stock of Abraham, she was married to a not inconsiderable Israelite, and one too who gave her part with himself in the very line from whence was to come the Shepherd of Israel, the Lord Himself. Such persons were practically Israelites. However we need not discuss that. For all know that "loving our neighbour" till the Lord came was made sadly narrow. The Lord gave it enlargement when the scribe to whom He spoke started the difficulty, "Who is my neighbour?" So it is, when the truth is made plain and the hearers cannot easily get rid of it, they ask questions which they think will perplex. The Lord therefore uttered the beautiful parable of the good Samaritan. How cutting to Jewish pride! Not the "Good Israelite," but the "Good Samaritan!" Wherein lay its force? It was not another Samaritan that he saw needing his help, but an Israelite from whom every one turned away except the Samaritan. Even if a Levite beheld the sufferer, or if a priest, — Oh! it was not his business. These quite ignored their neighbour; and they did so because the distress called for love and compassion. But not so the Samaritan. He bound up his wounds and provided for him. Was it not the apt figure of the Lord Himself? and how blessed if the Lord in giving it meant it so to be! He that came down to be a "bondman" did not mind couching under the guise of a "Samaritan." He had come to bear their sins in His body on the tree, alone to bear them, to suffer for them, Just for unjust, and to blot them out for ever. No wonder He was not ashamed to be a Samaritan in the parable: what baseness for Jews to call Him so!

But now it is another kind of love. It savours of God's own love. To whom is His love fully shown? To His children. The little perception of such loving as this shows how far souls in Christendom have departed. The most feeble of Christians have no little feeling for sinners in danger of perishing. But they are very little concerned about the saints of God, whether they are glorifying God and His Son or not. That sinners should be converted is the great desideratum: all else is quite secondary. How sad to stop so short! Is this what God feels? Was this all that His own Son cared for when upon earth? He was the revealed object of divine love and favour all through, before He bore our sins on the cross; but how did not He love the children of God?

And now, save in atonement, we have His place. We are children of God, and the love that rested upon Him rests upon us, as our Lord tells us in the end of John 17. That is entirely beyond what most of the children of God contemplate for themselves. Of course they do not deny the words; but do they seem to understand them, or speak and act as if they felt them, as conveying the model of their privilege and duty? And the consciousness of being so loved goes out in love to those who are as much its object as ourselves.

But it is also important that we should understand that such love as His was an entirely new thing. Only then was it charged that the children of God should love one another. The Lord laid it down as the "new commandment." Indeed it was a new thing to learn that God was now to form a family, and a family to be gathered together in one — the children of God that were scattered abroad. This had never been till now. But it is what God does in two particular forms. In the writings of John it is family unity; in those of Paul, the one body of Christ. Both at any rate coalesce in being divine unity in two different ways: the one because Christ brought God's nature to give it down here, and those that receive it His children to be gathered together in one; the other, of the body because Christ is glorified in heaven, and we are by the Spirit united with Him on high. It is the unity of the Head and the body. The Head of the body is the glorified Man, and the centre of the family is Jesus the Son of God; and Christ above is both.

Here then we have the limits of that love — loving one another. It is not love in the gospel going out to man as lost; it has nothing whatever to do with the law, or with one's neighbour; it is love in divine relationship towards God's family. Love to God's children is equally valid for the ends of the earth, as it is for those that surround us in England. They are alike members of Christ's body. These truths are meant to be carried out in one far off as truly as in another near; and you cannot set them aside except at the peril of fighting against or slighting the word of God, and of grieving the Holy Spirit who is in us in order that God's will should be carried out thenceforward.

Now this gives an opportunity for the apostle to pierce more deeply. He contrasts the children of God and the children of the devil strongly, tracing both to the root of the matter. Not content with calling them evil, children of wrath like others, he says here "children of the devil." This comes to a decided point of awful significance. And, singular to say, he points to the earliest days of fallen man on earth, after the children were born to Adam and Eve, and begins with the very eldest one of the two sons. "Not as Cain was of that wicked one," for this is the proper way to render it. The "who" has no business there, and only weakens. Cain is not to be our pattern but to be shunned. And wherefore? He "slew his brother." There his wickedness carried him. Certainly this was not love but hatred; and it is what John wants to show. He will not allow any middle ground between love and hatred. He will not endorse any mixed thoughts with which some seem to be greatly charmed. All such sentiment to excuse Cain is a compromise of the truth; and it is of the greatest moment that we should know that there must be a clean breach between what is of God and what is of the devil. This is where we are brought here.

Now it is remarkable as showing the far-reaching truth here, that Cain was the one who took the lead in two innovations. He was the first to set up natural religion. Cain was not what people call an irreligious man, if thereby be meant that he had no religion. He was what answers in our day to a man that goes regularly to his church or his chapel. It was simply the religion of nature, and raised no question in his soul whether his offering became his own state or was according to the mind of God. People generally do not consider this at all. "Their fathers went there;" that is enough for most. They were christened, confirmed, and took the sacrament; or they became members, as others call it, of the church and congregation. It was all assumed to be the proper thing for a decent man. The Jesuits go rather farther, as they say, for God's greater glory: the alleged ground for their heartless, unscrupulous, and wicked ambitions. For they are sworn to obey their General, if he declares that any means promote that object; as the General acts for, and not merely with, the pope; sometimes far in advance of the pope, but still it is all nominally to promote their lord the pope's glory.

So Cain for an act of homage had his idea of what befitted himself in approaching God. "Well," he seems to have thought, "there is nothing so fine here as the flowers and fruits that God has made in this fair world." Yet it was already a fallen world; and all were outcasts from paradise. Oh how soon this was forgotten; and still more its cause! Cain forgot the rebellious sin which morally compelled God to pronounce exile on the first pair. Was it not his religious duty then to offer what he thought the very best of earth's produce? No doubt he was horrified at his brother Abel's sacrifice. "Think of him; only think what a stupid he is. Why, he is going to offer a little lamb and kill it before Jehovah! Think of that! How shocking to Him, how cruel in itself! What harm has the lamb ever done? Why the firstlings of the flock, and of their fat? Surely he has quite mistaken Jehovah's character. Has He any pleasure in blood or fat? Has He any delight in the slaughter of a poor innocent creature to which He gave being?

There was here in particular, what there is generally, a great deal to reason on; and this is exactly the basis of natural religion of any kind and at any time. It is a religion that man reasons out as becoming himself and others with God. But as man is its only source, there is nothing of God in it, only man's pretension and profession.

And how about Abel? In faith Abel had pondered these things deeply. He at least had found out the awful fact of being a sinner in the sight of God; for Abel, we may be very sure, had learnt from his father and mother what God said about the fall. He learnt too that God spoke of another who was to intervene, the woman's Seed to accomplish the work that no creature could do: the destruction of the serpent and of his seed, enemies too. But more than this; it was not a light thing for Abel to hear that God clothed his parents with coats of skins, instead of fig-leaves. This was of no moment to Cain. But Abel assuredly recognised that there is a great truth in it. Death! therein he saw its bearings. Death! to be clothed with the fruit of death; and not my own death, wages of sin, but the death of another and such a mysterious other! For, as we too believe, Jehovah in His grace pointed to the only clothing for fallen sinful man and woman, who in spite of fig-leaves (nature's clothing) were in every sense naked in their sin. Before that their nakedness was in all innocence, but now their daring transgression lay bare. Their quick repairing to the covering of fig-leaves betrayed that they too were at a device no better than Cain's. Only God corrected it for them; and they accepted the correction. "Jehovah Elohim made Adam and his wife coats of skin, and clothed them": a clothing founded upon death. Hence Abel was taught by faith to put these things together, and brought accordingly the firstlings of his flock. Without faith it is impossible to please God; faith rests on God's testimony. It is not for me or you to define how far Abel's faith carried him; but his was the intelligence of faith, and Cain had none. It may be small but distinct as far as is revealed; and this is the great point: that faith should be real and of God.

There was great simplicity in Abel's faith, but spiritual perception. He brought of the firstlings of his flock, a lamb to die. It was no offering of power, not a wolf nor a lion nor a bear to fight the serpent; but on the contrary a little lamb to die. "And Jehovah looked upon Abel and on his offering." Did not He see, as ever before, what was as yet dim in the sight of any believer even? The Lamb without blemish and without spot, foreknown before the world's foundation, but to be manifested in Christ and His blood for our sakes? There and then the germ of divine truth appears, to this Abel held, abjuring human notions; but Jehovah had no respect to Cain or his offering of the fruit of the ground.

A little before it was noticed how Cain gave the first impulse to the world; but much more than the outside is hinted at also, for he introduced the world's religion. This last seems to be very prominent to the mind of the Spirit in the Epistle of Jude, which is more akin to the First Epistle of John than any, even bearing in mind its remarkable analogy in the way of contrast with 2 Peter. The strong resemblance is with John in this respect, that they are alike Epistles of the apostasy. Such is the dark, the ominously dark, streak which marks both of them, that evil at the core, apostasy working in spirit (which could not be hidden from Him who abides in the church), the harbinger of the future apostasy; and in our apostle's letters many antichrists, the harbinger of the antichrist.

But Jude, the brother of James and bondman of Jesus, speaks of "the way of Cain." One does not confine this to his murder of his brother, but sees rather religious wickedness in it as well as in Balaam and Korah, especially as this was the immediate occasion of the murder. Besides he was a bold, presumptuous, and wicked man in his general character. "His works were wicked, and his brother's righteous." He was just the man to become founder of "the world" and of natural religion. What wonder that he was not content to live in his own home! "No, no! union is strength: we must combine." Being a man of energy, he got people to agree. His will was more powerful than theirs. He was the first builder of a city; and you may depend upon it that he ruled the city too when it began to rise. Such is the nature of man and of his will. He likes power; and so it seems with Cain. But before that he pretended to religion too; and this was more particularly the open occasion of his downfall. For it was the great breach with God, and its murderous result which is now before us. Indeed the world's religion and its civilization pretty well march together. Adam and Eve were very far from being savages, as bad men say, but who would speak of their state as a type of civilization? It is a reality incomparably above civilization to live according to the will of God. And what is the worth in His sight, or for the soul and spirit, of all the progress men boast of?

The world is jubilant as to progress nowadays. There it began; and ere long in the same family the invention of wind and stringed instruments of music, and of all kinds of tools or cutting things in brass and iron: luxury and convenience in the earthly life. Progress could not well be without metallurgy, and Cain's family was in active work soon enough. In Lamech's day polygamy came, and the first verse of which we hear was addressed, not to God in praise or in penitence, but to his wives. A little bit of song goes forth to Adah and Zillah, to excuse and to exalt himself, and to quiet their fears, in sufficiently defiant strain, and not without impious claim of God's sanction. If Cain was to be avenged sevenfold, Lamech surely seven-and-seventyfold. Lamech turns all to his haughty self-reliance.

Such is the world, and such the world's religion in its early buddings. But here the truth comes plainly out. "And wherefore slew he him? Because his works were evil, and his brother's righteous." It does not say exactly "own": "his" is quite enough. The moral condition of both is stated before either the offering or the city. Cain's works were "wicked" (for that is the proper rendering), and his brother's "righteous." "Wicked" has a stronger force than "evil" in some respects; it implies purpose and toil in them. There is here assiduity in evil; not merely bad acts, but an activity therein that is not necessarily implied in "evil." His works were wicked; his brother's, on the contrary, righteous. Both these things were habitual before the occasion which roused Cain's resentment. Yet it is instructive to note why this broke out. Jehovah accepted Abel and his offering, and rejected Cain's offering. Cain could not endure this. His pride fired up at it; his resentment had no bounds. As he could not do anything against Jehovah personally, he flew at his own brother. It was striking really at Jehovah. God's rejecting him was far worse in his eyes than his brother's acceptance, though this inflamed his rage. Sin was no more in the conscience of Cain than God was: therein in fact and principle they both go together. For it is the sense of sin that brings God before the soul, and God as judge of sin. What then must be the issue of our guilt in His eyes? But is there not mercy for the sinner? Yes, His mercy endureth for ever, as the Christian knows, and Israel will surely learn through His grace. And this Cain had never believed, and so turned from obduracy to despair. Wicked himself, he had no notion of goodness in God even to a wicked man who turns to God at the call of grace. He knew very well if anyone offended him, there was small hope of mercy from himself. And as he never felt his need of a Saviour, and gave God no credit for grace in the woman's Seed, he judged God by his own thoughts to be like himself, or even more, implacable to the guilty.

Next this is applied. "Marvel not, brethren;" not exactly "my" brethren. "Marvel not, brethren, if the world hateth you." This is a turn to be well weighed. We have had "little children" in general, and twice also "babes." Then we had "beloved" and now we have "brethren." It is not hard to see the propriety of each of these. He is going to speak about love of the brethren, and he appropriately addresses them as "brethren." We ought never to pass over a word of Scripture without consideration, and seeking to learn why God uses that word rather than any other. Faith can say that it is always the best. One does not of course forget the carelessness of man and its effect. Thus we understand how it arises; we can account for its slipping in, and in general have full evidence to correct it, though this may not be possible in every case.

Here then comes what is very plain. Marvel not, brethren, if the world hateth you." Now, who composed the world; and who were these haters in particular that the apostle had in mind? Chiefly at least those that had once been in the communion of the church and had abandoned it. These are always the worst. Such as go back from the truth particularly hate not only the truth itself but those who hold fast to it. They cannot bear either, and why? For the same reason as Cain could not. It is self-condemnation. There is nothing so provocative to a wicked apostate as that he should be condemned; for he tries to banish all suspicion of his own wickedness, being utterly blinded by the enemy. And as he is under Satan's lie, he also shares his murderous spirit.

This then is the spirit of the world; and more particularly of those in it that have given up the truth they once professed. Such are the persons so painfully prominent throughout this Epistle. They had once, as it seemed, left the world behind; they now went back to that world which they had outwardly denounced. It was only a superficial severance; the bond was not really broken; and they went back where their heart no longer attracted by the novelty of the truth led to its old love. The name of Jesus never had won them to God. Yet it has apparent influence sometimes even on the unconverted.

It is remarkable just to show the effect of the Saviour upon what is most worldly. Take the case of artists. Piety is not what distinguishes them as a class. On the contrary in general they are singularly given up to self-indulgence and worldliness of every kind. Of course one knows there have been not a few Christian painters; so that there is no thought of going beyond indisputable fact in thus speaking of painters as a class. Our excellent friend W. Cowper, the poet, had a very bad opinion of his fellows; he said poets were a bad lot as the rule, and nobody is better entitled to characterise them than Cowper. Though he was a genuine poet, he was glad to clear himself from any kind of complicity with his unpleasant associates. They, like the painters, are apt to flatter the vanity of men and women, and in fact many live by it, for parents have of course great care for the pictures of their children. Yet painters were immensely affected by even the tradition of the Lord Jesus. If anyone knows the statuary of the ancients, he admits that the sculptures of the Greeks were sensuous. They were like themselves. But the paintings of the Middle Ages, and particularly later ones of fame which have come down to our own day, were affected surprisingly by such a poor representation of Christ as Popery affords. What a difference there is between theirs and those of the ancients! Even there the beauty of holiness is reflected as far as a worldly man could set it forth in idea. There you have the meekness of humility, and the expression of dependence on the invisible God. There too the woman no longer represented as a trap for man, nor man in his will and lust on the other side. There is not a trace of the Aphrodite or the Apollo which so carried away the Greek and played into nature's corrupt ways. The Virgin and the Child drew out homage to purity never before conceived by such men. Far from me to think of this effect as more than superficial. On the contrary such is the evil heart of man that it fell in with the idolatry of the mother to the dishonour of the Son of God. It was the powerful but outward effect of the name of Jesus upon those that rose not above the human without real faith in the Father and the Son.

We cannot therefore be surprised that the self-deceived who entered the church were yet more deeply affected by all their surroundings, and by the spiritual influence of that blessed Name; but it never pierced deeper than their mind. Christ was not their life, else they had never left Him; still less would He have left them. "For if they had been of us, they would have abode with us," and if they did not so abide, what was the issue? That they gradually rose up implacably when outside, especially when the Christians refused the name of Christianity to such renegades as these? "Marvel not, if the world hateth you." They were just part of that Cain-world, which ever began with religious pretension and ended with murder.

But here is the striking contrast of true Christianity. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren." That is a sentence the more to be weighed because it at once connects itself with words of the greatest weight in the Gospel. In John 5:24 the Lord Himself employed, without the emphatic "we" and to the individual believer, the same words in its last clause. "Verily, verily, I say to you, He that heareth my word and believeth him that sent me hath life eternal, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life." I am giving it with more precision than in our Authorised version. But this is the real import of that wonderful verse which has been blessed to so many souls, even when a little obscured.

Yet we must never be too much affected by resemblance. They say that what shows a wit is that he finds resemblance between things that differ, to the surprise and pleasure of many. But there is another quality far better than wit, even a sound judgment. Now a sound judgment is marked by seeing difference in things which seem to resemble. This is just the opposite of wit; and there people generally fail.

What then is the difference between the two texts? Is it not that the Lord is there showing how a man receives eternal life now through believing God about His Son; so that he does not come into judgment, as everyone without Christ must. So He says. For in truth whoever comes into judgment can never come out of it. The reason is plain; because "judgment" means that one incurs what he deserves. Now what do you or I really deserve? Were we not guilty, powerless for good and ungodly, till saved by grace? Do not think then that any man as he is can go into judgment and come out. No; it can only be into the lake of fire. But it is not so that God deals with those that believe. They have life eternal, and they do not come into judgment. It is not merely that they do not come into "condemnation" for this is not the word any more than the thought intended by it. The Lord declares in the plainest terms that the believer does not come into judgment; it was He that bore the judgment of our sins on the cross. The notion of judgment with life eternal is perfectly monstrous, and really has no sense. To confirm this grace yet more, He said that he "hath passed out of death into life." Death was his lost condition through sin; but he now lives of His life. This change has taken place already for the soul, though not yet for the body which is assured in the resurrection of life as ver. 29 tells us.

Ver. 24 is therefore a very blessed word for the poor sinner that wants to know how he is to get life eternal. But this is not at all the case here in the Epistle. It is not a question of believing in order to gain the blessing. It is what "we," the brethren, know, and their loving the brethren is the practical proof. Of this they were incapable without life eternal, as the divine nature which loves according to God. Hence he says "we," and speaks of brethren only, and of such emphatically. It is therefore quite distinct from John 5:24. Not that this is always the sense of "we." The context alone decides what the "we" means. For "we" is so differently applied in scripture, that to make a canon of its being always the same is mere ignorance of its use there. Here too "we" is emphatic. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren." How plainly the difference must strike when both are weighed "We know (Consciously)."

What does the unbeliever know of this change? How could he possibly know it? The unbeliever is in death and sins, and he goes into judgment. Faith alone receives the blessing which Christ here gives. But the brethren as such love one another as of God's family and as having already believed. "We" are not therefore called to believe here. It is assumed that we who believed unto life eternal love our brethren and, having passed out of death into life, our love to them confirms that fact. We have this conscious knowledge, and ought to have it, in contrast with those who made empty knowledge of high speculation without one divine affection. Of all men on the earth only believers, only brethren in the Lord, only "we" can say that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren. This love is the testimony to it and the practical evidence of it; but faith alone through Christ's grace brought us into the blessing. We neither received life eternal, nor passed out of death into life, because of loving the brethren. At that time we hated the brethren, being dead in sins; but, believing God, we passed out of death into eternal life, and only then knew the brethren to love them ever after.

Hence the apostle lays down as an axiom of Christianity, "He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." How solemn the conclusion! There is no life, nor passing out of death, if one does not thus love. But why does he say "brother"? It is an abstract statement, because of his profession of course. The apostle delights in that kind of statement which pedants carefully avoid: but the apostle is far from mere letter. The apostle takes the man on his profession, and pronounces that "he who does not love his brother abideth in death;" which proves that he is no true brother by that very hatred. Remark the pointedness of his language. He does not say merely that he is dead, but that he abideth in death. Whatever was his profession, he was always dead spiritually, and he abides in death. The proof is that he never loved the one he was called to love as of God's family. He had no love; but he must have if he possessed the life of Christ in his soul.

He next puts the case even more strongly. "Every one that hateth his brother is a murderer." There he comes down with greater severity. It is not merely one that does not love, but the positive activity of hating. More outspoken in word and outrageous in conduct, he betrays his hatred, and is called a "murderer." The apostle here goes down to the root of things. As hatred is found to mark his spirit when tried, he is a murderer in principle; just as the Lord pronounces a man to be an adulterer in principle who indulged in lust which he ought not to allow, but to judge and be ashamed and humbled for it. God deals with the heart and not the externals only in Christianity. It is the inward working, as well as what comes out, which stamps the professor, however inadmissible and impossible in a court of law. "And ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." It is the very opposite of Christ, and the closest correspondence with the devil. For what can be more like our adversary, the liar and murderer from the beginning?

"Herein we have known love, or the love, because he laid down his life for us." The words do not in fact go beyond "love." He does not say "of God." It was with good intention put in; but it is best to cleave to the simple truth. "Because He laid down His life for us." Here again the "He" is remarkable. Without doubt it is the love of God too; but he purposely mixes up God and Christ, although Christ alone laid down His life for us. That is what we have repeatedly found before, as another has pointed out. This is the great and irrefutable proof of infinite love, and of a love that was clearly of God, though Christ was the One who alone manifested it. He laid down His life for us. It is mere illusion, and to miss its force, to compare with it a man's dying out of his great affection for his friend, or risking it to save a stranger. Only consider the One who for us was dying thus! who became man that it might be done in the most harrowing of sufferings! and this for us when we were lost and had nothing but sins!

"And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." His was the unfathomable depth, and nothing can match it in any way. Still it becomes the model for those that are His, however short of atonement. What limit can be set to it? Love is intended to surmount every difficulty now. God's love to us in our sins creates love not only to God but to His children, our brethren. "And we ought." He does not say that "we do": though there have been saints that have died not only for Christ's sake but for their brethren. He is content to say "we ought"; our love, being of God, is capable of doing it. And in point of fact, if our dying would be of real use to our brother, we ought to be willing. It is however a rare complication that would make it a duty.

But we are also taught that without pressing this extreme proof there is an appeal to our hearts at the door. We have not to go far without finding calls on the exercise of the love that is in our hearts. Come now; look at everyday matters. To lay down our lives for the brethren might befall us rarely here below; but there is all ordinary lack that often occurs, and we know it frequently where our lot lies: a brother or sister in abject need. How does it present itself to your soul? How does our love answer to the suffering of the poor brother or sister?

"Whoso may have the world's means of living" is what is called here its "good." Nor does he say merely "seeth," but contemplateth, beholdeth, hath a full view of his brother's need. He perhaps has not made the slightest sign, has not complained at all, nor mentioned his trial to another. This silence ought to be all the stronger appeal to our hearts. He has been bearing the pressure without a murmur; she has been enduring and only telling God about it. But there with our eyes wide open, beholding our brother's affliction, we hesitate. One has the means of helping and relieving, but instead of this he "shutteth up his bowels" from him, the sufferer. There is no need to add "of compassion," which is plainly enough implied. "How abideth the love of God in him?" The apostle puts it cautiously and calmly but earnestly and searchingly: "How dwelleth the love of God in him?" He does not ask me to die for my brother; he does ask me that my love should go out, with means beyond my own real wants, to one who is suffering whether from the cold or sickness, hunger, or other pains. One can relieve the brother, and one does not: "how abideth the love of God in him?"

Love, as it is the energy of God's nature, so it is of the new nature of His children, and meant to be in constant flow to others, not only on great occasions but in the least things of this life. Let us not miss the exquisite propriety of the apostle's language. In ver. 16 it was quite enough to say love, or the love, and to leave it thus open, when the words that followed made evident whose love it was that laid down His life for us. Again, in 1 John 2 it is not "love" only that is contrasted with the world, nor yet "the love of God," but "the love of the Father." But here "the love of the Father" would not have suited. It is "the love of God" so considerate of the least of His creatures, which so deeply rebukes His child that shuts up his compassion from his tried fellow.

In conclusion note how variously the chapter applies Christ's death. In ver. 4 it was that He might take away our sins sacrificially; in ver. 8 it was that He might undo the works of the devil; and in ver. 16 He laid down His life for us as the model of love to us and for us. All this united in His death; as we may see yet more in Heb. 2:9-10, 14, and 17.


1 JOHN 3:18-24.

"Dear children, let us not love with word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth. And herein we shall know that we are of the truth, and shall persuade our hearts before him, that if our heart condemn us, [it is] that God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, we have boldness toward God, and whatsoever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments, and do the things pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, that we believe the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and that we love one another, even as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments abideth in him, and he in him. And herein we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he gave to us."

We now enter on a new subject not touched before, but connected with the mutual love of the children of God which we have had already. The apostle appeals first to them in the quality of dear children, meaning here as always the entire family. There is no need for "My": it is not supplied by the Spirit of God, and therefore is illegitimate. "Dear children" is his general term of endearment, and this is the reason why he calls them not merely children, but "dear children." Both terms took in fathers, young men and babes, the whole family of God.

Here then he calls us to love not with word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth. He is thus leading forward into the new subject. He adds "herein we shall know." It is not "know" but "shall know." This has its importance, because it does not refer to what they already were in Christ. For instance the eternal life which they now possessed in Him was settled knowledge; but here he looks on to the boldness or confidence of heart given by walking uprightly before God in daily practice, and very particularly in love. For this is a duty as to which many deceive themselves. Nothing is easier than to call for love and complain of others wanting it; but some that are loudest in the complaint are very short of it themselves. They are or count themselves desirous of being objects of love; but the right way is for ourselves to love, if indeed we would be loved. The going out of heart in goodness without a selfish aim draws out other hearts, whereas the lip too readily learns to talk about love and ends there. The Epistle is therefore guarded in these words that serve as a connecting link between what went before and that which follows. "Dear children, let us not love with word nor with the tongue." This of course a Christian, no matter what may be his state, would know he ought to detest; but if not in a practically good state with God, his love must be shallow and powerless. Therefore it is here said "not with word nor with the tongue" — to give it as exactly as one can. There is a slight difference in losing the "with" in both places and the article in the second. We are to love, "but in deed and truth." The natural man in Christendom talks of love in his way. Christ proved it in all its genuineness, and we who confess Him have to walk in the same simplicity and reality.

All this evidently flows out of the life eternal which we have if we believe on Him. This it is which is called in an unusual expression "the life of God" in Eph. 4:18, but "Christ our life" in Col. 3:3-4, and similar language in Gal. 2:20. For that matter John so remarkably intermingles God and Christ, that one can hardly say which of the two is precisely intended. But this is done expressly and for excellent reason: the Son is as truly God as the Father; and we are not allowed to forget it. His so writing is not from any want of care. The apostle John knew well what he was doing, and meant to say as he wrote. Only foolish men that have great confidence in themselves would dare to think otherwise of an inspired man. It is because the Father and the Son are God. Christ though become man remains just as truly God as any other in the Godhead. By His humiliation to vindicate God and bless man He never forfeited His divine glory for an instant. He was the true God when He deigned to be born of woman. Yet we know what a new-born child is, how entirely dependent upon its mother or its nurse. Is there any creature in the world so indebted to loving care as a human babe? But Christ even then was the true God just as much as when He raised Lazarus or any other from the dead. And when He died He was just the same, though on the opposite side of circumstances. He could not cease to be true God; this was not touched, nor at all affected by His dying. Even in a man the soul and the spirit are not affected by death; it is but severing the link between the body and the inner man. So for the Lord Jesus, He was always the Son. Jesus Christ no doubt was His name after He became man; but He is over all, God blessed for ever, Amen; just as truly as the Father and the Holy Spirit, Who never became incarnate.

Now love is what characterises the energy of God: how blessed in itself and for us! Judgment is not His nature neither had it any exercise on man till sin appeared; there was no question of such a dealing but through sin. But He was always love. And when the fit moment came for Him to put in action His love, particularly in the incarnation of Christ and the work of Christ, all came out in ways beyond parallel. His beneficence to the creature was left far behind; His wise and kind arrangements, from the greatest to the meanest of animals, wondrous as they all are, were eclipsed; still more evident it became as we consider the goodness of His provision for man.

We do well to consider what surrounds us. The Lord sometimes pointed to objects outside with an à fortiori to us. Witness the weighty lessons even for the disciples from what was seen in the birds of the sky, or in the lilies of the field. They do indeed show not merely divine power but wisdom, benevolence, and oversight that thinks of them to the least degree, goodness that pervades and abides in the face of man's sin and wickedness. For when man fell, God might have turned the green of the field to an offensive red as an alarming sign of the judgment that was coming; but there was no such change. The green field remains the green field, and the flowers are still beautiful and sweet. We do not say that they are all that they were in paradise, for certainly all things here below were profoundly affected by the fall; but incontestably there remains an ideal beyond anything that ever man can reach. Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like the flowers of the field without any cultivation of man whatever.

But it is important to see that divine love is an affection entirely outside creation, and essentially above mere human nature. It is just as supernatural as the life which is the new nature on which the Spirit of God acts. There must be a nature to bear fruit fit for God's acceptance. Indeed, you cannot have any fruit without a living spring. Whence comes this source of such new feeling and action as wholly to transcend in the exercises of the soul anything of which man as man is capable? What is the spring in the believer of all that is love Godward or manward? It is eternal life. Without this there is no nature to bear good fruit. Are not we ourselves ample witnesses of its truth? We once were men in the surprising qualities which God confers on man; for they are very great, apart from the new creation and its special privileges. Of these we had none then; and we could not have understood what has been spoken of grace. It would have seemed rant and nonsense to the natural man, as it always does, though there may be sense enough to hold the tongue and not to say so. But men feel that they do not enter into God's mind, and cannot. Not even man's spirit, the best part of man, can take it in. His spirit soars far above the lower nature of man, but the highest part of man's nature cannot enter into the things of God (John 3:3-6).

The spirit of man cannot rise above the things of man (1 Cor. 2:9-11), any more than a dog can understand the working, say, of a watch. For the dog has only the nature of a dog, not the nature of a man, who has far superior intelligence improving itself, profiting by others, working to a new but definite end, and guided by reasons as well as mechanical power in the making of a watch. In course of time it may become mechanical enough; but there was no little exercise of thought and skill on the part of him who made the first watch. Probably it was big and clumsy too, and often required mending. Still the first was a greater effort of mind than the later skill which wrought up the best watch that England could produce. For its maker has the advantage of all the numberless improvements made ever since in this detail or that to make a record watch. Yet with all this activity of mind there is a consciousness of responsibility to God and a far higher moral sense than that of intellect, which belongs to man alone on earth.

The gist then is that the things of God are as much above the best man after the flesh and the highest part of that man as a watch or other such work is above the nature of a dog or any instinct it possesses. How morally debasing to forget it! This is surely an all-important difference, and cannot but, where it is truly felt, draw out our thanksgiving, whilst it also vindicates and displays the depths of God's grace. For He has given us who believe a life capable of entering into His thoughts and His affections, into His counsels and His mind, enabling us by His Spirit to search all things, yea, the deep things of God.

For it is admitted that we need for this the Spirit of God also. It is not enough to be born of the Spirit. The Old Testament saints were so born; but they could not as yet receive the indwelling Spirit from on high. To no saints was He given till Christ's redemption was effected. And only when the converted soul rests on redemption does one now receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The lack of this is the reason why converted persons are found spiritually dull. They cannot go beyond the elements of divine truth because, though having the new nature, they have not yet the power of the Spirit; and if probed, they would be found not to have settled peace yet. The real fact is that they are not really resting on Christ's redemption, and so have not that fruit of redemption. They are looking for what they want. They are, as they say, striving earnestly to get what they have not got. They have to learn that liberty in Christ is only to be had by giving up altogether self and its efforts, to rest only and altogether on Christ and His work of redemption. The atoning work is done.

This shortcoming or shallowness of faith came in as a flood after the apostles passed away. In the early days it was not for anyone to enter the church except those sealed by the Holy Spirit. But when the church began to settle down in the world, and persecution became only a temporary outburst, when many wise and rich people came in, powerful and noble, there was an object in consequence to become acquainted with personages who in Christian love became more intimate than they ever would as in the world. It was an inducement to not a few to follow them; as some of late found from the same cause in their little history. Love soon decays in such circumstances. So that we readily understand the necessity for the words, "Let us love, not with word, nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth."

"And herein we shall know that we are of the truth;" that is, if walking in love. This is immense comfort to the believer; but what a mistake to put it before an unconverted soul as the way to get forgiveness! Who that knows the gospel could ask such to show these fruits of love? But it is what saints ought to feel in what is justly called the moral government of God. For, when brought to God, we become objects of God as Father to judge us every day (1 Peter 1:17). The Lord presented it figuratively in John 15, and declared Himself the true Vine, as the disciples were the branches. This is not the figure of being born again (which is really in John 3:3-6); nor still less has it to do with union, as many mistakenly imagine. In neither case is there such thing as losing life eternal or Christ's members cut off. This difference suffices to disprove such misapplications. The Vine teaches the necessity of communion with Christ practically. To abide in Him, and He in us, is the power of fruit-bearing. For what enables the disciple to bring forth fruit? Is it not dependence on Christ, His words abiding in us, and prayer (ver. 7)? It is Christ who is the source of all the fruit, and the branches bear it by hanging on Him. Apart from Him they can do nothing. And it is the Father who prunes the branch that it may bear more fruit. But it is the Vine that supplies all the sap to the branches that attach to Him.

Our Lord did a great deal more; but for fruit-bearing this is what He does. If you disconnect the branch from the vine, what then? Will it bear grapes again? Can there be any more fruit? Not the least. There were those once following Christ who walked no more with Him. They cut themselves off. They were no longer branches of the Vine. It is not denied that one here and another there might repent and seek restoration. Far be it from us to deny or discourage a soul. But those that leave Christ in general become hard and antagonistic to a degree. In fact, it is comparatively rare for such as turn their back on the Lord to return to Him again. If real repentance work, who so ready to receive? There is no limit to His love. But those contemplated here, instead of self-judgment, have hard thoughts of Christ, and abandon all reverence, lowering His person, and trifling with His work, so as to manifest that they had only notions, and not life eternal.

Therefore it is of deep importance to remember that the moral government of God goes on with souls now and has a double action. On the one hand God watches over every saint, and judges every fault, but in faithful love. On the other hand, there are those who, distrusting Him, cannot bear His dealings. They resist or despise the trials which God employs as a means of recovery. For He chastens; and no chastening at the time seems pleasant. Joy would altogether deny His character; but it is for profit, and afterwards yields peaceful fruit of righteousness to those exercised thereby. It is God as Father now judging according to the work of each; in short, His moral government. He thus deals with those that are His children, or at most those that profess so to be. For God concerns Himself thus according to men's profession; and in a way quite different with those who have never borne the Lord's name.

It is therefore incumbent on everyone that names the name of the Lord to withdraw from iniquity, and thus wake up out of the snare of the devil lest he get a constant advantage over his soul, and an overwhelming advantage. The longer any wait the worse it becomes. It is bad enough for those who believe to remain units; and it is to be feared that not a few are content with isolation, as if they escaped responsibility, in the present growing disorder here below. They look at the faults of other Christians to justify their isolation, and shun the trials of walking together as brethren, whose shortcomings they are very quick to discern, and without mercy. But there is no real conscience as to God's glory in their own state. How wretched it is to justify ourselves by the faults of others! But is their own walk really better than that of such as never made profession of Christ? Is it not sadly like walking in the light of their own fire and in the sparks of their own kindling? Let them beware lest they lie down in sorrow. Their course is one neither of righteousness nor of love; and Christianity unites both according to the truth of Christ.

Now, in our walk when we are brought to God, the secret of power is dependence on Christ. Does not the vine teach us this more than any other figure? It would be hard to find in all the realm of nature a tree so impressive as the vine to mark the need for the branches to keep up their place in the vine in order to bear fruit. And as certainly it is the same principle between Christ and the Christian. So it is here. If love be merely with word and with the tongue, if not in deed and truth, can it but displease God? Is it not an insult to the Spirit of God? If we walk as children of light, we also carry out the divine principle of love, i.e., we seek the good of one another without a selfish purpose. Such is the love we know in God; and Christ became man to show it in a way that even God as such could not. And who can wonder that He so deeply feels any slight to the name of His Son, Jesus our Lord? It was the humiliation of Christ in becoming a man, and bearing the sufferings which His sacrifice of Himself entailed, even to enduring God's judgment of sin laid on Him. This could not be in God as God; but it is exactly what we have from God in Christ's propitiation for our sins. Therein all the light and the love and the truth of God shine in a way beyond thought of man; and this is Christianity.

But a necessary part of practical Christianity is not merely righteousness, as we have been seeing, or obedience. It is love; only let it be real, he says; and if it be so, "we shall know." In this he classes himself with the rest, which contributes to the beauty of his words. "Herein we shall know that we" — you and I, the apostle and the saints — "are of the truth." But when there is a bad conscience, the exercise of love and of everything else which flows from divine life, dwindles away. One does not in this refer to those who are not children of God, but only to those who are. It is they that are crippled by it; it is they that suffer from what they have lost; and there is always a suspension of enjoyment when communion with Him is thus interrupted. Some might think it remarkable that, while the life that God gives in Christ is eternal, the communion that we enjoy by it is most sensitive to any evil on our part; it immediately ceases through indulging in ever so little a folly. And why? Communion means that the blessing is shared in common. How could God share even a little folly with us? With any sins He cannot possibly have communion; nor can we be walking in Christ. Enjoyment of communion is broken at once. Far from Him to say that it is so lost that it cannot be regained. But we can praise Him that there is no regaining life eternal, because it is eternal; yet there is the necessity that we be restored to the communion interrupted by evil of any kind. It might be only a bad thought or feeling; but communion is broken till it is judged. If it is allowed, it hinders no less than any outward or open evil.

So he says, "Herein we shall know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him." To be "of the truth" is the basis of truthfulness in practice; to lose or neglect the truth is soon followed by untruthful ways, which expose one to love with word and with the tongue, instead of in deed and truth. It was not looking back to see that they were converted, still less that they were baptized. Neither is meant of God to give us comfort when He is thus dishonoured in such circumstances, but rather to put us to shame. Is it not grievous that I, who have been brought to God and not merely have its outward mark, should have behaved so ill? If on the contrary we are kept watchful and earnest before God, loving too and lowly withal, "we shall know that we are of the truth." This inspires boldness or confidence before God. And such really is the sense here. The force intended is not standing, nor assurance of faith; but the heart's boldness before God in a walk of unaffected and active love. "Therein we shall know that we are of the truth, and shall" — not exactly assure, but "persuade our hearts before Him." This is the simple and literal meaning; which seems to me better to take as it is, seeking to understand what the Spirit meant by it. A different form of this word and other words express assurance, one of which would have been employed if "assurance" had been meant here; but "we shall persuade our hearts before Him" seems well suited to act powerfully on our souls, and to express the boldness inspired by simple-hearted sincerity in a living Christian walk.

There is much in these words to encourage and strengthen a godly Methodist. Their weak point is in not apprehending life eternal in Christ, and assigning too much to their own emotions. The grace of God in the gospel leaves ample room for the warmest and deepest affections. Spiritual feelings have a just place, but far more the grace and truth through Christ which create and elicit them; yet all saints should be sound according to the word and Spirit of God. Nor ought we to be like a rigid Calvinist, who thinks the one thing is to have come to the conclusion that we are the elect, and therefore entitled to all comfort. Thus he swamps the moral government of God before us by his absorption with election. Now election is an admirable truth for which to praise our God; but it is not meant to serve as security against the unhappy certainty that we have dishonoured God. Why should we want to be comforted in presence of the fact that we have displeased Him? He wants us to be humbled on that account; and this is what is brought in immediately after. "For if our heart condemn us"; this is just what our heart does, when we walk badly, and there is that which grieves the Spirit of God, and we have not duly judged ourselves before Him. And if we know that our heart condemns us, we infer rightly how much more God knew to blame. "God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things." Some of the Calvinists turn it in this way: if our heart condemn us, God in His grace does not. How sad it is to lose the profit of His word by any systematic departure from its plain sense! His mind is that if I condemn myself, God is greater than I, He knows all where we only know in part.

They fear to shake our standing thereby. Now this has nothing whatever to do with our standing in Christ, but with our state day by day. It is a question of loss of communion; and we are called to judge ourselves in His sight, instead of falling back on election or standing. Election as well as standing abide; it is all wrong for a believer to doubt of either. But if his heart condemn him, we may be sure that God knows far more: he should be in the dust before Him, and thus have divine help to search all out and hate his carelessness, because he is an object of such grace. We are to judge our bad state while holding fast the standing in Christ which God has given us. This remains firm; but our state has been wrong, and God would have us, not to hide from it nor excuse it, but condemn ourselves unsparingly.

What a pity to fall under these systems of men, as one may call the peculiarities of Calvinists or Arminians! For one only blames their peculiarities, not the truth which they hold as Christians. There are dear saints of God among both; but they both suffer not a little, from the Arminian not giving sufficient glory to God's grace in life eternal, and from the Calvinist not leaving sufficient value to communion, which is often followed by uncertainty about his own election. As one of them said, "If you do not doubt about yourself, I doubt about you." Their tendency is to slur their sins or to set up a school of doubt. It was a pious man who so spoke, and he wrote many hymns; and I can but hope the hymns are better than the doctrine. For such doubting is abominable, unworthy not only of a Christian but of Christ still more. It practically denies the gospel, which proclaims salvation by God's grace, and calls for our peaceful enjoyment of it. Hence in point of fact Calvinists generally, though with bright exceptions, are weak as to the gospel. They are occupied with election, rather than with God's love to the world, to say nothing of the provision of grace for their own souls. Election has a too absorbing place in their creed, which makes it a sort of servant-of-all-work. But all this falls miserably short of God's grace and truth. In Christ there is room for everything true that both Calvinists and Arminians hold, and for a good deal more which neither holds. It is a pity that saints of God do not drop these partial schemes of doctrine, cleaving only to God's revelation, accepting it wholly, and eschewing every substitute for it. Christianity has ample room for the widest feeling and for the soundest judgment, and in short for everything that faith is bound to receive from God, or that love is free to achieve for His glory.

The heart's condemnation here is from the consciousness of failure in our ways, and the conviction of still more known to God in His moral government of our souls. This too is implied in "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgave our debtors." Here too it is a question, not of plenary forgiveness in faith of the gospel, but of God's watchful and constant oversight of His children's ways. This has nothing at all to do with the poor sinner's need; for it is plain that the gospel offers no forgiveness of sins on the condition of a forgiving spirit to others. Grace gives remission of sins on the faith of the Lord Jesus. Here is nothing to do with that; but if you — a Christian — fail to walk in a forgiving spirit with others, God is displeased with you. Thereby you no longer enjoy communion with Him, and He will not restore it till you truly judge yourself for the wrong. This lack is what produced the saint's self-condemnation, and the indication of censure on God's part.

Evidently then it is of great importance to distinguish between the ground of grace on which we stand for life eternal and redemption, and the application of God's moral dealing with us every day, where He must judge our faulty ways, and He is chastising us that we may become partakers of His holiness. This leads us truly to condemn our inconsistencies and conform our practice to God's mind in His hatred of sin, and in furtherance of what is loving, righteous, and true.

The apostle says, "Beloved, if our heart condemn not, we have boldness toward God" (ver. 21). His heart responds to those who walk normally before Him. It is no longer merely "Dear children." He delights in seeing love realised, and encourages the activity of love in prayer where things thus go well. Where the Spirit of God has to occupy us with our failure, we cannot be free to ask new favours. We must submit to the humiliating sense, that if we condemn ourselves about our ways, God condemns us yet more. Where by His power there is quiet enjoyment of communion, our hearts can earnestly ask for more grace. "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, we have boldness toward him, and whatsoever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments, and do the things pleasing in his sight." There is nothing in this case to arrest the activity of love. Grace has its unhindered way in what is good, because we are walking happily in the light of God, so that the heart turns not to self-reproach. We can freely have done with self to enjoy Christ.

Such is clearly the right state for every Christian to walk in day by day. It is what we have to seek; but alas! where we sadly fall short perhaps; but assuredly it is that to which we are called by grace. A peaceful, single-eyed and confiding state can only be by walking before God according to our life in Christ. To comfort ourselves under failure, because we have life eternal, does not rightly meet what is due to God, any more than to our own state. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. There is not only faith but experimental reality in the soul's following what the apostle tells us of what was wrought in him. "I am crucified with Christ, and no longer do I live, but Christ liveth in me; but that which I now live in flesh I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Tradition is vain, ordinances fail. The power of Christ's cross is brought home. He for his old life was identified by faith with Him — who actually suffered it; and he now lives in Him who is alive for evermore; and it is a life of faith in His love. This individualising is not a very common phase in Scripture. Generally "Christ loving" and "Christ giving Himself" is said for Christians as a whole as in Eph. 5:1-2. But it is very precious to have it personally also, though short indeed to have it no more than personal, whereby we fail to appreciate our communion with the Father and with the Son in the blessedness of all the family of God.

Peace with God, peace of conscience, indispensable as it may be, is not all the blessing that His grace would have us enjoy; still less is the assurance that we are forgiven all our offences. This we have as believing God's glad tidings; but it is not what is spoken of in vers. 19-22. It was a very necessary and great mercy for each soul at his beginning. Then in faith it is wrong to allow a question whether he really believes or not. Scripture knows nothing of such a doubt in one who believes in Christ; he is nowhere thrown back on what he finds within. It is because he is lost that God points to His Son as Saviour, as to whom no question of failure could arise with him. Here it is for Christians in their walk of every day; and the question now is of practical confidence in the heart. We are in such nearness by grace that anything unsuitable in us toward our God and Father is intolerable, and provided against with all care.

Many of us know in our own families what it is to have a child sometimes naughty. Does not this make a difference if the child has real affection? Even if the father and mother do not know why, the child is ill at ease. Instead of being able happily to meet its parents as usual, something has gone wrong; and the more upright the child, the more that is felt. It is just so with our God and Father; save that He never fails, and all is known to Him. Hence the vast importance of self-judgment, which we need because of what we are. Where this is applied to our failure, the soul returns into the enjoyment of the communion, which to our sorrow had been lost. The right state is the boldness toward God. It is not the standing which the Christian has permanently; but the heart's state liable to interruption by carelessness. While we walk in the Spirit, this boldness God-ward is our happy state; and it is the only becoming state for a Christian. How sad to settle down into the lack of it habitually! Surely there ought to be an earnest crying to God to find what has taken it from the heart; if so, one will not have to cry long. It flows from the love of the Father that He would have us taste its comfort, and feel its deprivation through any unjudged fault. But we have in Jesus as Advocate with the Father the provided resource, instead of seeking an earthly director who supplants the Lord and cannot suffice for a function so delicate and difficult. It is our privilege readily and at once to repair through Christ to the throne of grace, nay to the Father's love, assured that no failure can be there.

Hence here it is beautifully added, "Whatsoever we ask, we receive from Him." It is another sample of the absolute way in which John loves to speak. He does not speak of any modification through occasional circumstances, or of any particular hindrance that may arise. He does not allude to a possibly inconsistent state. He assumes here that the heart does not condemn; that one has boldness toward God; that we are in the enjoyment of communion with Him. And what is the effect of communion? It excludes wrong petitions. We do not then seek anything alien to the will of God. We ask for that which is according to His will; and He grudges us nothing good. He delights in our enjoyment of all that is for His glory; and all this we have found in Christ; for He is the ever attractive and sustaining link. It is Christ who chooses everything for us. There is no light nor spring in our heart without Christ thus depended on. Accordingly this is just what God has given us. Whatsoever we ask we receive; for in that state we shall never ask anything amiss. Our apostle supplies here the reason, "because we keep His commandments." Those who fail to see that it is a question of God's moral government of the Christian's state fall into the error of confounding it with the ground of salvation, and make it conditional. But this annuls sovereign grace in saving sinners. Here it is not grace, but government. And government is necessarily conditional. But God's grace which saves our souls and effaces our sins is absolute, free, and sovereign. The only condition here, if it is to be called a condition, is to give up ourselves as ungodly, and receive what His love gives us freely in Christ.

Here is another subject altogether; and its mixture with grace is the common vice of so-called "theology." Who can wonder therefore, that simple, sound, and intelligent Christians distrust and repudiate so unreliable a guide. They have good reason to beware, for it habitually darkens and perplexes many believers who, immature in the truth, thought themselves on the right line by listening to it. But systematic divinity is like what is called a hortus siccus; that is, flowers and leaves, or the like, plucked from the plant and dried, so that not a particle remains of freshness or life in one of them.

Such is "theology"; whereas Scripture is "spirit and life." So is the Lord Jesus, the living One who died but is alive again for evermore; and again the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of truth that quickens, the One given not only for life but to keep every truth fresh and powerful; and so it is in the ever-flowing love of God the Father. Man makes, or strives to make, revelation into a science. Can two things more thoroughly differ? Who ever found life or peace in systematic divinity? It is always guarding this and guarding that with human weapons, and framing its uncertain and defective doctrines into imaginary fortresses of the faith, which must be Christ's working in us by the word and Spirit of God. Only in the Bible we have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and we have the Holy Spirit who wrote all to guide us into all the truth. Therefore we have confidence in God and the word of His grace.

Scripture is the standard, and the Holy Spirit is the power sent down to abide in and with us for ever. What ample privileges, to say nothing of the gifts of Christ's grace in ministry from the highest to the least! We are commended to this, and God would have us judge everything that hinders; and this is what occupies the apostle in these verses. And if we profit in faith and love, he says, "Whatsoever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." Only think of applying this to the gospel! The last clause is just what our blessed Lord said He always did (John 8:29). He is the perfection of all He undertook. "I do always the things that are pleasing to him." But there is where we fall. We neither do nor say always the things that please Him. As God sees and hears everything, He takes special notice of His children, not as against us but for us; and if God be for us, who against us? Therefore, as He slurs over no fault, we need not take up John 17 or Rom. 8 as a hiding place, but do well to humble ourselves for all that has grieved the Holy Spirit of God by whom we were sealed for redemption's day. Our hearts thus return to the enjoyment of boldness toward God. This gives liberty and impulse to prayer, as it is said here, "Whatsoever we ask." Surely, if we ask for dependence on Christ God will hear, seeking more continuance in prayer, more profiting by His word: these are according to God's will, as well as the means of exercising and enjoying eternal life. For that life is the substratum of all this Epistle.

"And this is His commandment, that we should believe the name of His Son." This is here rendered "on"; but the Greek admits of no "on." Now it maybe more difficult to understand it according to what the Spirit of God unquestionably wrote; but if we do not understand the phrase, are we not to receive it implicitly as written? We need not force a meaning on it, but be content to accept what is His word without understanding it, and wait till we do. But there it is written to the family of God, though it be an unusual phrase. In Scripture ordinarily it is "believing God and believing God about His Son; and, when Christ is introduced, it is "believing on or in Christ." Such is the general language of Scripture. Here the form used is "believing the name." When it is said one believes God about Christ, it is believing God's record of Christ; it is believing what God tells me of Christ. When then it is said "believe the name of His Son," does it not mean believing what that Name imports? The Name is God's revelation of the Lord, that is, of what He is, and has done, and a beautiful expression it is. It is not merely that His name as a man was Jesus, one need scarcely say, nor only His title is the Lord, or any of His offices. Here it is believing the Name, the divine revelation, or God's testimony to His Son Jesus Christ. For He pre-eminently is the object of faith; and here and now it is that we shall believe His name, as if it personified Himself. It is not only what we begin with when once we believed. We believed on the Lord then; but the apostle loves to speak of the person and all that comes in and through Him is believed. Hence he employs this singular expression, "believe the name of His Son Jesus Christ." There is dependence upon Christ; but here it is believing the Name of His Son Jesus Christ, what that blessed name conveys as revealed by God in His word. We believe His Name.

There is a difference of reading nearly balanced that is worthy of notice. The form of the word "believe" in the ordinary text with high authority implies continuance in faith; in others of great weight, it is believing once for all, the fact summed up in its conclusion. But when we come to "love," it is the actual loving of every day. This is plain and sure. But the two things are blended into one commandment. It is the great commandment of Christianity in contrast with the commandment of the law. There it was to love God and one's neighbour. Now it is to believe the name of His Son Jesus Christ and to love one another, even God's children. How deplorable the blunder to confound the children of God with our neighbour! This is not its meaning; but those are to be loved whom the world knows not, as it knew Him not whose Name is believed. All this was far beyond the thoughts of man. What would you think of one who told you to love all the children in London in the same way as you love your own children? You would think such a person demented. This may help to show how much higher is "His commandment" here. As we said before, there is all possible difference between the children of God and the children of the devil. A man might be my next door neighbour and the greatest enemy to Christ. To such a one the command that I am here to love has no application. One ought to have the love of compassion for him, to desire and to seek from God that he might receive the word of truth, the gospel of salvation. His hardened opposition, his very defiance of God, might only the more draw out our supplication that he might become a monument of mercy. And God has hearkened to prayer in such a case, and has honoured the persistent cry that entreated in faith and humility for a guilty soul. It would require no little courage to enable one so to seek and labour for our next-door neighbour of such a character. Yet even so this neighbour in no way falls under the commandment before us, which applies only to loving "one another, as He gave us commandment." It is strictly and solely mutual Christian love.

Here again is another example of the way in which John mixes up God and Christ. In the beginning of the verse the last person spoken of is God; and we were to ask and receive of Him, and to do those things that are pleasing in His sight. "And this is His commandment, that we should believe the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment." Now we know very well it was Christ who gave the commandment. Yet it is the same "He" apparently all through. Such a style could never have become possible unless Christ were as truly God as the Father. This is the secret of its peculiarity. And John's writing is done purposely in honour of the Son even as of the Father, instead of a negligent slip. There is no inadvertence in Scripture; as there may be in the most celebrated classic. Divine purpose and perfect wisdom reign in the written word.

"And he that keepeth His commandments abideth in Him." It is one of the drawbacks of our beautiful authorised version that the translators cannot let the same word go on unaltered even in the same context; so fond are they of ringing the change on the same word. Most who know only the English version would suppose that there must be some shade of difference between "dwell" and "abide." But the Greek gives only the same word. It is the more regrettable because there is a distinct word for "dwell" which has its own propriety of application. Is it not far better for the English reader also to have the same word? Here it signifies little save to remember that the "dwelling" and the "abiding" mean the same thing. In John 5 it is of much consequence to adhere to "judgment" all through, and not allow "condemnation" or "damnation" unless distinctly expressed.

Here we have the transition to the new subject of abiding in God, and God in us. There is no vagueness as to it. Without obedience this wondrous privilege cannot be. "And he that keepeth his commandments abideth in him, and he in him." Exegetically, he abides in God, and God in him. But it is applicable to Christ also, and is so said elsewhere. In itself therefore it is perfectly true whether you say "abide in Christ" or "abide in God." When you abide in Christ you abide in God; and when you abide in God you abide no less in Christ. But there may be a contextual propriety which chooses one rather than the other in strict interpretation. That is often important to see; yet it is simple. But it is helpful to avoid mistakes as to Scripture and seeing distinctions without a difference.

"And herein we know that he abideth in us by the Spirit which he gave us." There the gift of the Spirit is the power and proof of God's abiding in the Christian. It is in this way that God abides in him. He gave him the Spirit. But abiding in God is a matter of spiritual dependence on Him in practice; and it could not be unless the Spirit abiding in the saint wrought so as to keep in ungrieved looking to Him, and drawing from Him. If I were grieving the Lord at the time, I am no longer abiding in Him; I have slipped away out of His presence, and am for awhile perhaps pursuing my own thought and way and will. But whether it be but a passing slip, or for a certain time, I am out of the enjoyment of His presence, and not abiding in Him.

Yet it may be noticed that in the last half we hear, not as in the first half of the two truths, but only of God's abiding in us, which is simply by the Spirit given to us. On this alone depends God's abiding in us. It is founded on redemption, and abides as redemption also abides. But our abiding in Him is a question of spiritual state; and is only taken up for full explanation in the latter part of 1 John 4. The early verses, 1-6 are a parenthesis of the utmost moment as a basis for both the one and the other.

It is in 1 John 3:23-24 that the apostle enters on the exposition of the proper and full place of the Christian, and this with the least reference possible to the negative side, which had such prominence in the previous discussion. Here the positive blessedness of our privileges is set before all the saints with the same simplicity, but depth also, characteristic of his letter from first to last. In verse 23 it is the plain and easily recognised trait of the Christian; in verse 24 it is the less cognisable but no less real inner exercise of life by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God working on or rather in that life. And special notice, as we have seen, is taken of the blighting influence of a careless walk on the enjoyment of the heart's boldness before God which ought to be our portion habitually.


1 JOHN 4:1-6.

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, if they are of God because many false prophets are (or, have) gone out into the world. Herein ye know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesseth Jesus Christ come in flesh is of God; and every spirit which confesseth not Jesus* is not of God; and this is the (spirit or principle) of the antichrist whereof ye have heard that it cometh; and now it is already in the world. Ye are of God, dear children, and have overcome them, because greater is he that [is] in you than he that [is] in the world. They are of the world: for this reason they speak [as] of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God doth not hear us. From this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error" (vers. 1-6).

*On ample ground of external witness, backed up by internal considerations, almost all the later critics seem to be right in dropping the words here omitted, which were probably inserted from the clause before. The MSS. differ much as usual in such cases. — There is a reading, alluded to by ancient writers ὃ λύει instead of ὃ μὴ ὁμολογεῖ. But it is authenticated by neither ancient MS. nor Version, save the Vulgate's "qui solvit."

Before the apostle proceeds with God's abiding in us, known by the Spirit given to us (1 John 3:24), he turns off to the grave subject before us. Therein he would guard us, against the inroads of the enemy on the foundations of the faith, by the truth of Christ's person, and by God's authoritative revelation of Him through the inspired apostles and prophets given by the ascended Lord, and embodied in the Scriptures of the New Testament.

It is not, as in his previous teaching, the tests which sever the real Christian from the spurious or self-deceived. The introduction of the Holy Spirit leads him into a digression, as we have seen his manner to be, of extreme value on what is most fundamental, the divinely given tests of the truth itself. These tests are two: the person of Him who was manifested in flesh; and the revelation of Him through the chosen witnesses in order that, as He was truly divine and perfectly human, we might have a no less divine communication of what is so transcendent a blessing stamped with God's authority through men inspired for the purpose. He is the One on whose reception depends life eternal with all the privileges of the Christian, and of the church, of which the apostle Paul was the minister beyond all others; He is the One whose rejection entails God's wrath to abide on all those guilty of it (John 3:35-36). As He came down from heaven, Himself the truth in sovereign grace, so God took care to give us the surest revelation by man and for man, — whether he hear or refuse, adapted to the conscience and heart of man, but guarded and guided by the God who cannot err.

If God in virtue of redemption was pleased to give the Holy Spirit to the Christian in a measure and way which was not nor could be before Christ's death, resurrection and ascension, Satan set himself to counterfeit the heavenly gift, and thwart the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. He acts by apostates, the many false prophets who not only mislead others to perdition, but incur themselves vengeance more severely than the guilty Jew or the dark Gentile. Hence the care to present the two-fold criterion of the truth in the simplest and most direct form for the help of every Christian who needs it.

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits if (or, whether) they are of God." It is a question of discerning, not Christians, but the real character of those who claimed to speak in the Spirit. This the enemy simulated; and his power of subtle persuasion has ever been great since man's first temptation in paradise. "He was a murderer from the beginning, and stood not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh falsehood he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar and its father" (John 8:44). Evil spirits were more than ever at work to oppose the Spirit of truth, as very many unclean spirits in the possessed were cast out by the Holy One of God when here. In the Gospel of the divine Servant of God and man, it is the first miracle recorded; Christ's word had power to bless man, and expel the demon. And now that the intrepid and unflinching apostle to the uncircumcision was gone, his warning to the elders of the church in Ephesus was being rapidly verified: "I know, that there will come in among you after my departure grievous wolves, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall arise men speaking perverted things to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30).

This outbreak of evil was aggravated before the eyes of the last apostle. He appeals to every saint on his faith in Christ and in the word of God; and strips the true question of all the gloss of reasoning and sentiment by which the enemy obscured what was at stake. It was really giving up God and His word under pretension of new and higher truth. Some antichrists denied the real humanity of Christ, others His true deity, and others their union in one person. In any of these ways the truth of His person, and of His work consequently, was abandoned and sought to be overthrown. They knew the Father and Jesus Christ whom He sent; and they had the Spirit to help them. Thus they were as simple children of God not only responsible but by grace adequate to prove what sort of spirit wrought in these new lights. They were bound for His sake and for their own souls to sift their novelties, "because many false prophets were gone out into the world." Were these men such? Christ had given true "apostles and prophets," who conjointly form the foundation of the church dogmatically. Hence we have Mark and Luke, to say nothing of writers of Epistles, who were not apostles but prophets. Satan imitated this, and availed himself of these unbelievers in going out into the world to lead astray and destroy. There were "many false prophets."

The first test is as to the Spirit. "Herein we know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesseth Jesus Christ come in flesh is of God." The common rendering fails to give its real force; for the introduction of "that" and "is" is not only uncalled for, but makes it to be mere confession of a fact; whereas the apostolic word means the confession of His person. Is it true that an evil spirit would deny the historical fact that Jesus Christ is come in flesh? Do not Mohammedans admit this fact without hesitation, if the Jews do not? And assuredly some of the most extreme and pernicious sceptics allow the fact, and eulogise the Lord after their fashion as the best of men.

But there is no true confession of the person of the Lord as here laid down by the apostle save by the Spirit of God. For, few as the words are, they go to the essence of the matter. Many a man was called "Jesus" between the son of Nun and the Son of Mary the virgin. The first, as far as Scripture speaks, was truly but only a type of the Joshua immeasurably greater than himself. Others may have been so named, but quite unworthy, notably he whom the Jews preferred to the Lord of glory, if we attach any credit to some twenty manuscripts which say so. Certainly he was surnamed Barabbas (son of the father), the devil's counterpart to the true Son of the Father.

The Spirit in Matt. 1 gives us His interpretation of the name: "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." Joshua led Israel into Canaan in the face of enemies which swarmed there; but the Antitype alone could save His people from their sins. He was Jah, Jehovah, the Eternal absolutely, the Eternal relatively and historically; and as they were His people, He it was that should save them from their sins, as none but He could who was also Immanuel, God with us; and who but He could claim this title as Himself? If His people reject Him to their own loss for awhile, His grace turns to the besotted nations, to such of them at least as hear His voice. To Gentiles, as we were, this salvation was sent meanwhile; but the Gentile, puffed up in unbelief and pride, must be cut off, as in part the Jews were to let us in. At length, turning to their crucified Messiah, then exalted and lifted up and very high, and cleared of all inward fear as well as of outward, "So all Israel shall be saved." His love had waited long, unexhausted and faithful till they will have got to the bottom of their evil and their sufferings; His mercy endures for ever, as His gifts and calling admit no change of mind.

This is the "Jesus Christ" whom every spirit that is of God confesses. Only He is now known in Christianity far more profoundly as well as more intimately than when presented to Israel, who shall know Him in the visible glories of the coming kingdom. He who came in flesh was Jah the Saviour, as He was also God's Anointed or Christ. It is He whom the Spirit of truth honours, as the spirit of error hates Him. For there is the dark side: "Every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not of God." What confirms the shorter reading here is the article before "Jesus" in the latter clause. It is in its common usage of reference, and can hardly be expressed in English translation. But the explanation is clear and sure: "Every spirit which confesseth not (the) Jesus (already described)." It supposes no repetition of the words here omitted, yet implies that predication as true.

The name of Jesus is the expression of all that He is as revealed of God; and as we need, so we have it all to our everlasting joy. Nor does it avail only for the supreme excellency of all that is in Him and through Him: He and He only gives us the truth of every one and thing as it really is; and thus He proves Himself to be the truth objectively, as the Spirit is the truth in the inward power of giving us to realise and enjoy what is in and by Christ (1 John 5:6). He alone leads into any adequate knowledge of God. He shows us the Father. He makes known to us, as not to the world, the Holy Spirit. He reveals the Trinity. In Christ we know light and life and love, as of God, and nowhere else. In Him we know obedience, righteousness, holiness, reverence, dependence, faithfulness, humility, meekness, absolutely and in all perfection. In Him is displayed man the worthy object of God's delight; and man under Satan's power in his enmity to God, the truth of man naturally as he is. So through Him we know what Satan is in hatred as well as deceit. Without Christ we have only the shadow of redemption and propitiation, of sacrifice and offering, of priest and sanctuary. He only is the substance and fulness, setting everything in its true character and true relation to God, Himself the centre of all. Do you doubt as to the truth of anything? Bring Christ into the difficulty, apply Him to the question; and you will find the truth in each and every case. Is not He manifestly and justly the criterion of the truth?

Thus it is that, while the reasoning soul loses itself in the labyrinth of speculation in quest of the truth which eludes the strongest natural mind, grace provides the truth in Christ to the simplest believer who looks to Him as his all. For there is the solution; Christ is the truth objectively, as the Spirit is in power to his spirit. Those self-seeking and self-vaunting "false prophets" may tell "the little child" that he cannot do without them, and that they alone have "the spirit," he no more than "the letter." The believer knows that he has Christ, the Son manifested in flesh, and refuses to let go what was "heard from the beginning" and is now in the written word of God. He does not pretend to have all realised; but he knows that having Christ the truth, he has it all perfectly in Him, and counts on the unction of the Spirit for application as the need arises. He therefore feels the all-importance that what was heard from the beginning should abide in him, that he too should abide in the Son and in the Father. If Christ thus revealed is given up, Christianity is gone. And when the enemy was undermining Christ under pretence of higher truth, the Spirit of God recalls to Him Who was and is the truth. He therefore admits of no development, which is no more than the lie of Satan, and has no truth, but betrays itself by denying known life eternal as His present gift. The lie offers only "ideas."

Grace then furnishes a sure criterion to know when it is the Spirit of God teaching the truth, or when an evil spirit insinuates the great lie. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus; the evil spirit cries up the world, being the instrument of the devil to deceive as far as he can. If he cannot deceive the elect, he accuses them, and makes them appear narrow, morose, and bigoted; because they are not misled by the fine colours with which Satan invests his evil doings. They believe God concerning His Son. This is quite a different thing from confounding with faith credulity, which is but believing man. But no link with God is formed save in believing God; and this is by His word, and since the apostle passed away, His written word. The Holy Spirit bore witness to the Lord as the incarnate Son of God. One accordingly believes on the Lord Jesus Christ at God's word for life eternal. A fact about Him, however true and important, is not believing on and confessing Himself. Life is in His Son. And He came in flesh; for this was essentially "Jesus," the marvel of divine grace, the test of divine truth. Confessing Him means that one owns the truth of His person thus come in flesh. The difference is not only important but vital. It is not the fact of His birth, but His person so born to confess.

Many think that here it is only the fact of His incarnation. Assuredly the incarnation is pressed, because it is a cardinal truth of Christianity, of rich grace; and there were some then that denied it and reduced it to a mere semblance. A little book of great antiquity was discovered recently called the Gospel of Peter, not only spurious but utterly heterodox, evidencing deadly error in early days; a most sorrowful thing that it should ever have been written. For it was as false in itself as it was a vile imposture, no more coming from a Christian than from Peter. But Peter was a marked favourite because of his fervour; and many who could not fully take in Paul's teaching exceedingly enjoyed Peter's preaching. The wicked forger took advantage of the apostle's repute (probably after his death) to gain acceptance for his own Gnostic legend. For its purport is to represent that Christ did not come in flesh so as to die on the cross, that He merely took flesh as one lives in a house; that flesh did not really form part of His person; that, after living in the body for a time, on coming to the cross He left it and went up to heaven.

It seems like the doctrine of the Moslems, who imagine that, at the critical moment, God, by an exercise of His power and retributive justice, substituted Judas Iscariot for the Lord Jesus, and took Him up on high. In short this class of Gnostics and the Mahomedans held that the Lord did not die on the cross. Indeed the Mahomedans believe that the Lord will come again to judge the world, and that He will find all the world then in an apostate state. There are ignorant men preaching worse everywhere in Christendom, who look for a state of growing perfection for man on the earth without Christ. Is it not humbling to think that a kingdom without the King is the idea of vast numbers, alike Nationalist and Dissenting? Some, no doubt, look for another and greater outpouring of the Spirit to bring it about. But He will thus be poured out again in honour of Christ's reign over the earth. The Mahomedans, blind as they are, own that in the coming crisis they themselves will have given up their Koran (their sacred book, as they call it), that the Jews will have given up the Old Testament, and that the Christians will have given up the New Testament. To such an apostasy Scripture shows that Christendom is rapidly hastening; and the strongest force toward it is in the sceptical theories which deny true inspiration, so prevalent in Christendom even now.

But here is the test, the touchstone of truth. "Every spirit which confesseth Jesus Christ come in flesh is of God." This is the simple and proper way to render the words. The true spirit confesses Christ's person. It is of all moment to understand this, because laying the stress on "coming in flesh" may overlook Who came thus. Undoubtedly His coming in flesh is very important, yet far more momentous is He who thus came. Who was He that came in flesh? persons in their senses would not say that you or I came in the flesh. Take the mightiest monarchs that founded world-powers — Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander, Caesar. Take the greatest names in letters, philosophy, oratory, science, and what not. Nobody could with propriety speak of their coming in flesh. The reason is because we could not appear at all unless we came in flesh. The wonder, the truth, the infinite grace, is that He came in flesh. It was a divine person, the Son of God, the Creator. That He came in flesh is a most glorious thing morally for God and for man. Nothing in eternity past can compare with it save His death on the cross; nothing in eternity future.

Evidently the grand point is not merely what He became, but Who He is that thus came. Surely He might have come otherwise. He might have come in His own glory, He might have come in angelic glory (as in this guise He had often appeared for a little). He was pleased to come in flesh to glorify the Father, to vindicate God as such, to bless those who believe, to judge those who dishonour Him, to restore creation, and to destroy the devil and his works. All turns on His eternal being and divine glory. This is the doctrine of John all through the Epistle as well as the Gospel, and prophetically in the Book of Revelation; and here it is comprised in the criterion of God's Spirit distinguished from the spirit of error.

No evil spirit will ever confess Him. They have the most awful dread of the Lord Jesus; and this natural dread is because they never doubt that He is a divine person, and that He is the appointed One not only to judge the world but in particular to punish them as the constant, active, and subtle instruments of antagonism to God and of endless mischief to man. Hence, whenever they were in the presence of the Lord, they showed the utmost terror. As the Epistle of James puts it, "The demons also believe and shudder." Alas! this is what man does not; he neither believes nor shudders; but the day is coming when he must.

Therein we have the first test. It is the glorious person of Him that came in flesh. The truth of Jesus Christ runs from the first chapter to the last of this Epistle. It is here presented in few and plain words as the test of the Spirit of truth who is come down to glorify Christ.

Next we have the counterpart. "And every spirit that confesseth not Jesus"; such is the shorter and, as I believe, the true reading, in which the best critics agree. The acceptance of this text confirms the genuine sense of what precedes, and makes it perfectly plain that it is the confession, not of a mere fact, but of the person. For in the detection of the evil spirit there is nothing expressed as to Christ's coming in the flesh, though implied of course. It is simply "Jesus," while here the article appears, "the" Jesus of whom more had just been said. "Every spirit that confesseth not (the) Jesus is not of God." He is adequate to detect every evil spirit. It is not only that He came, was truly man, and will come again. The Mahomedans believe all this; yet they themselves are, what they call others, unbelievers. For they do not believe in the glory of His person. Their unbelief makes them hate Christians, and join with the Jews in a measure against Christians. They only look at Him as a prophet, a wonderful man, excellent beyond all the sons of men, and the appointed Judge of the world when he comes to reign for seven years! But they do not believe in His divine nature, or that He put aside His divine glory to manifest God's grace.

But if the critical text be certain, it makes no difference at bottom to the text on the negative side as compared with the positive, yet it confirms in the strongest way that the confession which the Spirit of God requires is not of any mere fact but of the person of our Lord, for in the negative case only the person is named, though the fuller expression is implied. It may be of interest to know that manuscripts are not wanting which departed from the right text in ver. 2 and made it to express simply a fact, and that the Latin Vulgate followed that error, with a few early fathers Greek and Latin. But no editor of the slightest weight follows their mistake.

This terminates the first test of the Spirit of God. It is the confession of the truth, Jesus Christ come in flesh. Every spirit which confesseth Him is of God: every spirit which confesseth Him not is not of God. "This is that [spirit, or, principle] of the antichrist whereof ye have heard that it cometh, and now it is in the world already." It was not men only who were active but evil spirits; and the apostle speaks in real love but peremptorily. If a divine person in love to man deigned to be born of woman, how could it be an open question? Not to confess Him is to fight against God.

Thus closely connected with the first test we have the second test of the truth communicated to the Christian. Undoubtedly He personally is the truth (John 14:6), the Word become flesh who tabernacled among us. But God has given a fresh revelation of which He is the centre; and this is His word and the truth. It is this which is taken up here. It is the Father's word, and it makes known the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit. Do you ask where? It is what is commonly called the New Testament, the collected teaching of His holy apostles and prophets. Even then the false prophets claimed to have the fuller light of God. They did not admit that "the doctrine of the apostles" was God's word. It was all well as a beginning: they alone had the truth. They were like the Quakers, who are fond of testifying; but it is their own thoughts and talk. Others too are not wanting, down to such as lay more stress on a dream to show them Christ, or their duty is Christians, than on the written word of God. Now we have the rationalistic school, who deny that Scripture is the word, although some allow there may be words of God in it. But they all deny it as a whole to be God's word. Yet this unbelief unsettles everything in Scripture; for who then is to decide? Who is to say what is the word and what is not, if you are thrown on uncertain writings? This the sceptic likes, because he dreads the authority of Scripture, and the peril of which it warns all who do not bow to God. If it is the word of God, what an insult to God, and to the Holy Spirit especially whom the Lord declares it is unpardonable to blaspheme!

Those who are addressed no doubt felt the seriousness of what he had already said. He immediately adds another criterion of a kindred sort: the new word of God, His final communication, founded on Jesus the Lord and His work of redemption accomplished and accepted of God. "Ye are of God, dear children." It seems preferable to render this term τεκνία generally "dear children." For τέκνα all translate as "children" and "little children" (παιδία) is appropriated in 1 John 2:13 and 18 to the third class of the "dear children" or tekniva, which is the general designation of all the three classes, and so runs through the Epistle. Hence "children" in 1 John 3:1-2 includes all the family. We are all called "children of God," and we are so now; and it is a mistake to say "sons" of God, though we are also His sons. But here it is expressly "children" of God, not sons adopted but born of God, and so His children. But τεκνία is a diminutive term closely connected with "children"; and the reason for its use is as an expression of affection; as when a parent, not content to say to his little one "my dear," calls it "my dearie." It is meant for fondness of expression. This illustrates its force here; and therefore it seems best to say "dear children," in order to distinguish from "children" (τέκνα) on the one hand, and the little children or babes (παιδία) on the other.

"Ye are of God, dear children," is the address to the whole family. It is also the emphatic "ye." The false prophets said they were the reliable guides. No, he means, they are enemies of Christ, emissaries of Satan. "Ye" are God's children, in contrast with these pretentious and false guides that despise the dear children. God in Christ is to you the source of every blessing, life eternal, forgiveness, relation to Himself as Father, and the gift of His indwelling Spirit. "Ye are of God, dear children, and have overcome them," that is, the false prophets. But it was not because you have anything to boast of your own wisdom or power or holiness; but "because greater is he that is in you." The Christian's source of power is the Spirit of God abiding in him. God Himself abides in him; and this He makes good by His indwelling Spirit. Therefore he can say "because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world;" or as in 1 John 5:19, "The whole world lieth in the wicked one." Here it is clearly the devil working by these evil spirits.

Thus the emphasis on "Ye" is exceedingly cheering and establishing: to be told that they distinctively were "of God" in the sense of His being the source of all their blessing. Also, if God is the giver of the blessing, He does not change. The gifts of God are without change of mind on His part. When it is not a gift or a calling of God, He may repent. So He repented of creation (Gen. 6:6), as we are told; and He destroyed it. That was not a gift; but simply an act however immense. But when in sovereign love He calls to Himself poor guilty men to make them His own, when He makes a gift of eternal life, for instance, or forgiveness of our sins, or the place of a child, such boons are the gifts and calling of God; and they are without repentance. Here His mind never changes. The children may be too often foolish and sadly wrong, but He does not change.

What the apostle says here has great force without doubt. It is not only that they had received all these blessings from God, but "Ye (emphatically) are of God." They were born of God, loved as such by Him, and so abode as their new being. And if they "have overcome them," the instruments of Satan's deceit, it was "because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world," albeit its prince and god. These false prophets go boldly on with their spiritual wickedness, but "ye have overcome them." Christians were not attracted to them but held aloof; they heard the voice of the good Shepherd and followed Him. They knew that only He could give life, liberty, and food (John 10:9), and that He had come and was sent of the Father on this errand of God's love, and of His own love to them. Only the Son of God could utter such words; as only He laid down His life for them in atonement. They believed on Him who calls His own sheep by name, and they follow because they know His voice; they do not know the voice of strangers, but flee from them, and will not follow such. And now, as resting on Christ's redemption, God Himself was in them by His Spirit and abiding in them.

Next he describes these false prophets in the most trenchant terms, and lays another and awful emphasis on them. "They are of the world." The source of all their teaching as of all their conduct and aims was not God, but the world which is enmity against Him. It is therefore all under Satan's instigation, who is at the bottom of all the lies which pretend to be the truth. "For this reason they speak out of the world," as it literally runs: "(as) of the world" would be our idiom. The world which cast out God in Christ, and crucified Him was the spring of all they taught. The sense is not that they spoke "about" the world, and it was in order to distinguish from this that it has been paraphrased in the way just expressed. The world is the source, not the subject-matter, out of which they spoke. "And the world heareth them." The world loves its own; and therefore the world, having no knowledge of God, nor of sin which needs His intervention in the Lord Jesus in both life eternal and everlasting redemption, is content with the grandiloquent speculations of the blind, which leave out God and exalt man as he is. They never truly heard the voice of the Son of God. They are dead; and things of death are their realities.

Then he turns to another emphasis. "We are of God" is another and distinct thing from "Ye." "Ye" means the body of Christians, and real ones only. Besides what "we" share with "you," God is the source of the divine power which makes us the mouthpieces of His word, so that you hear Him in hearing us. "We" means apostles and prophets sent of Christ, and given for the blessing of His saints. They were inspired of God, and so taught the truth as it is in Jesus. The New Testament consists of these divine communications in a permanent form. As they taught, so the inspired wrote; and as they wrote; so they gave out orally. As the New Testament consists of a number of pieces which were gradually added together, and all was not completely gathered into a single volume as now, there might have been a difficulty for some. The Lord's authority was the end of controversy for the Old Testament to all men of faith. It might have been urged in early days that the new words were so different from the Old Testament, so comparatively simple here and so profound there, that it was hard to say of all the little books then in circulation, the Gospels and the Epistles, that they were certainly inspired of God. It is then of this new word of God that the apostle treats, embodied in the so-called New Testament. This is the further criterion. What the apostles and prophets testified in the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son in due time contributed this new deposit of inspiration; and the apostle refers to their testimony as being the truth as well as Christ. Christ, is the truth personally. The New Testament, giving the oral testimony of these chosen witnesses, is the truth in the written form. Therefore of these he says, "We are of God." We have in the Holy Spirit set out to you the truth of Christ from first to last; we are of God in and for this work: "He that knoweth God heareth us."

It seems a portentous mistake to apply the like to every Christian that preaches, no matter how truly, or to every teacher of the truth, no matter how well instructed he himself may be. What evangelist or teacher could claim such a place? Far be it from such so to exalt any gift the Lord may give today; nor have I ever known any true servant claiming such language for himself. It belongs only to inspired men. Consider seriously what the apostle says, "He that knoweth God heareth us." Could any minister on earth expect this absolutely? It is not only that in the divided state of Christendom no man could look for such a hearing, but it never was true beyond the apostles and prophets. The apostle speaks only of those who shared a position like his own in those days when the foundation of Christianity was laid down. It was right and necessary that believers henceforth should know the divine authority which God insists on for the apostolic teaching. But it is restricted to the inspired of the New Testament as it had been to those of the Old Testament. There is now, as there was then, gracious guidance in the Spirit to every one that preached or taught the truth; but inspiration has the special character of exemption from error in what was given as the rule of faith.

Further, though they are gone, God took care that we should have their Spirit-taught words, not only their testimony but in the very words which the Holy Spirit gave them to utter, that what they were as of God then should never be lost, while a Christian remains to profit by them. This Epistle for instance we have as truly as those to whom it was written, and we have the same Spirit of God who abides for ever. But here it was for the inspired to lay the foundation. No such category of God's servants is on earth now. But we have the work done by inspired writers. It is the written standard of Christianity and the church. He simply speaks of what they gave out, and the saints heard. It was for the most part written then, though somewhat remained for himself to add. But he hesitated not to say that "he that knoweth God (that is, every Christian) heareth us." He rejected the false prophets as of Satan, and not of God. "He heareth us" as the men exclusively raised up of God to give the truth, now contained in the New Testament.

His words are as important as of the deepest interest. Men have dared to say there is nothing in the New Testament that claims the authority of God for itself. It is only their ignorance that has blinded their eyes to what God does say there. Nor is this the only witness to the same truth; for there are several more in the New Testament. The first of those scriptures we may look at is 1 Cor. 11. For demons had been at work even in those early days, and the apostle took pains in 1 Cor. 12 to guard them from any spirit which refused to call Jesus Lord. But 1 Cor. 11:13 comes to us from God, "revealing" by the Spirit things hidden of old even from the prophets of early days. The time had come, for the Son of God had come, to reveal to us by the Spirit even "the depths of God." Next, he adds their inspiration, or communication to the believers: "Which things also we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit." It is not that the Spirit only conveyed the ideas, for by this notion even many undermine inspiration. They assume that the thoughts came from the Spirit of God; but that for the good men were left to do the best they could. No wonder, if so, that men fall into mistakes. But this notion of theirs is exactly what is false. He says here that the things revealed they also speak; and this in words Spirit-taught, instead of being left to human infirmity. In short the Spirit who revealed the truths was equally careful to safeguard the words, "expounding (or, communicating) spiritual things in spiritual [words]." The medium of conveyance, the words were Spirit-taught, not left to feeble man. Thus the passage expressly tells us that the words were inspired, and not the thoughts only.

Take another witness to the same effect from the last Epistle that the apostle Paul ever wrote, his Second Epistle to Timothy. He shows that, in the perilous times of the last days, the main safeguard lies not in uncertain traditions of unknown source, but in abiding in the truth which we have learnt with full conviction, knowing their source, and now in the written word. Consider the persons that speak and how they stand in their ways, their conversation, their life. He says therefore, "But thou hast fully known my doctrine" — in contrast with these bad men, whom he calls impostors, comparing them to the magicians in Egypt. "But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity" — or love — "patience, persecutions" — not popularity — "persecutions, afflictions which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured; but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." Such is the great mark of the real Christian now as it has always been. "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou," he says to Timothy, "in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them." Their character, you see, being sustained with the truth is of all moment; for no matter what a man may say, however clever or smooth or with fine sentiments, it is all worthless unless he lives the truth now to the conscience of God's elect.

"From a child thou hast known the sacred letters," the Old Testament so described in ver. 15, "which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" But next in ver. 16 he comes to "Every scripture" — not exactly "all," but "every scripture, is given by inspiration of God" (or, God-breathed). This is meant beyond doubt to cover the New Testament; and therefore purposely "every," because some part — at least John's writings — was not yet written. If he had said "all scripture," it would have meant "all that is already written"; but when he says "every scripture," the door is left open for any thing yet to be inspired. "Every scripture" is therefore the correct phrase, if any additions should be made to the Canon. Nor is it only that the men were inspired. What the apostle says here is that every thing coming under the character of Scripture is inspired. Here again it is not merely the ideas but what they wrote; Scripture necessarily means their words. The words were inspired just as much as the truth intended. Nor could anything be satisfactory unless it were so.

Let those who will compromise, so as to allow inspiration along with errors and inconsistencies, we who believe that God's inspiration excludes such failures are exhorted to cast away theory and accept the facts. But we deny that their objections are well-founded, though we do not overlook the difficulties (many of them from the copyists, and therefore apart from inspiration).

Assuredly too of all these theories, none is so inconsistent and irreverent as their view of a divine inspiration with error and discrepancy pervading what is so vital a part — the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. How can so motley a product as this carry with it the authority of God, or be entitled to the name of God's word? In fact the apparent discrepancies can be shown to flow from the distinct purpose of God by each of His instruments, each fitted specifically by grace for His work, and altogether effecting the more richly their combined testimony to the glory of the Lord Jesus beyond the thoughts of the writers themselves, but extant there for Christian use when required. But to admit that God inspired the various writers for His purpose of glorifying Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and then to argue that they were allowed to make not a few mistakes (some of them gross and puerile) is surely of all theories the most unsatisfactory and the least defeasible even logically, not to say that it is wholly unworthy of the Holy Spirit as well as of Him who is the truth. For this halfway theory, like all compromises in divine things, cannot approve itself to any but its inventors, and in all probability not to them. We all know that the Lord promised the power of the Spirit to teach the apostles all things, and to recall to their remembrance all the things He said to them. This halting hypothesis is that the Spirit only brought them to their memory in a way or measure which exposed them to these alleged defects. The believer, without pretending ability to clear up every difficulty, is assured that what He promised the Holy Spirit performed, and that every scripture is worthy, not of the writers merely but of God, its real Author.

Clearly then if "he that knoweth God heareth us," every Christian accepts the New Testament as of God; and again he who does not is no real Christian but a sceptic. For hearing the apostles and prophets of the New Testament is inseparable from knowing God now. This, the second test of the truth, goes farther than whether a man be a Christian. To profess Christ and reject plenary inspiration indicates the work of evil spirits. Infidelity as the rule begins with the Old Testament, but it will surely attack and reject the New Testament also. Singular to say, a gentleman who had filled a very important position with the world's honour, active in Sunday School work, and regarded as a devoted Christian, suddenly disclosed one day when we talked together, that, although he fully believed in the Old Testament, he did not believe in the New! The avowal could not but wound a believer beyond measure. To kill another with a revolver seems to me a far less sin against God. Is it not awful to think of such audacious infidelity in one accepted as a Christian teacher? "Herein know we the Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."

It is well here to observe how far goes the principle here stated peremptorily: "He that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God doth not hear us." It cheers the Christian, who finds his richest spiritual food not in the Old Testament though just as truly inspired, but in the New Testament where Christ is no longer veiled or distant, but manifested in all the fulness of His glory and His grace, in the majesty of God and the meek tenderness of the lowliest Man that ever trod the earth. We hear God speaking in the prophets His servants, but as Father in the Son, His Father and our Father, His God and our God. This judges man, religious no less than profane; this gives Him His place, and puts me in mine. As unbelieving it condemns pious superstition as thoroughly as profane infidelity, and every one of the many shades of unbelief in not hearing the voice of God in the words of the inspired, and here of Christ's apostles and prophets in particular. And we may notice by the way that the apostle Paul claims for himself not a whit less than the apostle John for them all. "If anyone thinketh himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognise the things which I write to you, that they are the Lord's commandment. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant" (1 Cor. 14:37-38). What a reproof to vain Christians like those Corinthians — who enter on ground so slippery without knowing it!

"For the word of God is living and energetic, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and capable of judging thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is not a creature unmanifest in his sight; but all things are naked and laid bare to his eyes with whom we have to do" (Heb. 4:12-13). Do we need the church to tell us that the sword of the Spirit is God's word when it pierces us through as nothing else? And as our Lord said in His last discourse to the unbelieving Jews, "If any man hear my sayings and keep them not, I am not judging him; for I came not that I might judge the world but that I might save the world. He that rejecteth me and receiveth not my sayings hath one that judgeth him: the word which I spoke, that shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:47-48). And here in 1 John 4:6 the Holy Spirit inspired our apostle to assert the equivalent of the word that came through the apostles and prophets. Does one need the church to tell me that he spoke the truth of God to the blessing of the believer, to the ruin of the false prophets, and of all that despise what God authenticates? The inspired were servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries; but the word they spoke, or wrote, was no less God's than if He had uttered it audibly to each that heard.

The church, the individual Christian, is directly addressed by His word. This is evident from the Epistles of the New Testament on their face. They were with a slight exception written to the general mass of the faithful, save the very few and short letters to fellow-labourers for work of which the faithful are not capable, but only such as had adequate authority. They remain for the faithful now as really as then; and if they find difficulties as the early Christians did, they have the same living Interpreter as their brethren of old. But the essential principle for faith is to have God speaking to His children immediately in His word. To interpose church or clergy between His word and His children is rebellion against God. It is false ground (too common among Protestants) to plead man's right to hear His written word; it is thoroughly true to assert His right to address, instruct, console or rebuke His own family; yea, more, to speak to the conscience of any and every man, as the Lord did and His apostles, and indeed His servants in general.

Nor is there a falser principle than that which has lately overspread the country through the Oxford revival of popery without the pope. They may base it on a saying of the famous Augustine bishop of Hippo; but it was unworthy of his piety. For it robs God of His due, to say that he would not believe the gospel, if the authority of the catholic church did not move him to it. Great a man as he was, here he did not realise what he said; for if one does not believe God's word because He says it through the inspired, one does not truly believe God but rather His vouchers: a real and manifest insult to God. Believing God Himself makes my faith to be of divine source and character. No other faith is acceptable to God. Even to believe on Christ because of the signs He wrought and they beheld was human faith, and unacceptable: "Jesus himself did not trust himself to them" (John 2:24). To look for, or allow any one or body to accredit God's word is a grievous sin against God and a deep injury to man; yea, it would be fatal unless it were a blunder, and the man had really better than such humanly grounded faith.

If any resort to the subterfuge that the apostle speaks only of the oral word, let them know that they are wholly and ungratefully in error when they thus slight the written word. The Lord Himself has ruled that, as bearing authority, Scripture is superior to anything merely spoken, even if He was the speaker who spoke as none else ever spoke. Therefore said He to the reasoning Jews, "Think not that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, Moses on whom ye have your hope. For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my sayings?" Both were the unimpeachable word of God, one spoken and the other written in the Holy Spirit; but as God's authority to man, the Lord undeniably gives the highest place to the written word, the permanent witness of the divine mind, which allows of meditation and consideration before God as no oral words could. With this we may compare the apostle's statement in Rom. 16:26, which is wrongly translated by the Revisers like others "the scriptures of the prophets," in flat contradiction of "now manifested" just before, and of "made known unto all the nations," as well as of its own anarthrous form, "prophetic scriptures" (in contrast with Rom. 1:2). The phrase really applies to New Testament scriptures which had begun to appear in the widest known Gentile tongue, and were going forth as the gospel did to all the nations.

These words close the subject; and they are an admirable close. Whether it was the confession of Christ as He really is, the truth of His person, or whether the authority of the word that revealed Him, here we have in the simplest form the truth in Himself, and the truth that flowed from Him. This is the Spirit of truth. But there is the spirit of error also. The devil is its active source in its deadliest form. It is natural that those who believe not in the gracious presence of God's Spirit should be no less incredulous of the immense part Satan takes in all the mischief of the world on a great scale generally; in the miseries of men individually as well is of nations, and of the savage races. But the worst part of the devil's evil is what he does in Christendom; what he insinuates against Christ and the revealed truth of God. There it is called not exactly the spirit of malice, but "the spirit of error"; and this is the most dangerous. It is not gross corruption, nor sanguinary violence, but outwardly plausible and subtle inwardly, with a little truth in front of a great lie, openness to will but no room for conscience, Jesus not confessed but perverted, and the Father unknown. Such is the working of the spirit of error. Thence will be the apostasy and the man of sin.

How great the grace of God, in face of the declension of the Christian profession and the revealed utter ruin and judgment without one promise of recovery, to provide for the safety and joy of the faithful, however tried: Jesus truly confessed and believed on; the word of God; and both by the Spirit of truth. This is the substance of the solemn parenthesis now before us.

There is a cry often raised among those who rest for security and guidance on outward ordinances and on official position, not on the words "hear the church." But it is striking to observe that they never think of applying these words of our Lord in Matt. 18:17 as He directs. It is His prescribed discipline where one brother sins against another, and it would seem on an individual matter between the two, at first unknown to others, which at length comes out through the offender's refractoriness, so that the assembly or church becomes the last resort. Is this ever the way with those who cite it for what the Lord contemplates neither here nor anywhere else? As everyone knows, "hear the church," in the right case as well as the wrong, means in their lips to hear the priest, or the priests collectively, or, among the extreme, the arch-priest, the Pope. But this is either sheer error or fraud, if they know they are without doubt misapplying His words.

Scripture however goes much farther, and shows that before the last apostle passed away declension had set in so decidedly that the Lord told John in the Spirit to write to the seven churches selected for the last letters to such on earth. They begin with that in Ephesus, so bright in earlier days, — but here threatened with the removal of its lampstand, and end with spuing that in Laodicea out of His mouth as intolerably nauseous. The Lord is not seen ministering in grace but judging in the midst, and therefore as Son of Man with garment flowing to the feet, not tucked up or taken off to do service. Now to every one of these churches chosen to set forth as a mystery the church on earth before it is seen no more here below, the Lord's final word is (with a promise before or after), "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches." Since the apostle's day the Lord has a grave controversy with the churches. Even then they were veering to ruin as assemblies, and He menaces at last with repudiation. The prophecy in the very next chapter shows the outer frame no longer an object of His communications; and the overcomers are seen glorified in heaven around a throne of divine judgment on Jews and Gentiles, with spared remnants from both: no church more is apparent on earth, but strokes of displeasure on the nations. These are the things which are about to, and must, take place after "the things which are" (the church period).

Now such a message from the Lord "to him that hath an ear," is of unspeakably solemn power. It negatives the perverted cry "hear the church." It calls on every faithful soul to "hear what the Spirit saith to the churches." The church never was a standard of truth, but God's word only. Assuredly the church (not Israel, nor Mohamedanism, nor the heathen) is the responsible witness of the truth by fidelity to it in word and deed. No where, and no when, but in the church was testified "the mystery of godliness," great as it is; the church is not the truth but its pillar and pedestal. Christ is the truth objectively, and the Spirit the power to work inwardly and bring it home. But when decay and heterodoxy set in, the outward professing church ceased to be even a reliable witness. And the Lord commands him that has the obedient ear to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The authority of the truth lies in Him whose words are divine; not so the pillar and pedestal which once hold them up to be seen and heard (1 Tim. 3). The pillar may be injured or defaced, but the truth remains for ever in Christ, the Spirit and the word. Yet 2 Tim. 3 speaks of men having a form of godliness but denying the power, and enjoins turning away from them. Ere long rival churches began, and not this only but also anathematising each other. This compelled all but the heedless to see the necessity of knowing the truth, in order to judge which of the two was the true church, or it might be neither. Thus the sevenfold call of the Lord to hear what the Spirit says to the churches, always true but now applied judicially and individually, became of increasing value. Assuredly it did not lose its need of application after the Reformation, when not only kings and nations claimed title to set up their own churches as distinctive religious corporations, but leading men asserted a similar right for their societies. Thus the very notion of the church got lost for most in the chaos of Christendom.

Nor can one be surprised that, having long ceased to believe in the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the assembly, they lost along with that the authority of the word, not only in practice but in principle, so far as to deny its self-evidencing light to the conscience of man, and to assert the need of the feeble falling church to make its authority valid. But their crookedness in this is as clear as their presumption; for they avail themselves of every semblance of misunderstood Scripture to accredit their own systems. But the principle of using the church to authenticate God's word is infidel, and convicts those who deliberately affirm it of departure from God's authority. On the very day of Pentecost the apostle Peter vindicated the gift of the Spirit by the word of God. It never occurred to him nor any other apostle to appeal to the church. God's word needs no vindication. To pretend that it does verges on blasphemy. The apostle Paul puts honour on the Old Testament in praising Berean Jews, not only for receiving the word with all readiness of mind, but also for searching the Scriptures if these things were so. They knew the old oracles to be of God, and did well to test the oral preaching of one whom they did not know, whose testimony they found by constant research corroborated by those Scriptures. The old written word was the standard which led them all the more to receive the new word with in readiness of mind.


1 JOHN 4:7-10.

Beloved, let us love one another; because love is of God; and every one that loveth hath been begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knew not God, because God is love. Herein was manifested the love of God in us (or, in our case), that God hath sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us, and sent his Son [as] propitiation for our sins."

After the episode, as we may call it, of the first six verses, we return to the new theme that was introduced by the apostle at the end of the third chapter. He had shown the love of our brethren as a divine affection, not merely to be desired but of such solemn import that it really decides whether we are Christians or not. This accordingly makes it of very particular interest for us to beware of self-deceit. "Beloved, let us love one another; because love is of God; and every one that loveth hath been begotten of God, and knoweth God."

If this divinely drawn inference is a sure and strong thing to say, there is no excuse for failure in love. But we must remember that love is not merely kind to a fellow-saint; it is also faithful to God. And sometimes the faithfulness of love is resented instead of being acceptable. In such a case the brother who is ruffled by being reproved for his failure whatever it be, and who regards the other's faithfulness as inconsistent with love, has need to beware. For if that resentment overcome him — and it sometimes does — the issue may prove that there never was the divine gift of life in his soul. We find too often that departure from love even in a small way, if yielded to, is an extremely grave sign. It may be a symptom of what may be called the moral leprosy of the man. For, as we are here taught, there is nothing really of God, nothing truly sound, in the man that does not love.

In principle too can anything be plainer? Hatred certainly is not of God; love is, being the reflex of the active energy in God's nature. Light is, if we may so say, the moral principle of His nature; that which is perfectly pure, which detects and rejects all evil; because in God absolutely it goes with holiness, and really in the Christian too, wherever there is life eternal. But love is the active outgoing of the divine nature, the seeking good without any motive whatever in those that are loved, but in its own spring of goodness. God's love not only gives all, but also forgives all. This is only possible toward us through the Mediator. For God is consistent in His ways; and, where sin is, there must be a ground of righteousness. Where is this to be found? Certainly not in sinful man. But God in Himself knew where unfailing righteousness would be found, even in days when unrighteousness prevailed.

Jehovah before the flood and after the law was looking onward to His Christ, and in an evil day spoke by His prophet of His salvation to come, and of His righteousness to be revealed (Isa. 56:1). Nowhere on earth could it be seen; but faith ever waited for it. There was no ground anywhere in man, not even in a true saint of God, not in Enoch nor in Elijah, to say nothing of others. They too looked forward to it in hope. But it was not yet an accomplished fact. The reliance of every saint was entirely on the One that was coming; for, as you know, He was proclaimed to man directly after he became a sinner. This was what Jehovah Elohim presented to the guilty pair, and in a most impressive way; for it was not in direct address to the fallen but in the judgment of the serpent. Who but God would ever have thought, in a sentence pronounced upon the enemy, of also embodying the revelation of a Saviour? Thus did He in all holiness intimate the revelation of a Saviour to crush the power of evil for the deliverance of its victims, but also in love to endure anguish in the accomplishment of that deliverance. For who but an unbeliever fails to see that this is clearly the meaning of the heel being bruised? But the woman's Seed, though thus suffering, should crush the serpent's head; thence is fatal destruction from which the evil one shall never recover.

The "love" here meant has no source in the creature; it "is of God"; and if God were not the spring and power, not a soul could be saved, nor a saint walk in His love. For love knows how to bring out all the resources of grace where man lies in utter ruin. See it in Christ who died for our sins, and lives to be Advocate with the Father. What love in both ways! It is not merely said that the believer's sins are forgiven: were this all, it might have meant that if a saint fell, he had to begin over again. Nor are Christians wanting who think that if a believer sins, he loses all and has to recommence; but those who so think evidently do not believe in life eternal as the present possession of the believer in Christ. It is humbling to say that others have denied life eternal, though in a rather different way; but, however it may be denied, it is to sin against a foundation truth of Christianity.

Next we are told that "everyone that loveth hath been begotten of God." To be of Him thus involves love in the children also. They have His nature. He that does not love never was born of God. But one may perhaps be badly instructed, and may feebly have learnt to judge the risings of the flesh, and consequently be not aware that a feeling of hatred is entirely incompatible with the Christian. The reason is its incompatibility with God and the life he has in His Son. "Love is of God, and every one" — nothing can be plainer — "that loveth hath been begotten of God, and knoweth God." Is not this a wonderful thing to say about a man on earth? We know but very little of one another; and one evidence of our ignorance even of near friends and relatives is that we are surprised from time to time by little things which cause immense difficulty and surprise with no end of pain and sorrow here below. Well, if we knew one another, and possessed a loving nature, these things could not be. How astonishing, then, that we, who are so ignorant even of our next-door neighbour, should be capable of knowing God! We may know far too little of our brethren; the reason of which is the feebleness of our love. Were our love strong by faith and the new life in unhindered exercise, we should be intimate with them all and enter into their sufferings with Christ and for His sake in ways as pleasing to God and comforting to them as blessed to our own souls. For confidence is the child of love; and known love begets confidence, as we saw with God as well as His children. And who does not know the comparatively little confidence even among those that are children of God? Lack of love is indeed a matter of deep reproach, and most inconsistent on the part of God's family. But here we have His mind in few and plain words.

There are immense difficulties in this world aggravated by the ruin-state of Christendom. There is a most subtle and restless enemy at work. We saw this when looking into the previous verses, "Believe not every spirit," etc. The Holy Spirit was sent down by the Father and the Son. As before to harass the Lord Jesus when on earth, so Satan in no long time sent out evil spirits to imitate the Spirit of God. It was not merely in demoniacs, but by false teaching, subversive of Christ Himself. Christ gave apostles, prophets, teachers, in the power of the Holy Spirit for edifying the members of His body; Satan counterworks all. "Believe not every spirit." And then followed the tests we have considered. But here it is our walking in love. It is not assaults on the truth, but the practical life of a believer which God would have instinct with love more than any other thing in those whom He has begotten with the word of truth. Righteousness is assumed, and obedience; but there must be love; and as love is the energetic power in God's nature, so is it also the indispensable power that works in the Christians' life one with another, coming out more saliently perhaps than anything else. Is it so with you, my brother? Do I fail in love?

He enters on this subject as he did before, saying "Beloved." it was a call particularly for their affections, though then a warning; he was very much in earnest about the danger. Here were these evil spirits; and there is apt to be much unbelief as to either the Holy Spirit on one hand or Satan and his emissaries on the other. There are more than ever evil spirits at work in Christendom; for therein particularly they work. It is not merely in heathen countries, with their dark and cruel superstitions; in Christendom the spirit of error takes a fair form and pretends to highest truth. "Have we not truth of which none ever before heard, and withal of the utmost value? It was all very well to have had God's righteousness, the heavenly calling, the mystery of the church, and so on; but now we have got something far better. Then it was but tuning the instruments; now the concert is begun in earnest, and we are the men!" No doubt it is utterly false, but such is the spirit and the blinded feeling of those animated by evil spirits. What evident vainglory in contrast with the meek Lord of all! It is for the destruction of the truth and not the edification of the souls that trust them, even worse than what Scripture calls "serving their belly." They are of the world, and out of it they speak. They have their own motives from self.

But the precious fact as to the love that is of God is this: the entire motive is His own goodness; as man has the reverse of that in his nature. The believer receives grace as a lost sinner in all its sovereignty as its object, and having life eternal in Christ has it flowing out habitually. It is therefore of the Spirit acting on the new nature, as being begotten of God. He is entitled to boast in God as well as in God's love without any motive but the good that He is, which He delights to communicate to others. Such are Christians who by the faith of Christ are filled, firstly with being loved of His love, and secondly, carried out in the exercise of that love to their brethren (for this is the direction here) by the Spirit of God. But the principle is quite clear: to love is inseparable from being born of God; and so he that loves proves by this very fact that he is a child of God. It has nothing at all to do with natural affections, which everybody ought to know may be strong in the most wicked men and women. Deadly enemies of God, given up to base lusts and passions, yet they may have much natural sweetness and warm benevolence too. None of these things is His love, nor in the least spoken of here, nor anything but that which shone in the Lord Jesus. "Love," says the apostle, "is of God." Whatever is of ourselves is not of God. But this love is not of ourselves, even in a believer. He derives it entirely from above; he is born of the Spirit; and what is so born is spirit and not flesh. He is born of God; and God is love.

The connection here is with what was introduced at the end of the third chapter, where, for the first time in this Epistle, we hear of the Spirit of God. The form there taken is of God's abiding in the believer; and the proof is the Spirit which He gave us. The Spirit given to the believer abides in him, and is the proof that God abides in him. This is a great advance on having the new life. Great as is the boon of a divine nature that we partake, it is much more to have God abiding in us. Yet this is effected and provided by that gift of the Spirit which is the distinctive mark of a Christian.

The aim then is to enforce the mutual love of Christians by the source whence it flows, and by the nature which, if it acts, must accord. But hindrances there are which run strongly against love, within and without; so that the saints need God to abide in them in order that love should work freely and fully. We therefore require not only to be begotten of God, but also divine power, nay, God's abiding in us, in order that we should love one another according to God. If we were only born of God, there would still remain a mighty hindrance, which the new birth does not so much as touch. And what is that? The ignorance of redemption. There must be faith in the work of Christ for us, in the blood of Christ that cleanseth from every sin. There is a divine work in the soul before one rests on the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Take any scriptural case given to us.

Let me present one from the Gospel of Luke: the female in Luke 7, of whom the Holy Spirit says so much in the few words, "a woman in the city that was a sinner." Yet she came, much to the astonishment of Simon the Pharisee, into his house when he had the Lord and the disciples dining with him. Even under such deterrent circumstances this woman came, who would have dreaded at any other time to enter that man's house. What emboldened her? Looking to the Lord in faith, nothing could keep her back from intruding (as it must have appeared, and as everyone would naturally say) into such a house under such circumstances. But the power of faith breaks through no small obstacles. Yet at that time she did not know her sins forgiven; nor were they forgiven. But she was on the way. She loved the Lord. It would be too much to say that she loved the disciples; still less that she felt for Simon any more than for other such souls. Another mighty work of God produces this too. But the Lord drew her to Himself by a new force of divine attraction. This is the effect of faith working by love. His grace created an affection she never before knew. She was perfectly sure the Lord was filled with holy love. Why was He thus going about all the country? What was the motive power of all His life, words and ways? Was it not divine love?

Life already wrought in the hitherto sinful woman, full of defilement, who had heretofore a character of infamy. But she believed in the Lord already; and she loved much, as He testified to Simon and them all. She found in Him a new life, and a new character formed by this blessed One. She might never see Him again nor have a like opportunity, however inopportune to other eyes. It was now or never for her soul; and so it is when simple faith actuates the heart. There is no loss of time, no allowance of any excuse for putting off; but in she goes, and "stood behind at His feet weeping." Her unconscious bearing was morally beautiful; certainly she had not learnt it from her former life: it was entirely the effect of faith in Christ on her soul. There she began to wash His feet with her tears, and was wiping them with the hairs of her head. The Lord knew it all, and needed no turning round to look at the one behind. He knew it all perfectly, nobody so well as He. But it only drew out the contempt of Simon; for the ill-feeling of the unbeliever is against the Lord yet more than against His followers; he does not always say so, and perhaps he does not always recognise that so it is. It is possible that even Simon would not have allowed that; but it is evident that such was the moral of it all for him — the devil's moral. "This [one] if he were a prophet, would have known who and what the woman is that toucheth him, for she is a sinner." So he said in himself; but the Lord heard and answered. Had He not come to save the lost? and if Simon had broken down as she, to save Simon too? But to take the place of a sinner truly and before God is a harder thing for a proud self-righteous Pharisee than for a woman who had no character to lose.

But grace and truth can break down a Saul of Tarsus on the one side, no less than give a thorough sense of sin to a dissolute on the other. What was it that here produced brokenness as well as love? It was Jesus to faith, divine love in Jesus. But she needed more; and grace gave her more on the spot. For it is an immense accession for the heart to know that the sins are forgiven. And the Lord would not leave this to be implied only; He pronounced the word of God which the soul craves, Thy sins are forgiven. He was entitled to do so. The work was not yet done on which it is grounded; but the Judge of living and dead can never say what is not perfectly right, any more than the Judge of all the earth can do anything but right. Thus the Lord therefore pleaded her cause, and refuted the Pharisee's unbelief; for He showed Himself the Lord of the prophets, and forgave sins as only God is entitled to do. Out of the fulness of His grace He brought the woman into the knowledge that her faith had saved her, and sent her away in peace.

Now, till we know that our faith has saved us, and that our sins are forgiven, this question must always occupy the mind. It is necessarily the great question for the soul when awakened. How can a quickened soul find rest till he knows that his sins are effaced, and that he is saved? All the while that there is hesitation and uncertainty herein, there must be pre-occupation of heart; and necessarily if we have no assurance that our sins are forgiven, we are not in a condition to let out the heart in love toward those who are thus at rest. Till then we cannot properly take the place of children of God. As the woman received it from the lips of the Lord, we have by faith to get it from or by the written word of God. If we have not forgiveness certified by the word of God, if we have not our new relationship carried home by Scripture to our souls, we must act on our own feeling, our own thoughts, or perhaps those of a man who knows no better himself. But even if it were the best preacher conceivable, who preached nothing but the truth, one is bound to receive the witness of God which He has witnessed concerning His Son. And "he that believes on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." Nobody but God can avail, and there is no rule of faith but His word. The truth we must have therefore from God, and how am I to get it from God? By the word now written.

Therefore you cannot lay axe more wickedly to the tree of truth than by denying the divine authority of Scripture. One of the prevalent signs of unbelief now is that Scripture contains the word, as the more modest freethinkers say. But what the Lord and the apostles taught is the word. Again, as "every scripture is inspired of God," so they authenticate what was written for the church of God. In these "prophetic Scriptures" they may incorporate what the devil says, and what bad people say. Of course these things are not given for us to follow but to learn, as far as God pleases, of enemies. Only unbelief makes a difficulty; but the believer accepts from God what He tells of evil as well as of good. What is thus written is really the word of God to profit by His wisdom, that me may the better avoid and be on our guard against every snare that comes from Satan or from mere nature. But Scripture is the written word of God.

Ever since the blood of Christ was shed or, to speak more generally, since He died and rose, the way in which souls enter into peace is through faith in the glad tidings. The Spirit proclaims the saving grace of God in the gospel message. Faith finds in Christ not only life but peace. This is the true preparation not only for obedience but for loving those who believe, children of God like ourselves. There is no doubt that the new nature loves. Life eternal given to us has the capacity of love; but flesh not duly judged is a hindrance in the way. Grace calls us to feel the inconsistency before we can go forward. There may be a steam engine and its various parts ready for use, but the steam must be there in order for it to work. This illustrates what is communicated in the verses before us.

There is again the dark side. "He that loveth not knoweth not God." It does not matter what may be a man's gift, or what may be his activity, or what reputation and influence he may possess, if he does not love he does not know God. The word is unsparing of self-deceit. He that has been begotten of God loves his brother, and knows God. His new divine affections have a definite sphere; and he has that knowledge of God which is distinctly said by our Lord to constitute life eternal. What He presented to the Father in John 17:3 is virtually reproduced here in a brief dogmatic statement with its negative. "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." Where no love is, there is no knowledge of God. The reason is as plain as it is decisive; "for God is love."

The verses that follow set forth God's love in its sovereign grace and fulness, the stream that fills the void heart for loving. The Spirit speaks of His love in its bright display in Christ the Son, sent in infinite grace into this world of sin, self, and darkness. It would be hard to match its simple grandeur even in Scripture. "In this was manifested the love of God," not exactly "toward us," or "toward all" as the apostle Paul says in Romans 3:22. The love of God is manifested toward everybody in principle. Here it is more definite, and rather looks "upon all that believe," as is said in the same verse. It "was manifested in us." It speaks thus of its taking effect. It was manifested in our case. The "in" therefore seems quite the proper word. "In this was manifested the love of God in us" or "in our case." Here, as being the more extended mission of our Lord for life eternal, it is not merely God "sent" but "hath sent." It expresses the permanent result of the past act. In the following ver. 10 it is simply "God sent"; for though it expresses simply the fact, it was far the deepest, greatest, most momentous end which ever engaged the Father and the Son in time or eternity. The difference is but slight, for it is only another tense of the same verb; but as all differences of Scripture are by divine wisdom, it is well for us to enquire into their respective meanings. "Sent" expresses simply the fact. It may be, and this is, of the utmost possible consequence, and the single act enhances it in this case. But "hath sent" expresses the present result of a past action, which suits His mission that we might live through Him.

"In this was manifested the love of God in us (or, in our case), that God hath sent his only-begotten Son." What care to state the glory of His person in this case "His only-begotten Son," it was not necessary to repeat in the next verse, though of course "the Son" is the same. But here it was wise to signalise a work of such weight and lasting consequence in language of the simplest character that its immensity, unadorned and unfathomable, might fill the heart to overflowing with the love of God. "God hath sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." This is the first action of divine grace, essential as the first need if we were truly dead spiritually. So it remains for each soul now. The first requisite and primary proof of God's amazing love is that those who were the objects of His love, and positively dead Godward, should be given to live. They had no sense of their own state; they had no acquaintance with God; and in their moral ruin they were wholly indifferent to either. Intellectual notions of man's mind might be there, but not a pulse of life toward God. They had conscience to make Him an object of more dread than the most furious demon.

Yet in the face of such depravity "God hath sent His only-begotten Son into the world." What a truth! How wonderful the bare fact! especially as it was in nothing but love. It was not something done in heaven. The Only-begotten Son He had sent to give a life in this world to fit for God there whence He came. But no work done even by the Son on high could suit either God or man. The way of love was that the Son should become man to glorify God, and give life in its highest nature to dead man by faith. Jews there were, and nations; but they were alike dead in their offences and sins, by nature children of wrath. As men they were dead while they lived. They had no hatred of sin, no love of grace; not one trait inwardly or outwardly was right in them. The mind of flesh in circumcision and uncircumcision was really and only enmity against God. Nevertheless God has sent His Only-begotten Son, the delight of the Father through all eternity, into the world, that we should live through Him; and the life given was His life.

The Old Testament tells how the race, whether Jews or Gentiles, had behaved toward God for thousands of years; the New Testament tells a still worse tale. Yet He who knew all beforehand has sent His Only-begotten into the world; and for what? Was it for judgment? It was for the very opposite; it was to quicken dead souls with the life eternal that was in His Son. For no less is meant in the words "That we might live through Him." There was a new life that man has not as man, no, not Adam innocent in the paradise of Eden, who disobeyed when all was good in him and around him, bringing in death and judgment. Life was proposed to natural man, to Israel in the law: if he obeyed it, he should not die. But the only result of this was that it became a ministration of death and condemnation; because the introduction of the law provoked the will of man, and he became a transgressor, and thus a worse sinner after he had it than before. Sin that it might appear sin was thus working out death by what is good, in order that sin might become exceeding sinful. There was not even the prolonging of his old life. The upshot to the sinner under law was total ruin.

But there was another life, life eternal, and this life was in the Son; in the Only-begotten Son whom God's love had sent into the world. No doubt the Father raises the dead, and quickens: it is the prerogative of God. Therefore the Son also quickens whom He will. But in becoming man, though He never ceased to be God, He in perfect humiliation receives all from God, as becomes perfect man. Hence even as the Father has life in Himself, so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself (John 5:26). The Son was the One sent to become man and conversant with man. He was the object of faith always; and when become man He is still more evidently and urgently its object as Jesus Christ yet the Son, and in one person. So too it was increasingly evident for whom He had been sent in God's love. It was for man, not for angels. "The life was the light of men." But no illumination suffices for man's need; and so, though coming into the world He lightens, or is light to, every man: there was far more requisite, and He was the life to him that believed. To as many as received Him He gave title to become children of God. They were born now and thus of no creature source, but of God. But there is no believing and no new birth without the word as well as the Spirit. There must be God's word, because the very essence of faith is that, instead of trusting my thoughts or those of others, I believe God in His word (Rom. 10:17, James 1:18, 1 Peter 1:23-25). Christ is the incorruptible seed by God's living and abiding word.

When Adam and Eve sinned in paradise, it was because they were oblivious of, and not subject to, God's word. Eve was deceived by the serpent's temptation, Adam not so but more boldly transgressed. The word of God did not govern their souls. The subtle foe insinuated distrust of Him who forbade them to eat of a tree which held out to make them know good and evil like God. Then the lust for it followed, when the woman was not afraid to parley a moment longer with a creature whose aim became evident to entice her to disobey the positive prohibition of God, and doubt that death would follow. "Oh, dear, no; God will not be so hard as that. Look at the beautiful fruit! so desirable also to make you wise. God wishes the knowledge of good and evil to belong to Himself alone. You will find it a new status altogether when thus enabled yourselves independently to judge between good and evil. You know nothing about this now. But when You eat the fruit of that tree, from your own conscience you will know whether a thing is good or evil. Why not rise to independence of Him who slights man, and assert your own rights as monarchs of all you survey? "

It was self-will, the sad root of evil. In love the Son of God came in order to stand in the breach. The first necessity is not atonement through the shedding of the Saviour's blood. Nobody ever believes the gospel without having a nature from God that craves and cries to God for what the gospel supplies. In every case one is born of God before he really rests upon the propitiation of Christ. For, having thus a new life, he soon enters into its necessity, and also its preciousness; he in faith eats Christ's flesh and drinks His blood. And therefore it is said that he believes in his heart (Rom. 10:9) that God raised Him from out of the dead. This does not mean a certain fervour of feeling. It has nothing to do with throwing the soul on his emotions; it means that, instead of resisting the truth, his heart goes along with the glad tidings God sends him. With heart it is believed to righteousness, founded on God's estimate of the atoning work of the Lord Jesus; as with mouth confession is made to salvation: thus is God honoured, and His Son, the rejected Lord.

But the first desideratum is the want of life, life eternal in the Son. Till he gets life, what adequate sense of his sin? till then, how can he know God's holy nature in any real way? He has no more than a dread of God. A heathen might have this; and the evil spirits believe and tremble. So we are informed on divine authority, and revealed facts are explained by it. The reason is that they know too well there is no forgiveness for their rebellion. Although they believe Who Jesus is, it does them no good: they are sentenced to destruction. They sinned irreparably. There is no possibility of salvation for an evil spirit, for a fallen angel.

But it is a totally different thing with man. Christ's birth witnessed complacency in men; how much more His atoning death! But in order that the shedding of His blood should purify the heart and conscience, there is a new nature given by receiving the Lord Jesus. It is not yet resting on His work, but believing in His grace as come in flesh, and the glory of Him that came on this marvellous mission of love, God's love. As surely as the heart receives Him thus from God, at that very moment the life is imparted to the soul. Life is always an instantaneous thing, whereas it is not so by any means for peace with God. As a matter of fact there may be not a little of going through experiences, whereby souls keep themselves without peace for months and even years. Yet all the while they partake of a divine nature through bowing to the Son of God, though without solid peace. They have life from the moment that the heart receives Him. And thus they acquire a divine perception of evil within, as well as of their past ways; not only of what one had done, but of what one is. Such is the effect of having divine life. It is therefore introduced here perfectly in the true and proper place. It comes in before the propitiation is applied to deliver from the burden of guilt.

"In this was manifested the love of God in us" (or, in our case), "that God hath sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." The reason we have seen to be that till then we were spiritually dead before God, absolutely without any living tie with God whatsoever, only the awful responsibility of being naturally God's offspring, but nevertheless enemies of God by wicked works. Having been by God's constitution of man His offspring (in contrast with the lower animals) does not help us, when ruined by sin, to have our soul saved. Man fell when under responsibility, and the Jew's undertaking to obey God's law only aggravated his responsibility, and could in no way deliver him from the wrath to come. Then the world consisted either of man without the law pursuing his own will, or of the Jew under law trying to recommend himself to God. But the grace that saves is not in the sinner but in the Saviour. "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." This is the gospel. It is not our love to Him, but His love to us while still sinners, His own spontaneous and gratuitous love to us.

Here too is afforded this second display of His love. The apostle shows us how God's love acted in view of our load of guilt, and not only our state of spiritual death. God's love wrought in what to Him was beyond all things severe to His heart and to His Son's. Man cannot conceive what it was for Jesus to bear the judgment of our sins at God's hand. It was also wholly beyond the thought of saints; even the apostles saw but the outside of the cross till the Lord opened their understanding to understand the Scriptures.

Yet Scripture had prefigured the Lord in atoning grace and infinite suffering in the Law, and the Psalms, and the Prophets. No disciple then but had witnessed the solemn ritual of the Day of Atonement; none who had not heard the unique Psalm 22; nor one who had not been perplexed by Isaiah 53, yet from no obscurity of language, but from truth so strange. Jesus making propitiation for our sins is the solution of the riddle in all three Scriptures. No words of His before the cross gave the key; no sight even of Him crucified brought the truth into their hearts. The blood of His cross made peace in God's mind; to theirs as yet it was bitter anguish and cruel disappointment; for His words had fallen on ears yet deaf to the meaning of His death, and they had not known the scripture that He must thus suffer that they or any might have redemption. On the resurrection day the downcast pair on the way to Emmaus told out the state of all, when they said to Himself, "We did hope that He it was that should redeem Israel" — the very thing for which He had laid the efficacious and everlasting basis (ver. 21)! But what said our blessed Saviour in reply (vers. 25, 26)? O senseless and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets spoke! Ought not the Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into His glory?" Yet He had told them not long before (Luke 17:25), "First must He suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation."

Let us look into one of these in the light of the risen Lord and as the Holy Spirit bore witness. What meant that cry, not from the robbers on either side but from the rejected Messiah in their midst? "My God, my God, why didst Thou forsake Me?" This was the bitterest of that suffering without parallel, the righteous Servant, the beloved Son, forsaken of His God, when abhorred of His people, scorned by the Gentiles, deserted of His disciples. Why, after enjoying uninterruptedly the light of His Father's face throughout every step of His path of trial and sorrow, why was it hid from Him now when He needed most its cheer and consolation? Well He knew; yet He left it for faith to answer it from those that were once dead, but now enabled to confess that they had nothing but sins, through His grace who bore them in His body on the tree. Oh how deep was our guilt! yet deeper far His love who sent His Son, not only as life to the dead, but as propitiation for our sins, whatever the cost; and it was immeasurable. Reproach, despite, laughter, scorn, jeers were there to wound Him from all high or low, religious, civil, military, even the crucified criminals; many bulls, Bashan's strong ones, surrounded Him: dogs, and evil-doers in a crowd; physical suffering all the more felt by His person, instead of less, because of His perfection, when poured out like water, all His bones out of joint, His heart like wax, His strength dried up as a potsherd, His tongue cleaving to His palate. But what was all this together compared to being abandoned by His God, as He Himself felt and owned?

Many a saint of His had suffered to the utmost of bodily anguish from heathens, ay, and from Jews, yet filled with patience and joy. Many more of His disciples have suffered still more hellish tortures under the misnamed Catholic Church, and especially by its child, the abominable Inquisition; but they too triumphed in His name over these worst of earth's persecutors. Yet He confessed Himself forsaken of His God, confessed it to God in the agonies of the cross as the deepest woe, so that His enemies might hear, though they understood not more than His friends till the risen Lord set all clear, and the Holy Spirit made the truth realised in power of peace as well as of testimony to all.

But the meek Lord did more. Even when realising the horror to His holy and loving soul of being forsaken, He fully vindicated Him that smote and bruised in a way beyond all creature thought, "And Thou [art] holy, that dwellest amid the praises of Israel." And more still, He owned that God's abandonment of Him was the one exception: "our fathers trusted in Thee; they trusted in Thee, and Thou didst deliver them. They cried unto Thee, and were not confounded. But I [am] a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and the despised of the people." Yes, so it must be, if He was propitiation for our sins. For we the guilty could not be saved righteously, unless God made the Sinless One sin for us that we might become God's righteousness in Him. This, and this only, is the true answer to His "Why?" this the sole and complete solution of the enigma. But it is still impenetrable to all unbelievers, to Israel more than to any, but yet to be their song of everlasting praise when the veil is taken away which still lies upon their heart. So the latter half of this very Psalm reveals with all plainness and certainty, beginning with the Christians' little flock, before the light of heaven dawns on "the great congregation" (ver. 25), leading the right way for all the ends of the earth to remember and turn to Jehovah, and for all the families of the nations to worship before Him, in the days (not of Christianity and the church, but) of the Kingdom, when He rules among the nations as He is not in the least doing now.

It is the more important and indeed imperative to have the clear truth of Christ forsaken of God in atonement for sin; because thus alone is the ground of God's grace and of our peace taken firmly and with divinely given intelligence. And thus alone can we estimate aright, however feebly, the unfathomable suffering of the Man of sorrows and suffering, for God and for us, glorifying Him and saving us who believe. Here the theologians, even the truly pious, are shallow and faulty; and their own souls lose proportionately, and those who confide in their guidance as much or more. One does not think merely of the Greek communion or of the Latin where the poverty is extreme. But take the most evangelical of the Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed; or of the Nonconformists who boast of their freedom from tradition and prejudice. Of these none better could be adduced than — not dull Thomas Scott, but — genial Matthew Henry, the devout son of a devout father driven out by the "Act of Uniformity" in 1662. Yet that most respectable of English Commentators, from whom not another* differs in this, unmistakably shows himself unable to seize the gist of God's forsaking Jesus on the cross. For he says, "A sad complaint of God's withdrawings, v. 1, 2. This may be applied to David, or any other child of God, in the want of the tokens of his favour, pressed with the burthen of his displeasure," etc.† Of course Henry believed it did apply to Christ crucified: else he could not be owned as a Christian. But even where he does, it is superficial, as it must be in all who extend its application beyond Christ. The Psalm speaks throughout of Him alone as its personal aim, and of Him in the opening forsaken only as atoning for all saints before or after. Not one ever shared that abandonment, which He alone could bear, though infinitely more to Him, the Holy One of God, than to any saint who ever breathed. He explicitly denied it of all before Him; the Holy Spirit in the New Testament excludes it from every Christian. He was forsaken of God for our sins, that they and we who believe might never be. It is utterly false that "this may be applied to David, or any other child of God." It is, without their knowing it, a serious weakening of the gospel. Even where the believer's sin calls for the severest chastening, God deals with him as a father, chastens whom He loves, and scourges every son whom He receives, for in many things we all stumble; but He has said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee. It is all absolute truth of His grace; and as it applies to earthly difficulties, so still more evidently to those of our divine relationship through the efficacy of Christ's propitiation.

* The pious Bp. G. Horne on the Psalms wrote in just the same mistaken strain. I should hail with delight a single divine who knew and wrote better as to this fundamental truth of the gospel; but such are absolutely unknown to me.

† Exposition of the Old and New Testaments with E. Bickersteth's preface, in six vols. 4to. London, 1839.

To the day of atonement's typical witness, one need not refer more now than to point out the beautiful distinction between the two goats, which together shadow the one atoning offering, for the children of Israel, one lot for Jehovah, and the other lot for Azazel (the goat that goes away). The first goat was slaughtered, and its blood brought within the veil. Over the second goat, the complement of the first, the high priest confessed all the iniquities of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, laid as it were on its head, and then sent it away by one standing ready into a land apart, into the wilderness never to be seen again. It is the witness of Christ's substitution to bear our sins away into a land of forgetfulness, as the slain goat is of propitiation for sin judged before Jehovah in vindication of His nature and majesty and word dishonoured by evil. Together they foreshadowed Christ's atoning work, in which God was shown not sparing the Saviour, His own Son, that He might spare guilty sinners as we have been. Was not the love of God in both the Father and the Son fully manifested in Christ's sacrifice to God for us that we might be for ever saved?

Of Isa. 52:13-53 we may say the less, because it speaks itself so plainly of Messiah to be exalted and very high, but first suffering for sins sacrificially for His sinful people, that they might share the blessing and honour thus won for them by His grace. We share His life sufferings, and some too His martyr sufferings; but He is absolutely alone as the Propitiation and the Substitute. And these only are typified in Lev. 16. These only brought on God's forsaking Him in the opening of Ps. 22. None but He endured God's judgment of sin, and of our sins; and nothing but this judgment brings God's forsaking. We may endure severe discipline of our faults, but it is in His love; He and He only, as our sin-offering. What means His being wounded for our transgressions? bruised for our iniquities? the chastisement of our peace upon Him? What means Jehovah laid upon Him the iniquity of us all? "For the transgression of My people was He smitten" (not on Israel, as the Jews say). Still more decisively "it pleased Jehovah to bruise him." He put Him to grief (or, suffering). "When Thou (Jehovah) shalt make His (Messiah's) soul an offering for sin," what does this mean but His atoning work? What again "He shall bear their iniquities"? and "He bore the sin of many"? Only blind and obstinate unbelief can evade what God thus reveals as clearly as words can make it.

"Herein is love, not that we loved God." This the law of God demanded but never received, any more than loving his neighbour. And man easily deceives himself in estimating his love. How many Jews were trying to make believe that they did love God as well as man! But it was sadly short of the divine standard, as the Lord Jesus made evident when here below. Till the heart is set free by Christ's redemption and has peace with God, it is impossible for love to break through the "barriers and integuments of death. Even saints under law are like Lazarus with his grave-clothes about him, alive but needing to be loosed and let go. How is the heart won? "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as propitiation for our sins." The more conscience there is while under law in spirit, the less happy we are. Exercised souls do not walk slipshod before God. They feel their shortcomings, and are grievously downcast about themselves. They are afraid that God has the same uncertainty about them that they cannot avoid about Him. That He justifies the ungodly through Christ's propitiation for our sins is the full proof of His love to us when sinners.

Life, as we have seen, must precede peace. By many a scripture, perhaps by God's solemn words as to sin and sinners, a person might be truly awakened. This is set out in the parable of the prodigal son, following the lost sheep, and the lost silver. In the intermediate parable the Lord presents the lost one dead, as before in the sheep actively straying. There is an evil life in which man is active, and goes astray; there is another life to which he is dead. These aspects of death are in the earlier parables. The foolish sheep slipping heedlessly away and exposed to all mischief is man active in departure from God. The lost piece is one dead in sins. The Shepherd bears all toil in quest of the stray. The light shines by the Spirit's work till the lost piece is found. This is far from being all. The prodigal son is required to complete the picture; and therein a double work of God appears. First, the prodigal "cometh to himself," he is brought to repent. He judges himself a sinner; he acknowledges that he has sinned against heaven and in his father's sight, according to the language of the parable. He is now going the right way; he seeks after God. He had been seeking his own lusts and passions before; now that he is brought to himself, "he rose up and went unto his own father." But he has not yet peace. He is still in spirit under the law. "Make me as one of thy hired servants." This is exactly what the law does; instead of leading into freedom, it can only put under bondage. The gospel alone can tell of all bonds broken by the Saviour, and the slave brought into the liberty of Christ. See this set out in the way of grace with the prodigal. "While he was yet a long way off his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell upon his neck, and covered him with kisses." He, no doubt, was troubled about himself, and forecasting how the father would receive him. It is the father, not the son, who runs to meet him; it is the father who embraces him, notwithstanding his evil and his rags. What a melancholy sight is the son, to which he had reduced himself by folly and sins! In the father, all-overcoming love! But the father does not allow him to say, Make me as one of thy hired servants; he has the best robe brought for him, a ring put on his hand, and sandals on his feet, the fatted calf killed, and such a feast as never was before in that house. It was for a son dead but alive again, lost and now found.

We learn thus graphically what is also taught dogmatically in scripture, the goodness of God leading to repentance, drawing from the wrong to the right direction, with self-judgment of the soul, sure marks of life Godward. But there was no deliverance from fear or law till he was in the father's arms, and the full sense of sonship by grace. Thus, and only then, he knew that all was clear. The father's embrace made this perfectly plain, and the father's ways with him were all the fruit of it. It is just so in the gospel, but many stop at the threshold. They have got out of the land where no one gave to the most abject want, but not to the Father who with the Son grants us all things. And here too it is. "Herein is love," life for the dead, and propitiation for the guilty. Is it not more blessed than if one had never been a sinner? Adam in paradise had nothing like it. Adam had no such life as Christ's. It was not given for paradise. He may have got it afterwards, like others who believed, the Old Testament saints; but he had it not then or there. It is really therefore when man has come to his worst, that God brings out His best. This is Christ not merely coming to give us life, but dying as propitiation for our sins.

When we think of the glory, and the sufferings withal, especially at God's hand of the One who thus died; when we think of all the sins and iniquities of those that He bore sacrificially, — Oh what a wondrous filling of the gap that nothing else could till between God and the sinner! This is what is implied here. "Not that we loved God" — we may have tried, but if so, we failed totally. That was the law; here is the gospel — "He loved us, and sent His Son as the propitiation for our sins." It was all done in His one act, in His one suffering. "Christ once suffered" ("once" was enough) "for sins, just for unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). He was man; but was He not God? He was the Son; and He is risen. There is the glorious proof that He triumphed. Indeed He could not fail. How could God fail? And was He not the Only-begotten Son of God? If we believe the Scripture, we ought not to question it. Fear and failure are natural to fallen man. He is a sinner, and he therefore dreads God's judgment. But He does not ask you to trust yourselves. He tells you to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. He knows too well that you do not love Him; He bids you to believe in His love manifested in Christ, and in dying as a propitiation for you. Do not say that you are too bad; indeed you are as bad as can be, and far worse than you think. Take honestly the place of being "lost"; and this will end all your talk about badness. Yet for the lost He came and died.

The prodigal thought he had got down low when he proposed to ask for that place. In fact he was not fit to be a servant. Think you that any man would be taken as servant with such a certificate of his life? There is no question of our character at all. Sovereign grace rises above every sin and iniquity. Let the soul take the place of being nothing but a sinner; and therefore leave it to God to show nothing but His love. What He does is not merely that He gives me the life to feel what is due to God, and what becomes His child, but also the propitiation which meets and clears away all my sins. And remember, if not all sins, none; if any, all. Such is the way of the gospel in which God settles the matter; and this is what every believer is called to rest in.

O dear brethren, are you resting thus in Christ? Do any of you that believe in Jesus the Son of God, the Only-begotten, say, Make me as one of thy hired servants? He that came as man, yet bringing life eternal, by that very gift of life makes you feel your sins, but also believe that He is the propitiation for them. Under the Jewish system there were constant sacrifices, and repeated sin-offerings; but now in the gospel, since the Son offered up Himself, there is remission of sins, and no longer a sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:18). For by one offering He hath perfected for ever (or, in perpetuity, which is stronger still) the sanctified. By "sanctified" is meant those that are set apart to God, not by law now but by Christ's blood.

Beloved brethren, is this your faith? May the Lord grant that so it may be; and that you may delight in the apostle John's unfolding of the love of God manifested in the sending of His Son with its declared two-fold aim. Can any thing so perfectly display the true character of the love that is of God? that it has nothing at all to do with any effort of our own. It is out of God that it springs. But, if begotten of God, we share God's nature; and if we share His nature, He has provided to take away all that hinders the proper exercise of that nature. Our old man is still there as a matter of fact, though we know it crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin.

Yet if our eye be off Christ, the old nature certainly does hinder. We need therefore to know how God has dealt in Christ with our sins, and with sin, their root. There may also be a hindrance through inconsistency, so that love cannot flow out according to God toward those that God would have one love. His love inspires love to all that are His, to His children; and He has provided for this by our faith, the new life, and the Spirit who abides in us. It is not a question of whether one likes this quality or that behaviour, or the like; but in the face of all difficulties He counts on our loving them with that love which is of God. And He brings in these two immense manifestations of divine love, to which we owe our new relationship and the clearing away of our sins, in order also to fit us for loving one another as of God's family.

This is not all; but it is where we now stop. If the Lord will, we shall find that He has more to say, and of exceeding great moment as the crown of His love. We have had love coming down in the Son from its heavenly height, and going down into fathomless depths for us; and we are to look at its carrying us up into that height. Let me meanwhile cite the following sonnet by a famous agnostic converted to God before he died. How sad that he had no one from the Word to assure him of the love of God in Christ, and thus banish all his doubts! J.G.R. needed Luke 15 rather than Ps. 27.

"I ask not for Thy love, O Lord; the days
Can never come, when anguish can atone,
Enough for me were but Thy pity shown
To me as to the stricken sheep that strays
With ceaseless cry for unforgotten ways.
Oh send me back to pastures I have known,
Or find me in the wilderness alone
And slay me as the hand of mercy slays.

I ask not for Thy love, nor e'en as much
As for a hope on Thy dear breast to lie;
But be Thou still my Shepherd — still with such
Compassion as may melt, and such a cry;
That so I hear Thy feet, and feel Thy touch,
And dimly see Thy face ere yet I die."


1 JOHN 4:11-16.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one hath beheld God at any time: if we love one another, God abideth in us, and his love hath been perfected in us. Herein we know that we abide in him, and he in us, because he hath given to us of his Spirit. And we have beheld, and testify that the Father hath sent his Son as Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God. And we have known and have believed the love which God hath in us. God is love, and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God in him."

We have seen that in order to give the love to which we are called its proper character, the apostle, in the verses already gone through, recalls the manifestation of God's love in Christ; first, when we were dead, to give us life, secondly, when we had life and felt the burden and evil of our sins as we never felt them before, to accomplish the propitiation which bore all our sins away. Such is the true order of God's acting on the soul. It enables us to see how very important is the reception of life; for without life there is nothing adequate to hear or to answer in divine things. There is still unremoved death in the soul; and the notion of the Spirit of God doing the part of life, or rather without it, is really monstrous. The Spirit of God could not consistently thus act if there were not life to act on.

Christ is, no doubt, the believer's life; and by faith the old "I" is treated as no longer existent before God. It is there in fact, but by grace of Christ it has no right. As Christians we deny it in His name; we own it as wholly worthless; we abandon it as altogether evil now in our sight as it ever was to God, no matter what a man might be thought by his fellows. He might be a great genius; he might be of the most wonderful energy conceivable; but self is all without and against God, and never could therefore enter into His presence. How then could the old man ever be an object for the Holy Ghost to take up and sanctify to God? Therefore Scripture speaks not of sanctifying the depraved old life, but of the old man crucified with Christ; of sin in the flesh condemned by God in Christ as a sacrifice for sin, that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin. It is no longer the sinful "I," but "Christ liveth in me."

There is thus a new life, to which, in virtue of redemption, the Holy Spirit could attach Himself. Hence, as without a new life there is nothing but the old man, the necessity for the new life in Christ is apparent. In point of fact, all the Old Testament worthies, like every saint now, had life; and what believer knows of any life for sinful man but one — the life of Christ? Like incorruption for the body by and by, it is brought to light through the gospel, but it wrought in all believers before the gospel; nor could they be saints without it. Whatever difference in form has been effected, it is all the better for those that followed when our Lord became man. Then it was made plain, as never before, what the new life is, and who those are to whom He imparts it in believing. It was for men, not for angels. "The life was the light of men" only, as far as Scripture intimates. Angels never fell; their elect being kept from sin do not require a new life; nor is there repentance, or gift of grace, to fallen angels. They have a life, whatever it may be, which is not explained to us, nor is it our business to pry into. What have we to do with such inquiries? (see Col. 2:18.) It is always a vain pursuit when men get occupied with the angels. Yet I have known a Christian so full of it that he encouraged himself in the visionary idea of angels good and bad seeing him every night, so that he fancied he knew their names; but all this was mere feeling and imagination, though in a true saint of God. There are few greater follies than such speculations about the unseen.

But here is the blessed reality of God's deep concern, His active love in the case of man. First of all it is in its sovereign character, when we were dead, to give us life; and when we received life, that we should be delivered from all guilt; for the same Lord Jesus who brought us life became the propitiation for our sins. For that holy life made our sins an insupportable burden to us. But by His blood once shed for sins, atonement is made; and we are called to believe God's grace, and enjoy the blessed truth of it all.

But there is more than this, though the apostle has moved very gradually in coming to what remains. He began it in the last verse of 1 John 3, "he that keepeth His commandments abideth in Him, and He in him." The one thus blessed is obedient, and who now obeys? None, of course, but the Christian. Only it is not some Christians, but all that are real. They obey God, as having His nature, the life Christ is and has given them.

Yet he does not explain more here, but just leaves it for its due place. Only he adds a small but important intimation in the latter part of the verse. "And herein we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given to us." You perceive that the word "abide" is preferred to "dwell," as avoiding equivoque, besides that it is the proper equivalent. There is another word for "dwell" (οἰκεῖ), from which this word (μένει) differs. God "abideth" in us. This is the simple and certain force. It is not a passing act or a visit for a little while. In "abide" we have one of the distinguishing words of Christianity, its perpetuity. Israel knew too well of something that was very good for a while; but it was taken from them; or, as was said to the Hebrews, what becometh old and aged is ready to vanish away. Such was Judaism, which had to give place to the permanence of Christianity in itself and in faithful souls. To abide is the stable character of every Christian blessing except a conditional one, and there are such too. But eternal is stamped on the new thing, particularly on the life we have in Christ; for this reason it is called by that striking term, and we do well to delight in it. At any rate so we used all to do, when we had in proclaiming it and giving thanks for it in no stinted measure many companions, who are silent now to our sorrow as to "eternal life."

But there is more than eternal life, though the essence of our blessing is characterised by life in Christ. And was it not Christ displayed constantly in every act of His here below? Dependence on God in unfailing obedience. If He calls upon as to obey as He does, if He lays down commandments, these have nothing whatever to do with the Ten. The law was an appeal to flesh; therein life here below was held out but never gained: "this do, and thou shalt live." But the commandments of Christ are directive precepts for those to whom new life is already given of grace by faith. They have now therefore the greatest of all blessings in having Christ their life. Nothing is more certain than that God has given the believers Christ, and that Christ has also given Himself for them. Wonderful truth, yet most simple! It is the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation. But the truth of the gospel is soon lost when people speculate instead of believing.

For this very reason, as being a life simply of dependence, we want besides the presence and power of God; for there are immense dangers and difficulties in the way. Spiritually we need power, besides the capacity of life. If there be no such momentum, we fail to overcome the obstacles. Otherwise we find out our inertia, or adopt fleshly energy. However blessed dependence may be, it is not power. The true energy of the Christian is the abiding Spirit of God, not life abstractedly, though for our new place life in Christ is essential. He is needed for the working of power in us. When everything was created, the Holy Spirit did His part. When everything was thrown into chaos, the Spirit brooded over the scene of confusion and of darkness. So when God would have a tent in the midst of His people, He did not suffer Israel to frame one according to their own wisdom. Everything was arranged of Himself. Besides precept, God gave power by His Spirit even to the artisans who had to do with it. Perhaps one is not respectful enough, and ought to say goldsmiths, silversmiths, jewellers, joiners, upholsterers, etc., who had to do with constructing the different parts of the sanctuary. But nothing was left to man's own device; the Spirit of God expressly wrought by man.

But the Spirit of God has now an aim incomparably higher. It is no question of an earthly tabernacle or even a magnificent temple, although we know that the inspiration of God directed as to both. But now the Spirit of God deigns to abide in those who believe. He is the One that seals every Christian till the day of redemption. The Old Testament saints had no such privilege; and though they had life, they seem to have known little or nothing about it. The peculiarity of Christianity is that now we can say, We know God has revealed what was hidden from them. "What eye had not seen, nor heart conceived," He now reveals by His Spirit. He is not so much to us the Spirit of prophecy but of communion; certainly too a spirit not of cowardice, but of power and love and of a sound mind. Accordingly as this is just what was needed, so also it is what God has given us. "Herein we know that he abideth in us by the Spirit which he hath given us."

Here the apostle prepares the way for the requisite truth not yet set out in the call to love. "Beloved"; for here too such is the word of address. So it was before when God was warning them against the false prophets energised by evil spirits. This had been done in the earlier verses. He tells the saints lovingly of a great danger through the persuasive power of evil spirits if opposed in the confidence of the first man, instead of in faith of the Second. Jesus only is the conqueror of Satan; and the believer too conquers, but only through Him that loved him and died for his sins. No evil spirit confesses Jesus. Only the Spirit confesses Him come in flesh. There is the safeguard against false prophets: they cry up fallen man, they level down the Word become flesh. But he repeats "Beloved" when he exhorts the saints to love one another from ver. 7, both because "love is of God," and from the evidence it furnishes that he who loves has been begotten of God and knows God; as also whoso does not love does not know God, because God is love. Here, in pursuance of the theme, is reiterated "Beloved" in ver. 11.

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." He never says that we ought to love God, but everywhere assumes that we do love Him. And so it is with every believer who knows God's love to him when he was in his sins and enmity against Him, and learnt in the gospel that sovereign love to us in our guilty and lost estate which gave Christ His Son to die for us. "For when still without strength Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom. 5:6). The "due time" for love so needed by us, so immeasurable in itself, so worthy of God and His Son, was when man, both Gentile and Jew, joined hands to crucify the Saviour, and thus cut themselves off from mercy on every ground save His boundless grace. The Jew boasted of the law, but violated it everywhere, and never so shamelessly as then. The Roman boasted of his law and government, but, bold as he claimed to be, through fear of the spiteful cry from the people he scorned of losing Caesar's friendship, condemned the guiltless, as he well know Jesus to be. Jew and Gentile united in the atrocious iniquity against God. Then and there it is that God commends His love unto us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Oh how foolish to fancy that He wants the sinner to commend himself to God by doing some good or great thing! and to forget that it is He who in His Son has wrought the only, the best and the greatest thing that even He could, in that all sufficient sacrifice for him that believes! When this is received, the heart that was proudest and darkest does not fail to love.

Nor is this the sole reason why the Christian loves God. In reserving Christ he receives life eternal. He is begotten of God; he becomes His child. He loves God as His Father. If in ordinary circumstances a child loves his parents, spite of many a fault on both sides, how much does not the new nature prompt the Christian to love not only his All-good and gracious Father, but those who have the same life, the same Spirit?

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another." It is easy to see that all Christian exhortations in Scripture presuppose divine grace already possessed. God did not call us to love till He proved His love toward us in Christ, and gave us to know His love. And the two-fold want of the sinner which has been just shown to be met from other Scriptures, we have seen briefly and touchingly set out in the verses 9, 10, last before us in this chapter. It is not an exaggeration that he who is born of God and redeemed by Christ's blood cannot but love God, and it gives a plain and sufficient reason why he never exhorts us to love God or Christ.

It is a very different case with the natural man, as it was with us in our unconverted days. Any of us who had the favour of believing parents, and the word of God and prayer from early years, had a bad conscience till the truth was brought home to our hearts; we dreaded God because of our sins, yet neglected so great salvation, and trembled at death and judgment as they flashed on us for a little. Impossible for souls in that state to love Him whose everlasting judgment alarmed now and again our guilty souls, still in quest of pleasure, advancement in the world, wealth, and of whatever else of vain glory we aspired to. Any love we had then at best was of nature without the smallest reference of the heart to God. Such love was only higher than the affection of a dog or a cat, as man's nature is higher than the brute's. But the love of the new nature is supernatural, and has its character, motives, and source in Christ. Hence the mistake and danger of attributing natural benevolence to grace. Christian love is akin to the love of God to us, when  in us there was nothing to be loved; for as we read "we were aforetime foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another." So says he who as touching righteousness that is in law was found blameless. But the light of Christ's glory which shone into his heart exposed its rottenness; and these things and all else in which man glories he counted and went on counting but dung in comparison with Christ, so that he minded no path of suffering on the way to the resurrection from among the dead — in short to Christ in glory.

Our apostle says that, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. For though we share the same blessed life in Christ, and the same propitiation for our sins, the flesh and the world make many great and varied difficulties. It is the sheerest unbelief to shrink from our God, even when we seek to unbosom any folly and wrong into which we may have slipped; for He holds to His relationship of Father and to ours as His children, while the enemy seeks to estrange us from Him. But God's children are exposed to snares through the flesh. They are as prone, when off their guard, to espy the faults in their brethren as to gloss over or hide their own faults. This is not loving one another at all, still less as Christ loved us, the standard for the Christian, as the law was to Israel to love their neighbour as themselves: a difference which ought to be seen and felt. They were a people in the flesh, and under law; we are in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9) and under grace (Rom. 6:14), if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in us. Then comes love to God's family, flowing out of God's grace to us personally. The law made nothing perfect (Heb. 7:19); nor was it made for a righteous man but for lawless and unruly and the like to condemn them, and drive to the only refuge for sinners. The use by fallen Christendom, ancient and modern, is to put the righteous under it, which the apostle declares to be unlawful. We are as expressly under grace which, notwithstanding all hindrances, strengthens us to love one another.

We cannot but love Him who first loved us, even when we were in rags and degraded among swine, and it may be found no pity from those who enjoyed our plenty in sin and folly; but when we came to want, none gave to us. Such is the world; but not such the father. When the prodigal judged in a measure his evil ways and their distressing results, his heart turns to the one he had so long left and forgotten: "I will arise (said he) and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee; I am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. But while he was yet a long way off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and covered him with kisses." This is God's love as He told it who knew it best, and was then displaying it to the tax-gatherers and sinners who drew near to hear the wondrous tidings of grace among murmuring Pharisees and scribes. Not content with forgiving, nor allowing the prodigal to propose his place among the hirelings, the word is, "Bring out the best robe and clothe him in it, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it; and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is come to life, was lost and is found." This is grace, not law, showing what God is as Father in the worthy words of His Son. And if such He is to the most abandoned sinner that comes to Him, how sad to question the grace wherein the believers stand, or to doubt His pitiful love toward an erring Christian, His child!

Alas! if He never changes, His children did and do; so that it was very right and necessary to call them to love one another, as the apostle did with humility, "we also ought to love one another." He put himself among the rest as called to an obligation, which is not so easy at all times as some think. Love according to God is not mere "brotherly affection," however excellent this is when truly applicable. 2 Peter 1:7 draws the line, and puts love beyond it as deeper and higher. Where brotherly kindness gives the hand, love might decline, because it sees a dangerous snare and a grievous sin, which brotherly kindness was too pre-occupied to discern in the light of God. Divine love looks at the divine side, instead of yielding to mere emotions. We must stand at the fountain, as it were, to be fresh ourselves, and able to refresh, single-eyed dealers in the love that is of God. Nothing can be more opposed than the human amiability which tries nobody's conscience and allows everybody's will. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth and so it is with our love according to God. As it is of God, it feels and acts for God. But if He "so loved us, we ought to love one another." He knew all the drawbacks and shortcomings in us as His children, as He knew and felt all our sins and iniquities when we were children of wrath; yet He loved so as to give His Son for us. Surely then we ought to love one another as objects of the same love.

So says the apostle Paul to the Ephesian saints, "Be ye therefore imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love, even as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savour." There is nothing that draws out love so much as love; nor any love so efficacious and fruitful as the love of God in Christ the perfection even of His love. And this we know, not as spectators like the angels, but as ourselves the objects of it downwards and upwards to a degree stupendous in their eyes. For were we not in the depths of degradation and aggravated guilt and impotent daring? Yet Christ His Son went down below all our sins in God's judgment on the cross. And is He not risen above all heights in heavenly glory, angels and principalities and powers being subjected to Him, to whom we are now united by the Holy Ghost, one spirit with the Lord?

Ver. 12 is a word worthy of all consideration. It recalls John 1:18: "No one hath seen God at any time." How was so great a want for man supplied? Did not the God of all goodness feel for man's lack? He made Himself known most gloriously for Himself and His Son, most efficaciously in itself, and most considerately and lovingly to man in sending His own Son become Man among men. "The only-begotten Son that is in the bosom of the Father, He declared [Him]." If every soul of man since Adam had been asked how God could make Himself known in the best and surest way, and in the fullest love to man in all his need and misery, never would one have ventured to propose a way comparable with God's way. Yet Satan found the means, through man's lusts and passions, through his will, his supposed interests, and his invented religions in particular, to ignore and reject the Son of God to his own ruin.

But the Son of God who came in divine love is gone back to His Father. And the apostle again says, "No one hath seen God at any time," in the plainest reference to similar words in the Gospel. Yet the Son, the rejected Son, is not here to declare Him. What is the answer to the same want now? "If we love one another, God abideth in us, and his love is perfected in us." Is not this a striking and solemn means of supplying the need? Does it not address itself in a direct and powerful way to you, my brothers, to me, and to every other child of God? We are here and now through the Son not only washed from our sins but made sons of God, and by our mutual love according to God to know and witness Him in a world that knows Him not. The children are now to reflect here the love of God. This the Lord did perfectly when here; how are we, or are we really knowing and abiding in His love thus?

But we have only looked into the first words of the apostle's answer now. Let us hear what remains: "If we love one another, God abideth in us, and his love is perfected in us" (verse 12). The love of Christians mutually is the proof and the power of communion that He abides in us, and that His love is perfected in us, instead of being choked by the flesh or enticed by the allurements of the world. Evangelising the incredulous or perishing sinner is no answer to the question raised. Where and how is God to be seen now? In face of every effort of Satan to set the children of God against one another, their loving each other as God loved and as Christ manifested it declares that God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. What an encouragement to walk humbly and unobtrusively in the love that is of God! What a reproof to any who think little of its importance and blessing! Yet 1 John 4:12 could not have been without John 1:18, and more too — Christ's death for us and the gift of the Spirit to us. Christ must be the life in order to such a reproduction. Yet when the disciples saw its perfection in Christ, how little they realised God in Him! When He died and rose, they understood it better. But when anointed with the Spirit they enjoyed best of all, and walked as they abode in that love, which is the energy of God's nature. It is so with us now in principle and in fact too according to the measure of our spirituality.

The so-called evangelicals think that their chief love should go out in seeking the conversion of souls. It is indeed a good work if done in faith and love to Christ; but this is not what our Lord enjoined as the love so near His heart; nor can it be doubted that zealous evangelists and their allies are often not a little insensible to the new commandment that we should love one another. They are apt to be so absorbed in their own work as to measure love not a little by the support given to what interests them. And the modern system of special societies craves similarly for new methods, as if the words of the Lord had become obsolete. Far be it from my heart to say an unkind word of anybody; still we must look at facts as they are, and I refer to things that seem irrefutable.

We can readily see how much this love of God in us toward our brethren rises above moral duty. If the Holy Spirit had not so written through the apostle, we might have thought it a grievous exaggeration to give it such value, as to say that if we love one another, God abideth in us, and His love is perfected in us. May we simply and fully believe His word, that we may be enabled thus to love, and assure our souls that as love is of God so He abides in us to walk in it, apart from the world which can mix only to destroy its character, instead of His love being perfected in us. None can share or understand this love unless they are born of God, and even then only as walking by faith of Christ and so seeing the unseen and eternal. The sight of our eyes or mind destroys its character.

Now we are responsible for knowing God, and we who believe in Christ have the joy of knowing God. Every word, every work, every look of His recorded in the word lets us into that intimacy; for the inspired have much to tell us even in all these ways of Christ about God. They all reveal Him, the least thing as well as the greatest. But now the Lord is gone. He that declared God is in heaven. Is there no present living witness of God? The apostle repeats here in the Epistle, "No man hath beheld God at any time." His love was in all perfection in Christ, He was seen in contrast with all human imperfections. Where is the resource? "If we love one another." Is it not very solemn that God points to Christians for letting this dark world behold what God is? We are called especially by the action of divine love in our souls and ways to be the witnesses of God to the world that doubts all certainty about Him. When Christ declared Him, He was as perfect as Himself; but how is it in our case, spite of every infirmity? "If we love one another, God abideth in us, and his love is perfected in us." The apostle here too looks at the principle, not at how far saints fail; and this we have seen to be the way of John. He never forgets the source in God, and the channel in Christ who manifested it; and he sets before the saints the outflow of grace in accordance with the new nature.

Why settle down with the continual confession that we are not doing the truth? Where Christians do so, is there not something that grieves the Spirit of God? That is what we do well to search out and judge before God. We are warned against grieving Him. It is the flesh which especially opposes the Spirit. "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall in no wise fulfil flesh's lusts (says the apostle Paul). For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit [is] against the flesh; and these are opposed one to the other in order that ye should not do those things which ye desire." It is not, as lamentably said in the A.V. "So that ye cannot;" which too naturally affords an excuse for sin. There is no ground whatever for such a misconstruction. The flesh is always the great opponent of the Spirit. The flesh may work sometimes amiably, which is not really love, sometimes with open rudeness and impropriety, which no one could imagine to be love. But here, if we love one another, in the face of all the subtle efforts of the spirit of falsehood and malice, it is only the more truly and manifestly the love of God, not founded upon what we see in one another, but what we all have received from God Himself in Christ. Think of what we once were that are now God's children, as wicked as any who still neglect so great salvation, some of us once more daring and notorious than most. Such were we; and if we were moral or religious according to flesh, proud of that which was no more than a veil, and in God's sight because of the pretence worse than the openly evil. "But we got washed, but we were sanctified, but we were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." So the apostle wrote, owning what God's love had wrought in many of the corrupt city of Corinth, yet in sharp reproof of their grave inconsistencies. And he had the joy of learning that his faithful love (which pained himself more than them) was not in vain, but grieved them to repentance, yea repentance to salvation never to be regretted; though in his conflict of feeling he did regret his own letter passingly, by grace to remember it with abiding joy. For the great love that was in him reached through the conscience and the truth to the little love in them; and then what diligence it wrought in them! What clearing of themselves! What indignation, and fear and ardent desire, and zeal and avenging, in every way proving themselves pure where they had been so deeply to blame! This is a trying and painful form of loving one another; but it is a real one, though happier far the heeding of the word, so as to be kept from all evil.

"If we love one another, God abideth in us." This is the normal way, where faith works, and not flesh. And this leads to the opening of the great truth of the Spirit given to us, whereby God abides in us; nor is this all that he says, for he adds that "God's love is perfected in us." This he had said earlier and in another connection. In 1 John 2:5 he stated that "Whoso keepeth his word, truly in him hath the love of God been perfected." For to keep His word indicates the highest and deepest character of obedience. Whoso not merely keeps His commandments in detail, but keeps His word as a whole, "in him verily is the love of God perfected." Of course it does not mean the strange error of the man's own perfection. The flesh is never extirpated while we live; but God dealt with it in Christ's cross, and we, as having life in Christ, mortify our members that are on the earth. But the flesh is in us, though we are no longer in it. The flesh is never changed into Spirit, nor will it disappear whilst we are here in the body but by grace bound never to let it act, but to keep it by faith under the power of Christ's death. Thus His love is perfected as in him that keeps the word, so also in that we love one another. We are subject to His word, and we walk together in love in spite of all difficulties. Thus is God's love perfected in us; it is carried out according to the mind of God. We have nothing to boast; but we heartily obey and love through the power of His love toward us and in us. Undoubtedly it supposes that habitually we have been looking to God, and that He has answered our prayers, and so His love is perfected in us. Obedience is carried out and love too according to His mind.

Now he enters on the gift of the Spirit. "Herein we know that we abide in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit."

The advance is marked above 1 John 3:24. It is not merely "the Spirit." God wrought by the Spirit in many a one where it could not be said to be "of His Spirit." We often hear of the Spirit working, as we have seen, in the Old Testament, and still more in the New. We find partakers of the Holy Spirit and powers of the world to come spoken of in Heb. 6:4-5, where they fell away fatally from God. These are never said to have been born of the Spirit, still less that God gave them "of His Spirit." This implies real communion with God; and the New Testament gives a deeper force to the expression "of His Spirit" than the Old. It is in this way that God abides in the Christian. Yet even when there was an external purpose God wrought by the power of the Spirit in one way or another. In every case it was the Spirit of God; and the Spirit is a spirit of power. Consequently there was an effect altogether above man, and above what even life eternal could do without the Spirit.

God abides in us, as he says, and we abide in Him. He begins with abiding in us; not with our abiding in God, but with God's abiding in us. It will be shown presently that it is of importance to discern the difference. That God abides in us is His grace to us when resting on Christ's redemption. That we abide in Him is the fruit of the confidence in God that His grace inspires in us. Thus, as it were, we retire from self as well as from all around us of the creature, and we make God the home of our hearts even while we are here below. This is abiding in God; and it becomes us to look to God for grace habitually thus to abide in Him. When we so abide in Him, He acts in us in the way of power in communion. In accordance with this therefore it is written that He hath given us of His Spirit. "Of his Spirit" has a particularity in the manner of its expression which plainly indicates that what we share is with Himself. It is "of his Spirit" that we are here said to partake.

Yet there is no small danger lest we mistake so great a privilege. There are many pious persons who confound a certain happiness in their souls with God's abiding in them. This danger is generally of a mystic character. They are self-inspective and emotional. Anyone who has read writings of the celebrated William Law on the soul would know what is meant. He was one of these mystics, but altogether wrong in hiding or even losing God's grace in Christ under sacramental efficacy and man's inward feelings. He did not apprehend in the least degree man's total ruin, nor the fulness of redemption, still less life eternal in Christ. It was an effort to love God and a readiness to accredit the effort; not the faith of God's redeeming love and unsparing judgment of the flesh, to find an infinitely better portion in Christ the Lord. Since then a community is distinguished by what they call "Christian sanctification," which is not Scriptural sanctification; but rather a good opinion of their state founded on a bright feeling in their souls; the cause and effect of which is that they are exceedingly occupied with themselves and their experience, which they tell out to one another for mutual edification. This has so important and fixed a place in their eyes that they have a regular meeting in classes, with a leader in each, for communicating one to another what they think the Spirit of God has produced in their souls from week to week. They cannot point to any institution of the sort in the New Testament.

But the Spirit of God glorifies Christ by receiving of His things and announcing them to us. He was to guide into all the truth. This kind of mysticism glorifies self; it is occupied with our own feelings. It is therefore directly exposed to leading to self-worship in some souls and to dejection in such as are not easily satisfied with their attainment. It is wholesome to learn that there is nothing in ourselves to yield spiritual satisfaction, so as to make Christ our all, as He really is. But to be thus occupied with one's own heart, save for humbling ourselves on account of it, is as dishonouring to Him as it is dangerous to ourselves. Occupation with ourselves is not merely unprofitable, but hinders growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Yet there is not a doubt that many real Christians have been drawn into this invention of man which necessarily substitutes occupation with ourselves instead of with Christ Jesus, and rejoicing in our own joy, instead of rejoicing always in the Lord.

Observe the care with which inspiration has guarded against the mystical school in the next verse. The blessed truth of Christ, the facts which the Gospels reveal, is the best corrective of this abuse of introspection, because it sets and establishes the heart on its divine foundation, and the fulness of joy in Christ excludes dwelling on ourselves or our good state, as we estimate it. Here the Holy Spirit brings us back again to rest on what God has wrought for us, to the very ground of the gospel itself. What can more thoroughly correct any such looking within? "And we have beheld" — there is the emphatic word of the inspired witnesses — "and testify that the Father hath sent the Son as Saviour of the world." Whatever others may occupy themselves with (and they pretend to many a high thing), "we have beheld and testify that the Father hath sent the Son as Saviour of the world."

What is, what ought to be, the effect of such a truth? Does it not fill us with the praise of the Father and the Son? Does it not shame us into nothingness as to ourselves? There we are shown that we were the merest sinners, yet as surely saved by faith through grace. Timid faith questions whether we were so bad, or God so good. But if through the Holy Spirit we simply believe, we cannot assuredly find anything in ourselves worth talking of in comparison of grace so rich, and for ever too. Thus does God wean us from ourselves, the world, and every other object, to delight our souls in Himself and His Son. Even knowledge may and does puff up; but love, the Father's love and the Son's, builds up.

It equally delivers from another and opposite school, who are occupied with themselves as under law, and who, instead of looking for good in themselves, think that they please God and are all the better themselves for a sort of despairing pessimism, rarely rising above "Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me out of this body of death?" They quite ignore what the apostle declares to the believer in virtue of Christ's work. Instead of working like a hired servant with the muck-rake in their dark and filthy heart, they are through the Saviour of the world entitled to the "best robe" and the "fatted calf," and share the Father's joy to the glory of the Son. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus freed me from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2). And it makes the comfort of deliverance all the more impressive, when it is observed that the "me" now freed when we turn from self to Christ is the same "me" that was groaning under law just before (Rom. 7:24). How much better than the emotional or the groaning schools, occupied with self in such different ways, to condemn flesh out and out, as God did on the cross, and to find Christ worthy of all their thoughts and the spring of unfading peace and joy! There we prove that it is the Father's will and the Son's work and the Spirit's witness that we are called to rejoice in, as we shall for ever.

It is an interesting connection of scripture with this, that the first place where the Lord found Himself acknowledged as the Saviour of the world was in Samaria. It succeeded the wonderful scene at the well, where the poor woman that had had five husbands, and had one now who was not her husband, was given life eternal through faith in the Lord Jesus. He also told her of the passing away of the contending religions of Palestine. The mountain of Samaria was to pass, and even Jerusalem. Henceforth there was to be another character of worship altogether, the kernel of which was divulged by the Lord even then. "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him."

Thus was fulness of grace revealed to a poor Samaritan woman in whom the truth had begun to work. She was smitten in conscience, and awakened in soul; but it was after this that she learnt who He was, that (she was assured) spoke from God to her heart, now received with all simplicity of faith, as she became a messenger to others of the One in whom she believed. And the Lord graciously dealt with these Samaritans, and did what we do not find Him doing in any other place during His ministry: He abode with them two days. And they testified of Him, that it was not because of what she testified of Him, as telling her all things that she ever did, but "we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is truly the Saviour of the world." The copyists put in "the Christ" too, but this is not the authentic or appropriate word. It was owning at that early day the very title here given, save one thing necessarily absent from it — the Father's sending the Son. This they knew not nor could they venture to anticipate. Neither they nor any others had the Holy Spirit given "whereby we cry Abba, Father"; but they acknowledged, and were the first to acknowledge, the truth that Jesus, is "the Saviour of the world." It was not a question of Jews but of sinners, and therefore for Samaritans or any one else. This was before the Lord had entered on His public ministry. These chapters of the Gospel of John show the Lord's acts before John the Baptist was delivered up, and His own going to Galilee; which have the greater interest when we find so grand a truth as Himself owned "the Saviour of the world."

This was a bright anticipation of the gospel through a true sense of the Lord's grace personally. It is not only a Saviour, and this not merely for the people of Israel who expected the Messiah, but "the Saviour of the world." Even then the truth broke through the clouds, the light shone into the hearts of the despised and ignorant Samaritans, and they were the first so to confess Him. Here it is the apostolic testimony. "And we have beheld and testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world."

But how are we to know that a sinner has made this, the grace and truth of Christ, his own? How are we to be satisfied that the saving truth of God has entered into anyone's soul, and introduced him into the intimate association with God of which the apostle has spoken? This is answered in the next verse. "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God."

Now is not this a most amazing assurance to receive? For we have just had the true but simple believer bowing to the glad tidings, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. It is not merely subjection to the Messiah, the coming King of Israel, but believing Him to be the Son of God. "Whosoever shall confess." Nothing can be wider than "whosoever." He does not only "believe" but "confess." He has surmounted all difficulties, doubts or fears. He has weighed the truth, felt the grace, judged himself, and has no longer hesitation. And now the blessing of the Lord comes richly on his head. So the apostle said, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from among the dead, thou shalt be saved," pressing God's answer to Christ's work. Here, as is usual, our apostle dwells on the glory of the Son's person, but in the fulness of His grace toward the lost in the gospel. And the sinner, turning from himself and every prop of creation, confesses that Jesus is the Son of God. What then ensues? "God abideth in him, and he in God." Not, I presume, that any person ever truly confesses Him to be the Son of God, without also believing in the work of redemption that He wrought and God accepted. It is all vague to unbelief. Men might use the words, but they do not realise the truth they express. Of course it is supposed that the confession is truly made according to God. He confesses that Jesus, the Man that multitudes took to be only a man however great, is the Son of God. Who then can doubt the efficacy of His redemption? The striking fact here conveyed is that whoever confesses Jesus to be the Son of God has not only life, and the remission of sins, and the Holy Spirit, but the highest spiritual privileges conceivable. For what can be higher than God abiding in him, and he in God? No doubt the more spiritual your state, the more you realise it. But the apostle here tells the confessing Christian that this is his portion. May we cherish and enjoy it! May He cut off everything that comes in to dull our sense and value for it!

The apostle follows up in verse 16 its application. "And we have known and believed the love which God hath to us." There is no uncertainty in the answer to the general principle: "we (emphatically) have known and believed the love which God hath in us." His love is not only "toward" but "in" us. We value and delight all the more that His love in us first flowed toward us when children of wrath. Again he repeats "God is love," but now he connects with it "He that abideth in love abideth in God." This is an altogether new way of speaking of it. If I am abiding in the love that comes from God, I cannot but be quite at home with God. His love, flowing from His own goodness and giving Christ to die that there might be a perfect grant of righteousness, forgives my sins, makes me His child without desert on my part, and leads Him to abide in me. The love in Him (and no wonder) produces love in me; and abiding in love I abide in God, and God in me. It is not merely a visit now and a visit again, but there the Christian abides; it is his habit and his home to dwell in love. Can any blessing be more precious? Yet how simple it all is, if we believe. It casts down every high thing that lifteth itself up against the knowledge of God. The apostle is writing not to theologians nor philosophers, nor to scientists in religion, but to God's children, that none might come short, and all might better know the love of God they began with, and enjoy increasingly the God of love.

But it is well to point out certain distinctions in "our abiding in God" and "God abiding in us," of some importance to distinguish. There are three separate forms of the blessing. The first of these in order of time is that God abides in the Christian, and we have just had before us that whosoever confesses Jesus to be the Son of God, has it in a double way (ver. 15); God abideth in him, and he in God. How does God abide in him? By the Spirit He gave us, as in 1 John 3:24, we know that God abides in us. Then 1 John 4:13 goes further: "Herein we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He hath given to us of His Spirit."

Here we have our abiding in Him, which cannot be unless He in sovereign grace deigns to abide in us by the gift of the Spirit, which draws us to abide in Him as the effect. How then account for the order which 1 John 4:13 presents? It is therein implied that by virtue of the Spirit given God did abide in him, but through power of communion in partaking of His Spirit, not only did he abide in God, but God in him in the third form of special power. And this is confirmed by the other special intimation in ver. 16, "he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God in him," like ver. 13, implying the previous blessing of God abiding, but adding the two others. It is spiritual power as the third result, which is special. In the general case to every confessor that Jesus is the Son of God we have only the first and second form of blessing, God abiding in him and he in God; but the third is only added here. It is here not merely the Spirit but "of His Spirit," and this way strongly marks communion.

The manner of God's abiding in the Christian is by the Spirit being given to him. Herein we know that God abides in us, a wondrous fact, yet not all the blessing. The apostle is our warrant for it, and this is enough. It is God abiding in us. Then there is an attractive effect upon us, so that we knowing His love abide in Him. The first we may call the sovereign operation of God, in honour of the work of Jesus confessed to be His Son. He seals us with the Spirit as His own redeemed by blood, if we may refer to the language of the apostle Peter on this theme. That means God abiding in him. The second is the answer of the Christian's heart, which habitually counts on God in the submission and confidence of love, instead of turning to self or to others to meet difficulties. This is to abide in God, bringing everything to Him whose love has made him His home. And as He has thus drawn so near, we too at His welcome make Him our home. This appears to be the difference between God's abiding in us and our abiding in God.

Thus there is the third form of divine privilege in the power that follows this communion. The first is sovereign operation; the second is the reflex effect and experience in confiding in Him; and the third is the power of the Spirit in spiritual power as the consequence of so great a blessing. And here it is where we are weakest of all. We are indeed apt to stop short of the full result in this failing world, as we ought not. This makes it humbling to us. For if you or I have little to show of devotedness and spiritual power, we are well aware why it is, and that the fault is entirely and only our own. Faults in others are not the cause nor a just excuse, but our own failure. If provoked, there must have been something to be provoked; and this could not be were we abiding in God and God abiding in us in power. But if God's abiding in us and our abiding in Him are the portion of every Christian, as the apostle makes plain, how sad if it were only true in principle but in fact great shortcoming! Let us exhort one another that the principle may issue in fruitful practice. There is the utmost encouragement if we are simple and steadfast in looking to God, and that His grace may make it real and manifest in us to His praise, yet prompt to be in the dust when conscious of dishonouring Him. It ill becomes those so blessed as Christians are to have little but self-reproach. May we have the joy of proving that God is faithful to His word in making good privileges so wonderful that few saints believe that they are not only ours by title, but ours for enjoyment and practice!


1 JOHN 4:17-21.

"Herein hath love been perfected with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because even as he is, we also are in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth hath not been perfected in love. We love, because he first loved us. If any one say, I love God, and hate his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he that loveth God love also his brother."

As the word last considered may have presented, from the nature of its subject, more than usual difficulty, the present address furnishes the opportunity of regarding the connection with what now claims one's heed, divested of its many details, and thus in its simple and broad lines. Who can doubt that it was meant by its divine Author to attract and fix the interest of every Christian in that which they are wont to consider so far above their reach as to be practically unattainable? As it is part of an Epistle more immediately than any other appealing to all God's children, and the more so as addressed formally to none in particular, ought not they, ought not we, every one of us, to pay the more marked heed? We shall surely find that the true faith of Christ entitles every true Christian, in virtue of life in the Son and of the indwelling Spirit of God, to read and weigh it afresh in God's presence, and count on His love to give us not only enlarged spiritual understanding, but the realisation of the blessing He spreads before us to appropriate and enjoy. Many of us have tasted the sweetness occasionally of finding this or that part of Scripture opening out its varied treasure under the Spirit's power, where our eyes had previously seen little or nothing. And here it is the more to be sought, as it is avowedly to enlarge and deepen our communion with God.

After the twofold tests of truth against false prophets in the first six verses of our chapter — Jesus come in flesh, and the apostolic revelation (i.e., the New Testament) — the great theme of love is brought out in our apostle's characteristic manner, though with just as much weight as in the Pauline episode of 1 Cor. 13. God's children are to love one another, because love is of God, and every one that loveth hath been begotten of God, and knoweth God. We see at once that he regards love as inseparably linked with the great truth of life eternal in Christ, relationship therefore with God Himself, and intelligent spiritual knowledge of God. It is thus a sphere for the Christian on earth not only above human knowledge but above natural affections, having to do with fellow-saints here below, yet on grounds not only supernatural but divine, and directly, as we shall see, with God and His presence. Yet every Christian has an immediate concern in it all, not affecting superiority and wishing to shine as a lonely star apart, but in full intimacy with God's abiding in him and his abiding in God, to walk not simply in the light but in the love of God which is His own nature, the source of the Christian's new nature.

Now as this tends to the subjective or what acts in the soul, and might tend to puff up (for indeed it is as wonderful as it is true), a marked step is taken wholly outside the Christian. Therefore he is confronted with what is altogether objective. "Herein was manifested the love of God in our case, because God hath sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as propitiation for our sins." An "imitation of Christ" is utterly insufficient. We needed the infinite reality of God's love in Christ, first, that we who were dead might live through Him; next, that He might be made sin sacrificially for us who were guilty and defiled. The love that wrought so efficaciously was solely in Him, not ours. We are therefore disciples of Jesus only, not of the à Kempis school or of any other mystic. The express aim is to found the truth on what God was to us, not on what we are or desire to be for God.

This being made admirably clear, the apostle urges that if God so loved us, we ought to love one another. We do love God, and we could not but love if we believed His immense love in Christ to us; but we ought to love those whom He loves as He loves us, alike His children. This is followed by the remarkable allusion to the substantially similar application to the Son in John 1:12, and to God's children in 1 John 4:12. Christ declared the unseen God perfectly: how does our loving one another? If we thus love, "God abideth in us and His love is perfected in us." Without having life in Christ it was impossible: but even more was wanted and given, even "of His Spirit" (ver. 13). For the same Spirit that descended and abode on Christ, in virtue of His personal and intrinsic perfection, now abides in us, in virtue of His work for us on the cross. Thus it is that as God abides in us, we too are enabled to abide in God, and to know that we abide in Him and He in us. Thus only are we kept from thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, while by grace made free of divine intimacy to the utmost.

That very word which is shown to be above man's nature, not only seeing but beholding, is now predicated of the witnesses in ver. 14. "And we have beheld and testify that the Father hath sent the Son as Saviour of the world," not as a vision or external sight, but by faith realising it in the Holy Spirit. And therefore "whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God" steps thereby into the blessing — "God abideth in him, and he in God." Such is the order of God's operation in grace. This is remarkably confirmed by ver. 16, where the apostle again joins himself with all other Christians in adding, "and we have known and believed the love which God hath in us" (ver. 16). For who could limit this to the apostolic choir? — this exposition of Christian communion with God, founded on the new life and accomplished propitiation, but by the Spirit consequently carried on into sharing God's delight in love as His children, with the words, "God is love, and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God in him." This is the order of spiritual experience and power. Every part is most real for the Christian's intercourse with God, and each is here stated in its exactly right place; as encouraging to the simple saint as it reproves the indifferent or negligent of such divine favour and joy. And what a marked absence of anything like a dream or a vision, or of aught that could make a Christian conspicuous in the eyes of others or in his own!

It might be thought impossible to add anything beyond what has been so richly spread before us. For (1) we have the source of all the blessing traced to the love of God in giving us the value of Christ's life and death when we lay dead in sins; and (2) divine love shown to work in us toward one another as surely as we have been begotten of God and know Him, the Holy Spirit abiding in us to confirm and elevate by enabling us to abide in God, and enjoy its fruit in spiritual power. The utmost care is taken to show that such is the title of grace to every Christian: only to make it effective our souls must be in communion about it. But there is a further and crowning favour set before us in ver. 17, "Herein hath love been perfected with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because even as he is, we also are in this world."  

This is a notable accession of blessedness which is now revealed to the Christian. It is divine love not merely manifested in our case, when utterly worthless and incapable of any good; nor love working in us God's children according to His love one toward another. It is not so much here the Holy Spirit groaning with us who groan as saints delivered in bodies undelivered, in the midst of the whole creation, groaning to be delivered as it will surely be when the Lord Jesus appears in power and glory. But here John tells us of the Spirit even now and here working in God's children in the power of divine love, and in the enjoyment of God's presence. This was love perfected in us. Now the apostle speaks to us of the transcendent favour, that the love has been perfected with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment. This "boldness" rises wholly above the thought of anyone who believes coming into judgment, that is, of course, a judgment of everlasting consequence, a judgment of righteousness dealing with guilty or even failing man. For divine judgment, which the Lord Jesus is to execute, will take cognisance even of the secrets of the heart and the words of the mouth, as well as all the deeds of the body. And what child of man can enter into that judgment and come out acquitted and unscathed?

Hence even in the Old Testament, which has very little light on the judgment of the dead, compared with what was given in the New Testament, we hear the Psalmist (Ps. 143:2) say: "Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." Thus we are taught that if not merely a careless sinner but "Thy servant (a saint, of course) has Jehovah entering into judgment with him, not even he nor any man living can be justified. For judgment must not evade the facts, nor excuse the sins, and no mere man has ever lived without sins. How then can any sinful man be justified or saved?

Our Lord, when here, dealt with this awful difficulty in language perfectly simple and clear (John 5). He speaks of Himself, the incarnate Son of God, as having life to give to everyone who believes on Him, and as having judgment to exercise on all the wicked who reject and despise Him. He gives life to the believer; He will judge the unbeliever. But the words which make the way of deliverance immediately plain are in ver. 24: "Verily, verily, I say to you, he that heareth my word, and believeth Him that sent Me hath life eternal, and cometh not into judgment, but is (or hath) passed out of death into life." The A.V. was very faulty here in the rendering of "condemnation" to suit the common error of Christendom as to a universal judgment of saints and sinners. "Judgment," which is the only true sense, precludes this idea: and the Lord pronounces here that he who hears His word (the Ten Commandments, or the like, would not avail), and believes Him that sent the Saviour (for it is essential to bow to God in that great mission of His love), hath life eternal, and doth not come into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life.

The believer therefore is never put on the trial of his guilt like the unbeliever; he has already, if we believe the Lord, passed out of death into life; because in receiving Christ he receives life eternal. This was to honour Christ; but as the unbeliever dishonoured Him and His word, and disbelieved God's sending Christ on His errand of love, he must be raised for judgment ("damnation" is not the right sense), as the believer will receive a resurrection of life, which is plainly here set in contrast with that for judgment. Notwithstanding he, when raised, will give account of all things done in the body to the Lord Jesus. He is taken on high when he renders it; but this is wholly incompatible with judgment into which, as the Lord assures, he does not come. The Lord on the cross bore the judgment of his sins: therefore this question is settled by grace; but he will be manifested (not judged) before the judgment seat of Christ, that he may know as he is known; and it will fill to the full his sense of the grace of God in his salvation.

Another scripture that bears on this point is Heb. 9:27-28, where man's portion of death and judgment is contrasted with what Christ does for the believer; instead of his death is Christ's offering to bear his sins in His death; and instead of judgment, Christ's appearing without sin (having no more to do with it) for salvation. That is, salvation stands instead of judgment to those that look for Him the second time.

Indeed the Christian has only to consider what justification by faith is according to scripture generally, in order to see that the notion of a common judgment of sinners and saints, or of the saints in the real sense of judgment, is an error irreconcilable with the gospel, though I am not aware of a single Father that held the truth in this respect, still less any article of Councils. Not one of the creeds confesses this distinctive truth of Christ. Yet the anomaly which results is manifest; for as none can deny that our Lord will come for the Christian, the church as a whole, and the Old Testament saints too, and will not only receive them to Himself in the air but take them to the Father's house, the notion of a universal judgment (commonly based on the Lord's dealing with the good and bad of the nations at the end of the age, in Matt. 25:31-46) involves the strange confusion that the justified by God (for it is God that justifieth), are to be put on their trial after they are already in the glorified state, and to be judged by their Saviour whether they are not after all to be lost. If this alternative be denied, as, no doubt, every sound believer should repudiate it, do they not perceive that they make a judgment of believers nugatory, if the sting of its awful truth is extracted, and it is construed into no more than proclaiming them saved?, They would do well to search and see whether the scriptures, if rightly interpreted, do not fully agree with the Lord's authoritative word, that the believer does not come into judgment, which is reserved only for man, for man without Christ, guilty and lost as he is.

The universal judgment, accordingly, though it may plead the well-known canon of Vincent of Lerins as confessed by the catholic church, eastern and western, is in this directly opposed to His word, which (as He declares) shall judge at the last day who now do not receive His words. It breeds darkness all around. It deprives those who heed it of the comfort to which Christ and His work entitle their faith. It dishonours the Father no less than the Son, Who would have the believers assured of their grace and enjoying the fruits of their love, both in life eternal and in redemption. It forgets that resurrection and ascension will be the triumphant separation to Christ in heavenly glory of those who are now in a world of mixture.

Our apostle does not put God's exceeding favour here on the ground or with the character of righteousness, as the apostle in 2 Cor. 5:21, when he says: "Him that knew no sin He [God] made sin for us that we might become God's righteousness in Him." The Judge will never sit to question the value of God's righteousness made ours in Himself. He will judge all who pretend to a righteousness of their own, for it is a falsehood and a fraud. He will judge all who despise Him in the opposite way of reckless unrighteousness and pleasing themselves in defiance of God. He will deal even more severely with men's unrighteousness, however fast they hold the truth in unrighteousness, as is common in Christendom or in its measure among the Jews. But on those who of God are in Christ Jesus who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and holiness and redemption, He will never blow the chilling blast of judgment in heaven, after effectually by His Spirit filling our hearts with the warmth of His grace. That the Judge would challenge Himself our righteousness in that day is egregious as well as unfounded.

The entire preceding context explodes it. For the earlier half of 2 Cor. 5 is devoted to prove the power of resurrection life in Christ in delivering the Christian from the two great terrors of the natural man, death and judgment. "For we know (he says) that if our earthly tabernacle be destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this we groan, earnestly desiring to put on our house that is from heaven, if indeed when also clothed we shall not be found naked. For even we that are in this tabernacle groan being burdened, not for that we wish to be unclothed but clothed that the mortality may be swallowed up of life. Now he that wrought us for this very thing is God, who also gave to us the earnest of the Spirit. Being therefore always confident, and knowing that while present in the body we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight), we are confident then and are well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore also we are ambitious (or, zealous), whether present or absent to be acceptable to Him. For we must all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each may receive the things [done] in the body, according to those which he did, whether [it be] good or bad."

Here we have the great apostle treating it as a matter of Christian consciousness that all dread of death and judgment is removed, since God wrought us for the self-same thing as Christ that He might be the first-born of many brethren, alike conformed to His glorious image. He has by His work disarmed for us death of its terror, that reigns over the race. We being burdened by a body yet unredeemed do therefore groan; and we groan the more, but in a gracious way, because we are ourselves reconciled to God with its cognate blessings. Our longing is to be clothed with the changed body; but we are always of good courage, and recognising that to depart and be with Christ, as he wrote to the Philippian saints, is very much better than to be absent from the Lord, we are well pleased rather to be present with the Lord.

Nor does the judgment of Christ, undoubtedly solemn as it is, bring anxiety, because He bore our judgment. Even here God gives occasion in sickness, and other ways, to review our state and conduct apart from engrossing labour and occupation of any kind; nor does He fail to probe wounds and penetrate the most hidden recess of the heart. He enables us to cry, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if wickedness may be in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Such self-judgment is eminently wholesome; and if we had it not, we should miss not a little blessing by the way. Now, what this is now to the Christian is but a part of what will be fully before Christ's judgment-seat; to lose which, if possible, would be to lose its vast blessing. So far from awakening alarm, or shaking our constant good courage, the apostle only speaks of us as downcast in deep feeling for the unawakened, and stimulated to persuade mankind from their obduracy to turn to the Lord. "Knowing therefore the fear (or terror) of the Lord we persuade men." They had fear for all others, not for themselves or their acceptance. "For ourselves," he says, "we have been manifested to God, and I hope also that we have been manifested in your consciences." Grace gave this submission even now to the inshining of God's light in Christ. Into this the grace which brings to God brings us. This is or may be hindered; it will be perfect when we are manifested before the judgment seat, without false shame, being in the glorified state, and able, without a cloud, to see all His glory, so humbling to us, so glorious to the God of all grace, to the Son who alone made it a fact of blessing for every believer, to the Holy Spirit by whose effectual and constant power it was brought home from first to last in every saint.

But the less needs to be sought from elsewhere, since the verse before us utterly demolishes the strange and hoary error which has inflicted equal wrong on the testimony of the truth and on many a godly soul who has suffered for want of the truth known to others. "Herein hath love been perfected with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment." Think of such words, ye that boast of "the church's teaching," and have never suspected that it was "a different gospel, and not another." So the apostle denounced the selfsame school that glories in the cross as an idol, and has never known God's teaching of Christ crucified to their deliverance from man and his vain traditions, philosophy, science or what not, rising up against the Bible and Christ's work to save the lost. The love of God was manifested to sinners in His life given to be our life, and in His death as propitiation for our sins; that love might be perfected in us as saints by His Spirit working in us. But even this was not enough to satisfy our God in honour of His Son. Love has been perfected with us, "that we may have boldness in the day of judgment." "What!" do I hear you say, "can there be such words in the Bible? Is it possible that they mean what they say?" I should not be in the least surprised if these were your thoughts, and you hardly dared to express your unbelief of God's word.

Yet can words be clearer than those in which our apostle attests love perfected with us, Christians, that we may have, not trembling, nor doubt, but boldness "in the day of judgment?" To rest this on aught but the work of Christ would be blasphemy. But in Christ it is the triumph of divine love — the same love that clothed the prodigal in his rags with "the best robe," not like Adam in his innocency but such as don the marriage robe in honour of the King's Son, the wedding garment. It is Christ we put on, and Christ dead and risen where sins and sin were completely settled for faith. O ye that have drunk yourselves stupid by drinking of the stagnant and defiling waters of the Fathers, why do you not listen to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and take life's water freely? Christ has so glorified God, not only in living obedience but in His death, that He can deliver from fear of the hour of death and the day of judgment even you who have too effectually instilled it into those famished ones who look up to you and are not fed. Yes, these are God's words for all to ponder. Love has been perfected "that we may have boldness in the day of judgment." We see the spring in God through His Son, and the aim for His children in view of that day. What a contrast with that miserable elegy, or lamentation (call it not a hymn), the "Dies Irae" which some cry up as a Christian composition! His love would chase away fear from the heart of every Christian.

But there is much more. He gives the reason or ground which immensely enhances the boon: "Because even as He (Christ) is, we also are in this world." If God had not revealed this, one might venture to say that such a pronouncement would have been voted the most frightful presumption that ever fell from the lips or pen of man. But there is no indiscretion in thinking that in all probability its force is so absolutely unrecognised in the schools of divinity, that no one is disturbed by the astonishing truth conveyed to us. For the apostle declares that even as Christ is, so too are we, we Christians, in this world. He says this according to his uniform doctrine in the Epistle, "which thing is true in him and in you." For now He is dead and risen, and bears much fruit like Himself. Our old self exists of course in fact, but "in that day (now and long come, since Pentecost) ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." This was never true before, and never will be in the coming age, but is true now in Christians here.

Accordingly our standing and pattern is no longer in the first Adam but in the second Man, and He is the last Adam. Never will there be another head. The Son of man glorified God even as to sin in death, the only way of deliverance; for in His death it was fully judged to God's glory. And now God glorified the Son of man in resurrection and ascension glorifies Him in heaven, glorifies Him in Himself, as here no other ever was nor could be. He does not wait to crown Him on David's throne in Zion, or as the King over all the earth. But on the very resurrection day He sends to "His brethren" the message, "I ascend unto my Father and your Father, my God and your God." He takes us in our new being out of the fallen Adam, and sets us in the ascending Christ. Thus as He is, even so are we in this world.

Mark it well. It is not as He was. The church teaching, fairly enough set out by the late Archdeacon R. Wilberforce, and hundreds or thousands like, is utterly false. Incarnation is a blessed truth, essential to the faith; but it is not our union with Him. It is true no doubt, but not Christianity. While living He abode alone; dying He bears much fruit. Union with Him could not be till He died for us and our sins. It is in resurrection, after God's judgment had passed on Him for man's evil, and not till then does He say, "My Father and your Father, my God and your God." The veil was not rent before He died, and priest and sacrifice and earthly sanctuary still had God's sanction. But His death was their death: and His resurrection is His life in power. Christianity succeeds, and the Holy Ghost comes down to seal those washed in His blood. "As He is, we also are in this world." We repudiate any standing before God save in Him; and this is our standing now" in this world." Do you think that anyone taught this by the Spirit could ever be content with the impostures of Popery, the dim religious light of Puseyism with its via media, or the varying compromises of Protestant denominationalism? Have we solid Christian standing in its positive blessedness? Higher there cannot be; and it is ours, every true Christian's, "in this world." It only remains that we believe God as to it for our own souls, and look to Him for grace to love and live it — Christ as our all.

The verses which follow show the immense import of what we have gained in ver. 17. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear." How these words of God speak to the heart! It is not mere sentiment, but the God of light and love who would help His children against all doubt, that they might enjoy them with all simplicity and assurance. The fear spoken of here is inconsistent with love. Apply to this the common error that God is going to judge His children, but the elect will get through. What tormenting anxiety this creates for godly souls, who can measure? For the gleam of comfort is hidden under the impenetrable secret of the elect, instead of the true light shining brightly and steadily in Christ for all that come to God through Him. I doubt not any more than the Calvinist that those that come are the elect; but his way of putting it is apt to cast souls on a hopeless reef, whereas the Christian truth ever points the needy soul to Him who can and will reveal salvation to the sinner and give him rest by faith in Himself.

If we look at a Christian who is under this question what can more hinder and stifle his proper affections than the fear which is inevitable with judgment at the end of his course? Is it possible to love thoroughly or at ease one who, as you thus cannot but fear sometimes, may cast you into hell? "There is no fear in love," says the apostle; "there is fear in my love," says the simple believer, conscious of many a failure, and some serious enough to produce anguish as he thinks of that day. At the least, if his view keeps him in trepidation now and then, he sees enough in Christ to yield him what he calls a humble hope; but he is very sure that he can never profess to have boldness in the day of judgment. On the contrary, he dreads to think or hear about an object so fraught with terror. I put the case as truly as I know how, in order to convince such that they are under the influence of thoughts quite irreconcilable with God's revelation. If you say No, they cannot be reconciled with what the apostle says here, let me assure you that you do not improve your case by such an insinuation, but endanger your soul by the unbelieving impression that Scripture can be inconsistent with itself, or that another portion may modify or get rid of what troubles you here.

It is the error you have somehow imbibed or allowed which is at fault, not the word before us which is intended to take away fear, not to create it. Christ only, as the divine witness and proof of God's perfect love, can banish your fear. This is the invariable aim of the Holy Ghost; He leads into all truth, but it is by glorifying Christ, taking His things and announcing them to us. He may indirectly help us by taking our things that we may be humbled and grieved before God; but even here it is to occupy us with Him through whom came grace and truth, and who is the fulness of all in His own person.

There is another danger for those who are not yet delivered from fear. They fall back on baptism or betake themselves to the Lord's Supper as a resource against fear. But Scripture gives no countenance to such a delusion. On the contrary, the apostle Paul is careful, in writing to the Corinthians his first Epistle when many were in a bad and dangerous state, to warn them of any such misuse. In 1 Cor. 1:14 he thanks God that he baptized none of them unless Crispus and Gaius, that none might say that he baptized unto his own name. He baptized also the house of Stephanas, and did not know that he baptized any other. For Christ, said he, sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel. Think of his writing thus if baptism be the means of life eternal! On the contrary, Christ sent him not to baptize (which he left to others to do for the "many" Corinthians who "heard, believed and were baptized" in that city (Acts 18:8). And he tells them in 1 Cor. 4:15: "In Christ Jesus I begot you through the gospel." The gospel, the word of truth, was and is the means of being begotten of God, never baptism whatever its value in its place.

But he goes further still in 1 Cor. 10, for he warns the Corinthians, and all Christians ever since, from the pattern of Israel, though all passed through the sea and all were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink, yet God was not pleased with the most of them, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. "But these things happened, types of us, that we should not be lusters of evil things as they also lusted." And as to the Lord's Supper, even upright and capable Romanists, like Cardinal Cajetan, rejected the false interpretation of John 6:53-56, as to the Eucharist. It is Christ Himself in death the object of our faith, as the living bread was of Him incarnate before death. Applied to the Lord's Supper it fails doubly. For then it would teach that none could have life without the Supper, and again, that all who partook of it have life: two execrable untruths. Applied to Christ in life and death they are both of them precious truths. Thus is the word of God proved stronger than all the arguments of men. Christ is the all to the Christian.

It is now made known that God by His word assures of His love all that believe, and He sets it forth in Christ incarnate, Christ dying in atonement, and Christ in glory, winding all up with the declaration that "even as He is, we also are in this world." For it is here only that His grace and truth are present; and as Christ was full of grace and truth, to receive Him is to receive of His fulness, as every Christian does. This then is the question for you, dear doubting fearing friend. Do you believe, as a poor guilty sinner, on Him? Do you believe that God out of His own boundless love gave Jesus His Son? Cast away the vain hope of any good thing of your own fit for God; receive on God's authority and in His grace Him who has all good not only for God but for you, and who was sent to be the propitiation for sins. Then, as receiving God's glad tidings, you are entitled to say, as you weigh it all before Him, "By grace I do believe that I have life, and peace, and am His child." Then you know that you are elect. Any other way of claiming to know it is human and dangerous, uncertain and evil, the devil cheating you to ruin. Christ is the truth to settle all election that is true and good. Believing on and confessing Him you are entitled without an atom of argument to say, God has chosen me: else, left to myself and my reason, I had never believed after a divine sort. Thus it is that "perfect love casteth out fear," and gives me by faith peace with God, instead of that punishment or torment which my spirit knows too well.

Hence it is very certain that "he that feareth hath not been made perfect in love." While you are uncertain of God's love, you cannot really love Him; when you believe the reality of His love in giving His Son for the ungodly, for His enemies, is He not coming down to meet you? Take again the once abandoned woman (Luke 7), and the violent robber on the cross (Luke 23); why are these extreme cases recorded, but to encourage you on God's part? Otherwise they had been passed over in silence. But they are written expressly to meet doubting men and women, as hard to believe God's love as the most outrageous sinner, or even more so.

Do not be disheartened because you come to the conclusion that you do not love God. This is not the true question, but does not God point to Christ and His death for sins as the best proof even He could give of His love to you and me? When you bow your reasoning mind to such an overwhelming proof to satisfy you of His love, you will surely love, though you may be slow to allow it: others will see the change in you. When you rest on Christ's sacrifice for your sins, your heart will open to the God that thus cleanses you by Christ's blood from every stain; and you will be ready then to say, I have found Him, and soon learn that it was He who found you. Come just as you are, that He may have all the glory. And if He loved me with so mighty a love of His own without one single thing or thought in me worthy of His love; if He so loved me notwithstanding my entire being and all my life full of sins, will He cease to love me when I am His child, His son by faith in Christ, and by the Holy Spirit cry, Abba, Father? Assuredly not: even my father would not cast me off even if erring, thoughtless, and foolish. But God does then as Father judge my conduct as His child by day, and discipline me when I need it. And is not this the fruit of His persevering and faithful love to me in the wilderness?

There is also immense comfort as a child of God in knowing that whatever the want, the sorrow, the shame, the fear, He wants me to go to Him freely and without delay to cast all my care on Him, for He cares for me and loves me. See that Satan sows no distrust of Him in your heart; for it is a lie to injure me by dishonouring Him. Let me think then of Christ, and what this tells of His love to me, and the hateful spell is broken. No, I am not made perfect in love if I dread Him; and the more I have been beguiled, the more need of telling all out in His presence in the confidence of His love.

What then explains the root of the whole matter? The few words in which the apostle sums it all up in ver. 17: "We love, because He first loved us." Short as it is, and shorter in the critical text, supported by the best authorities, it is a divine source of rest to the believer. And it appears to me that the natural mind would have been more ready to insert "Him" than to leave it out. If "Him" was there originally, it would have been a daring act for any even nominal Christian copyist to have struck it out; but if the omission preferred now on sufficient external grounds be correct, we can easily understand a well-meaning scribe conceiving the first clause sounding rather lame for want of an object, and venturing to insert "Him," because it is without doubt intrinsically true.

On the whole then it appears to me that the reading left absolutely is both impressive in itself, and gains rather than loses by the absence of an expressed object which would tend to limit rather than enlarge the sense. For as it thus stands, it means that we love [both God and His children], because "He loved us." Christ was the source in our souls of divine love, whatever its object or direction. It sprang up not from ourselves in any wise. Love is of God. We in unbelief think that it must begin in us to draw out His love. But not so: we were dead, we were sinful, and in any case love was not, nor could it spring up from us. Our spiritual history, our being in reference to love and to God, is simply this: — "We love, because He first loved us." We own it to be the truth to our shame; we gladly acknowledge it the truth to His glory and to our blessing for ever. The Spirit opened our hearts by the word to the Son sent by the Father to give us life and salvation through His atoning death, and now to be one spirit with the glorified Lord, to be as He is in this world, now and henceforth abiding in love, and so in God and God in us.

Next in ver. 20 we have the last of the false professions, and here individualised as in 1 John 2. "If anyone say, I love God, and hate his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" Such language and conduct betray unreality; and the apostle does not scruple to stigmatise that person as a liar. Our feeling toward a brother tests the truth or falsehood of our profession Godward. It is a present and tangible case. Here is my brother at my door, endowed with life in Christ, and cleansed from his sins by Christ's blood; and do I allow on any pretext hatred in the heart, and talk of loving the unseen God? It is a falsehood: Satan has closed my eyes. Were there living faith, the life would attract, and God's love draw out love from me. Nor does the Holy Spirit of God abide in the saint for nothing; and where the heart treats Him as nothing in another, is it not the plain evidence that He cannot be there to give the enjoyment of fellowship one with another through the Son, by whom all the blessing comes? If "liar" is a character most ignominious among men, what is it in the mouth of an apostle and in the eternal things of God? Thus does the only wise God in the evil day provide means that His children should not be deceived. For the more blessed is the love that is inspired by divine grace, the more important it is that we should not be imposed on by what is untrue. It is a part of God's moral government of His children that they are tried here below in a great variety of ways. But the love that is of God confides in God, abides in love whether others do or not, and has the Spirit's abiding power to make good God's own presence in our souls, that we may be calm and subject whatever happens.

Here again the same care is taken, as we have seen in other cases, to establish us in obedience as to loving a brother. For what is so lowly as obedience? What so counteractive to pride or vanity, to passion or light wit? And what gives such courage and firmness even to a timid soul as the consciousness of obeying God? Hence the importance of its application to loving a brother who might from this or that slight fault be regarded as anything but a persona grata. "And this commandment have we from Him, that he that loveth God love his brother also." Our God does not leave us to our own thoughts or discretion. We are sanctified unto obedience, and to an obedience after Christ's own filial love, not at a Jew's distance from God under law. He enjoins on him that loves Himself to love his brother. For indeed if God loves His child, am I, are you, not to love him? Is this not enough to make one ashamed of exercising one's will against God's will? Listen then to His word. He therefore lays it down as an authoritative commandment, that if I resist still I may have the sting in my soul that I am fighting against God, and all the more on my part because He reveals Himself as the God of all grace. Do I persist, in the face of an injunction so plain, following truth and love so precious? Had I not better judge myself, what I am, and whither I go: for is not this flat self-will against the God and Father of the Lord? The brother may have ways or words not pleasant to me; yet it may be that I am quite wrong in my estimate, and the fault in me rather than him; but if I demur to His plain commandment, how can I trust myself in anything else? Is not this rebellion? and against whom?

It is the moral glory of Christ that He ever applied obedience in every demand and every difficulty. If it were at the beginning before His public service, on this He stood, to this He submitted, and by this defeated the enemy in each one of the three great temptations. "It is written," "It is written," were His answers of entire submission to His Father. Did Satan dare to cite Scripture, the Scripture referring to Himself, He does not argue but answers, "It is written again." He did not doubt Jehovah's care nor His charge to angels; but He was here not to do Satan's bidding, and He refused to tempt God as if He doubted His word. Just the same unswerving obedience we find publicly at the end: "Because I did not speak from myself, but the Father that sent me Himself gave me commandment what I should say and what I should speak, and I know that His commandment is life eternal. What things therefore I speak, even as the Father hath said to me, so I speak" (John 12:49-50).

In giving His last instructions to His own it is the same obedience, — the clearer too, in the most solemn of all things then approaching, His death. "I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world cometh and in me hath nothing. But that the world may know that I love the Father, and even as the Father commanded me, thus I do." He was about to lay down His life, not only of His own free love but in obedience to the Father (John 14:30-31). Indeed even before that He had said (John 10:17-18), "On this account the Father loveth me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it again. This commandment I received from my Father." What can be clearer than that our blessed Lord brought everything within the scope of His obedience? And this is the highest spirituality which the Holy Spirit can work in any saint. Therefore do we heed His solemn words: "He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If anyone serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall my servant be; if anyone serve me, him shall the Father honour" (John 12:25-26). Blessed Lord, to serve Thee we would follow Thee; but Oh with what unequal steps! Oh how great the grace indeed that Thy servant also shall be with Thee, and have the Father's honour!

Here God's authority enters, as in all the rest of Christian life, into loving; and as loving one's brother is peculiarly liable to checks, if not evasions, He makes it a matter of command, joining our love even to Himself with love to our brother. Yet in this the same blessedness controls the manner and all involved in it. His word alone can surely and safely guide, whatever the circumstances which very greatly modify how it is to be done. Who is sufficient for these things? Our power is in the Spirit according to our new life in Christ, and in obedience to God speaking to us in His word.

After having set forth with great fulness the working of divine love in our case as sinners, and in us now we are saints, and this right on to the day of glory, the discussion is terminated with the words, "We love, because He first loved us." No doubt "we love Him," but if the critical omission of "Him" be true, which it appears to be, then our love is put into a general form ("we love," and not only "we love Him"); it takes in not only our loving Him, but loving all that are His around us. "We love." There was no real love in our hearts till we knew His love. This is the more important because of its sentimental abuse. It may not be known to all that a school of pious persons, by others called Mystics, and found more particularly in France, Germany and Holland, who had their followers in England, invented the theory that there was no real love of God unless wholly independent of self. That sounds very fine, but there is no soundness and little reality in it. It never was fact for a soul since the world began. Not that we may not in spiritual experience rise to a love of God independent of self, and leaving self behind, if we may, to lose ourselves in the sense of His perfect love, and our delight in His nature and ways.

But we always begin with the fact to the praise of His grace that God loved us when we were dead and guilty. It was His pure mercy that saved us (Titus 3:4-7). It is the grossest ignorance, unbelief and presumption, unless we truly find in Christ and His work the love of God toward us when in our utter ruin and sins. To shirk this in its depths, and strive to rise into unselfish love of Him, is not only worthless, but an unbelieving wrong done to the truth as to God and His Son, as well as ourselves. It is only a disguised working of the "self" which they disclaim and would spare, and which leads to no small admiration of themselves, their ecstasies over their state. Yet after all it utterly falls short of the communion described by the apostle, based on Christ's life in us, His atoning death in full efficacy, and the consequent abiding of God in us by His Spirit given to us; and all this is the common portion of Christians, however few they may be who realise it as all ought. It is deplorable indeed that any of God's children should descend so low as to think that the love they can feel toward God is the grand thing, and to find such pleasure in it as if this were the best state for the saints of God on earth. It is His love in Christ which is the source and fulness of all, and makes ours so small in comparison.

How simple, how sweet and how strong is His word here! "We love, because He first loved us." Assuredly if His children, we do love, and the change is vast for those, once filled with self in one form or another, to be brought to love with a love which is of God. But we do love Christ, and God who gave Him, and the children of God who received Him like ourselves. All is included in "we love." Yet none of it had been possible unless we begin in the dust of death, where and "because He first loved us." These words are therefore a corrective, much needed by our hearts, to strip us of self-occupation and self-admiration, of the folly of imagining that we have got rid of sin by a leap of special faith into a state of moral perfection. The notion that we are perfect in such a sense as this is the plainest and surest proof of our imperfection. It convicts us of great ignorance of Scripture, which is characteristic of all the classes of the introspective school.

On the other hand, it is undeniable that the effect of occupation with Christ, in the word and Spirit of God, makes Him all and ourselves nothing in our own eyes. And this may and ought to go so far, in the delight our souls find in Him and in God Himself, as to drop ourselves altogether. Some Christians, wise and prudent, do not like this, and say that we cannot in spirit be always on high, and must descend into the valley. But are they wise, spiritually, after all? No saint is puffed up when he is consciously in God's presence. When he leaves it, the danger ensues of being proud to have been there beyond others. Brethren, if we believe the apostle, we are entitled to know by His love shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us (and not by our feelings, which change like the moon, and are apt to give credit to us, poor foolish creatures), that we abide in Him and He in us. The blessed effect then is that we in all simplicity "boast in God," as the apostle Paul says, "through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we now received the reconciliation."

Observe too how characteristic of our apostle it is, after he has presented what is of the highest nature, to add a word of the most practical kind; and we need this. It is good for the soul, and it is what God has written, knowing best what is for His glory in us.

"If a man say, I love God and hate his brother, he is a liar." The thing that was precious in the apostle's eyes was doing the truth, not talking about it, but the holy reality. Now if he hate his brother, he is a liar. Nobody spoke more plainly and without respect of persons, when needed, yet none can deny that even among the apostles his love was conspicuous. Ought not we to do so, when it is due to God? But how very different from that which passes for love in these degenerate days, aping the world where the great aim seems to be, allowing everybody's and trying nobody's conscience. How far was this ideal from him, who among Christians would have no mincing about evil matters!

Now, what works in a false professor fully may work partially in a true confessor, if not walking circumspectly and with vigilance. Wilful sin carries away the unbeliever as Satan's prey. But if a believer sin (not goes on sinning), he is weakened and the Spirit of God grieved; and in that state he might act unworthily of Christ to his brother, or in some other uncomely way. We have seen how grace intervenes and restores, though not always very soon. There may be thus grievous inconsistency till his soul is restored. It is however a grave inconsistency, or, to use Levitical language, a rising in the flesh but not leprosy, as it is with the man that hates his brother. And God can use for the good of others, what is so evil; as the Psalmist says: "The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart [not in his own] that there is no fear of God before his eyes." Grace makes the inconsistency a warning. All things work together for good to those that love God. It becomes therefore a practical point, an impressive lesson to beware of saying and not doing. "For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" Logic never wrought love, nor rises above a mental inference. But the new nature, with Christ acting on it, produces the result according to God.

It is all beside the mark to talk about things that do not try the heart; but God so arranges matters that we have practical tests around us. How are we carrying ourselves towards those that are our brethren? The apostle's divinely-given sense of truth utterly discards evasion. He brings in an illustration, almost childlike in simplicity (anything but childish), but holy and wise. The pride of man would regard it as insignificant. They consider themselves perfect, and claim for self liberty to vent displeasure and dislike as it thinks proper. Circumstances may make it trying even to a saint, for a brother may act wrongly. Am I not to love him? Certainly I am. His conduct may give a different shape to your love, but love has always to be exercised as in the sight of God. It may not go forth in the same way, but can anything show more absence of love than turning away from even my faulty brother with scorn or dislike, with unwillingness to bear his burden or with indifference? It shows love, that you share his sorrow, even if he failed to be as really humbled as he ought. Reproving him simply might provoke, and therefore love would act otherwise. For we need God in nothing more than how to walk in love.

But those that love know where to turn in difficulties, and have through the Spirit the guidance of God in this respect as in others. Love does not behave in an unseemly manner, it does not seek its own. It knows how to bear or cover all, to hope all, to believe all, and to endure all. Hence what is so persevering as love? and if other things fail, love never does. To this we are called in Christ, and we have ample opportunities for its exercise. There are our brethren that we have seen, and many we see around us. If I put myself in circumstances where I do not see nor care about them, occupy myself with other objects that please me, this is not love; and if I yield to such a state habitually, it is assuredly a dangerous case. It is certainly a thing to judge, and to cry to God for deliverance. Let brotherly love continue.

There is another important thing connected with it here. The subject is fully discussed indeed, and according to the wonderfully near relationship into which we are brought with the Father and the Son. Here it is applied to the ordinary matters of daily life in order to test the reality of love; but there is another form of impressing it. "And this commandment have we from Him, that he who loves God love his brother also."

Many Christians look on commandments as necessarily legal. They therefore associate the word with the law, a ministry of death and condemnation. But those who have weighed the Gospel of John, and this Epistle under our consideration ought to know better. As applied now, it is a profound mistake. The Bible abounds with commandments of another tenor, New Testament as well as Old. The difference is plain. The commandments of the law addressed man in the flesh, in order to prove his perversity and rebelliousness; and thus the impossibility of any standing before God for a moment on such a ground. But when the saving grace of God appeared, Christ gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify to Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good works. Then it is that we need and receive these commandments in order to guide us, as a sort of divine clue, through all the intricacies of life. Here in this world, if there is distress and suffering, God commands love, laying it on His own children.

Supposing a husband lays any word strongly on his wife — call it a commandment or not; do you think she would find it irksome to obey? If she loved him it would be a joy to her. Another who was not his wife might and would resent such a command which he had no right to impose; but there is a vast difference between the two. It is the relationship which explains it. Now we Christians are in the nearest relationship to God, who lays it on our hearts as His command to love our brother.

It is to be supposed too, that some things a husband ought to know better than his wife; and at any rate he is there to guide his wife. The responsibility is his, and he cannot without sin forfeit it. Of course he is bound to take care that he is guided of God in what he says; and when he does, as he is bound to see that his wishes are carried out, so she also to find not only her duty but her pleasure in it. If this be plain among men, it is yet more incumbent on the child of God. Here is One who loves me perfectly, made me His child, One that spared not for me what was most precious to Himself, His own Son, when there was not a single thing in me to love. He now loves me no longer as a guilty sinner but as His child: am I to count a commandment anything but a matter to receive with glad confidence? In His case there could be no question of the entire goodness and wisdom of His ways. We cannot infallibly count on such a thing in either husband or father. But as we were bound to honour our parents, to obey unless in direct contrariety to God's plain word, how much more are we called to be the ready servants of God's will, and with all love as His own children?

There can be no real exception in our relationship with God. We are called absolutely to obey. Luther in his haste, who had so much to learn because of his Romanist ignorance, never liked, because he did not understand, the Epistle of James, which would have done him much good if he had. It is true that James was given to write of justification before men — not to be "believed" but to be "shown." But therein he speaks admirably of that which guides and controls the child of God now as the "law of liberty." It is in contrast with the law of Moses, the law of bondage. That which God lays on His child is a law of liberty. How is this? Because the new nature desires above all things to do the will of God; and consequently, when told what that will is, the heart goes thoroughly with it. There is of course need of prayer, and vigilance against the flesh; and there may be as many hindrances as Satan can muster; but when once we know what our Father lays upon us, we judge any reluctance as evil, and cherish His will as a law of liberty. This is what the new nature delights in, and James speaks of the new nature rather than of redemption, on which Paul is so full. You will recollect in the same chapter from which I have already quoted the words, we are told that "of His own will God begat us by the word of truth that we should be a certain firstfruits of His creatures." It is substantially what John calls life and Peter a divine nature. It was given to the apostle Paul to develop beyond others Christ's redemption, and the mighty motive which the knowledge of the constraining, self-sacrificing love of Christ gives the heart. But James tells us of the new nature going along with what comes as the will of God, and thus from all we get a great convergence of light for our souls.

Here it is impressed that loving our brethren is not merely the instinct of the new nature, but what God insists on as obedience to Himself. What is there for us holier than obedience? What humbler? Is anything more becoming, more Christlike, than obedience? It is the place which Christ fulfilled in all its perfection, even to giving up His life in His perfect love to us. "This commandment have I received of my Father." Did its being the Father's command make it irksome to Christ? No, whatever it cost, this was an added and immense delight to our Lord Jesus. His perfect love and the commandment of His Father coalesced in it; and the same sort of appeal comes to us in loving the children of God. "And this commandment have we from Him, that he who loveth God love also his brother." Not only should our hearts go out in love, but we know that we are pleasing God and doing His will. Now "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever," as said our apostle earlier. Let us not forget that He binds together loving Him and loving His children, and will not have the first without the last. If it be His love and honour, so let it be our love and duty, because He loves us each and all with the same perfect love.


1 JOHN 5:1-5.

"Every one that believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God, and every one that loveth him that begot loveth also him that is begotten of him. Herein we know that we love the children of God when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous. For all that is begotten of God overcometh the world, and this is the victory that overcame the world, our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"

Here the apostle lays bare the root of the matter in hand. There is in the case another relationship of far deeper significance than that of "his brother," that is, of one brother to another. How is my brother related to God? For it is the same subject as in the last chapter carried into the present one. And it is very important to have all answer from God to the question now raised, Who is my brother? There are many serious and pious persons who seem to have great difficulty in answering this. No doubt the scattering of God's children, who were once gathered together in one, adds to the perplexity. Are my brethren the persons who compose the same religious communion? For any that think so, the love that God expects goes out to those in the same community, whether right or wrong. The community may be wrong or according to God; but even were it right in itself, the present state of ruin in the church is a reproach Godward, and makes the path slippery for most. The reason is that it may shut one up to a party fellowship, instead of looking to God's mind, the grief I ought to feel at confusion and disorder in divine things, and the danger of swerving from His will.

Let us not forget the essential feature of what becomes a saint is his separation to God, by His grace, from the world; not only from evil but to Himself in Christ. Sanctification is altogether imperfect if we leave out God, and only dwell on the avoidance of this or that evil. For clearly one might be separated from five hundred evils, yet in one thing drawn into fatal compromise, and thus not be truly in communion with God and His will. The separation might be ever so well intended, but not trustworthy, though likely to make the separatist self-satisfied. For when souls leave out God and His word as a whole, they are apt to have too good an opinion of themselves. But where Christ and God Himself are before the heart, what leads to more real humility?

This is exactly what we all need: to be perfectly happy by grace, yet nothing in our own eyes. Nothing but Christ for ourselves consciously in the presence of God harmonises these two blessings. You may find a person humble apparently but not holy, and a person apparently holy but far from humble. Neither is according to God. It is but affecting humility in one case, and sanctimoniousness in the other. They are self-deceived; Christ alone gives reality. Never trust those who accredit themselves as humble or holy. They remind one of the Old Testament description, "righteous over much." We have such always with us, but we need not trust them. For the most part they are those who say and do not.

But here we have the all-importance of knowing who they are that one is called to love. The apostle answers the question when things were becoming more and more difficult; and we need to be assured of God's will. Although the state was critical yet compared with our days orderly, where now it is anomalous, the test given is not that of outward communion. Today we see children of God, some here and some there, and Satan too successful in making them share ecclesiastically with almost every evil under the sun, so that real fellowship according to God's word is utterly swamped. Even God's children for the most part shirk the consequences of fidelity. So much the more do we want an absolutely unfailing test who they are whom we are called to love, and here it is: — "Every one that believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God; and every one that loveth Him that begot loveth also him that is begotten of Him." He is God's child, and my brother. We are to love every one begotten of God, even "whosoever believeth."

Further, the way in which this faith is here described is remarkable too. The apostle John does not here look at Christ in glory, as he did in 1 John 4:17. He does not even dwell on Christ's death and resurrection. There is no statement of redemption. It is the person of Jesus, and the person put in the simplest possible way as "the Christ." How good and wise on God's part! There are many that know a vast deal about the Lord's sayings and doings, who overlook His person. Such are not true believers. Here much is made of the simplest believer, if true to His person; and he who does not believe that Jesus is the Christ is no believer at all. He who does truly confess and believe Him thus might be quite ignorant of His many offices, and ignorant of God's purposes and counsels of glory, but he has the right object of faith before his soul as far as it goes. He might feebly apprehend Christ's priesthood, or His advocacy, and not at all His headship of the body the church, and His supremacy over all things, and any other grand truths and ways of the Lord, of which the New Testament is full. Such lack of knowledge is no proof that he is not a child of God; he has gradually to learn these things.

Here is a test in order to set our relationship to God on its right basis, and give our love its due direction. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ — the Anointed of God — whom He sent into the world to give life and be a Saviour, he is our brother. The apostle was inspired to come down to the lowest step on which one could rightly look at our Lord. It is not at all the particularism of Christ in glory, any more than of appreciating what is presented to faith in His work for our sins. The apostle does not warrant the thought that those and those alone are true Christians who are led at once to the gospel of Christ's glory; nor does he allow that those are the sole objects of love, who have believed as Saul of Tarsus did on the road to Damascus. John was inspired at the last epoch, when this Epistle was written to encourage the faith of the simpler souls who had never as yet heard of these things; but he would have them on God's part recognised as His children, and entitled to that love which is here urged on every saint.

Narrowness here is precisely what the Spirit of God detects and sets aside as dishonour to God. It is divine life, not ecclesiastical fellowship, which commends him who is begotten of God to the love of all alike begotten by Him. He lays down a quite opposed principle of the largest grace. If God has opened the heart to believe that Jesus is the Christ, perhaps of one placed in difficult circumstances and rarely hearing the truth of God, we are to welcome and heartily own and love him as begotten of God. As Jesus the Christ has become the object of his faith, our place is to gladly acknowledge one thereby brought out of darkness and death to life everlasting. It may be very little in point of knowledge; but our duty is to make the most of a real work of God. For so it surely is if the soul rests on the blessed person of Jesus as the Christ. He is born of God just as truly as this brother who seems to have entered rapidly into some of the deepest truths of the New Testament. We are called to love the one no less than the other. We are to love them both simply, truly and divinely. Such is the manner of the love enjoined; though we dare not speak of our measure in it.

And this is of practical moment; for some Christians are by no means so pleasant or agreeable as others; but all such natural difference is quite outside this love of which the Holy Spirit speaks. Christ gives and forms the objects of grace independently of the old nature and character; and if love then prevail, it is all the more to God's praise, where there was much to repel and dislike naturally. But life in Christ rises superior through the Spirit to all that is of flesh; and this is to God's glory, not man's. Many a Christian however has been misled by wrong thoughts instead of being properly confirmed in the truth. One soul has never been taught that we only begin, after conversion, to learn God's mind in His word. Another has been unhappily led to admire, like a Jew, fine buildings, and grand music in His worship, and thinks his prayers are more acceptable in a cathedral. If you do not know any one, even as a believer, so dense and ignorant of gospel liberty, there is at least one here who remembers it in himself.

The fact is common and beyond doubt that there are very many children of God altogether unacquainted with the ways of God who know no better. Now am I to slight a soul in that condition? Certainly not. If he be one who simply and truly believes in Jesus as the Christ, my heart is to go out to him as unfeignedly and warmly as to another ever so familiar with the truth and faithful in the ways of God. Only love is to be exercised according to the state. It needs the Spirit's guidance with discernment and consideration. Is he a weak one, easily to be hurt and cast down? Is he so strong as to be able to bear plain speech and profit by it? It is rather a dangerous thing to uproot a habit of religion from a believer and destroy it without implanting the due truth to fill up the vacuum. They shall be all taught of God, says the Old Testament as well as the New. We need His guidance to act wisely as instruments of His grace in supplying the lack by a better knowledge of Christ and of God. Is not this the true way?

Perhaps if one began by attacking the pomp and show and natural attractions of the cathedral, it might shock the immature believer, used to these "beggarly elements" as the right thing. On the other hand one ought not to give the least appearance of accepting these Jewish things as Christian; that would be uncandid and unfaithful, mere pandering to the person's flesh and superstition. But all shows how much grace one needs to meet a saint who knows yet but little grace. How often one fails here! If we have to do with those who really stand in grace, they bear readily with much weakness; but with those who have little sense of grace, we need much grace to treat them according to God. Since God loves them, there is no reason why we should not, and every reason why we should. God loves all that are begotten of Him. There is the ground of our love, and the clue to all the difficulty. "Every one that loveth Him that begat, loveth also him that is begotten of Him."

We have not far to search in order to see that principle in the case of a family. If one goes into a household where he has a great regard for the head of it, what effect will that have on him as to the children? Assuredly to love them all. One child may be rather trying and noisy, liking to tease and apt to be turbulent, and too often falling out with his brothers and sisters. Another may be gentle and attractive above all the rest. But the question is, Do I love them all? Certainly I love every one of the children if I love the parents.

Divine life discloses goodness in the children of God, viewed with a single and loving eye. Nor, as the rule, is there more than a little trial for the love that we owe them; but on the other hand also we have to remember the trial that our shortcomings may give to them. Yet if these were tenfold more than they prove in fact, here is His word to me and to you: If we love God, we shall surely love His children; not merely those that we see from day to day, but those that we do not see. Whatever the strange appearances, the mistakes or even the wrongs to be blamed, all that only alters the way in which we are to show the love. Never allow the thought for a moment that we should not love them. Perhaps circumstances may be so bad that we can only pray, but let us pray in love before God. Let us also reflect how far our love stands the test toward the saints we believe to be in the wrong. Do we seek their good? Are we earnest that the truth should reach them so as to deliver them from any prejudice or prepossession? We can always make good our love in God's presence. There is little love if we be not exercised about these things and using means, both with God and ourselves, in whatever way He may lay it on our hearts. It seems to me that this is the clear consequence from the principle that the apostle here lays down in this verse.

Another principle comes before us in the second verse. "Herein we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments." One can hardly conceive anything less logical according to the system of the schools. They would call it arguing in a circle, which is counted bad reasoning. But what has logic to do with the truth, with the grace of Christ, with the love of God and of His children? What has logic to do with life eternal? It is not a question of reasoning but of faith. Who can wonder that men who cannot rise above logic or learning or science are misty, yea, blind and lost before any characteristic truth in God's word, and find His love and its fruits all unintelligible or false according to dialectic rules. For there is no food for the soul in disputation; and if man could find bread for this life, "man liveth not by bread alone, but by everything that goeth out of the mouth of Jehovah doth man live" (Deut. 8:3). The Christian has found the way of life and of divine love, and the workings of the Holy Ghost through God's word. He therefore bows to this remarkable word. "Herein we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments." Thus are the various truths bound up together in one. It is the reasoning of the heart purified by faith, not only down from God, but up to Him again, blending obedience with the love of God and of His children. This is a most wholesome guard against deceiving or being deceived.

If this way of apostolic appeal be going round in a circle and sounds strange to Peripatetic ears, what can be more truly divine and worthy of God? Man cannot understand it, "because love is of God;" and we must have the love in order to understand such words. Never can one understand the practical ways of God without having the new nature which He communicates to the believer, which lives in both obedience and love. The life in Christ is given to him that believes on Him. When the believer is assured of this, intelligence follows, of which the Holy Spirit is the power that works in the new man. But the more we appreciate such grace toward us, the more the truth strikes, and fills us with praise as we see how it comes of sovereign grace in Christ, and all the Godhead shares in it, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can see how grace passes from the simple believing in Jesus as the Christ to the depths of God's nature, and constrains us not to take the truth without weighing the wonders of grace in it, nor to go on with our souls unexercised from day to day.

Is there any epistle more calculated to act on the believer's heart than the one now before us? If read in faith, there is certainly nothing to disturb our abiding in love. Christ has made this to faith a settled thing for ever. The truth of the gospel is the basis for God's abiding in us and our abiding in Him, no less than for the practice of loving the children of God which we know when we love God and keep His commandments. Divine love in Christ shines on a poor sinner, and gives him confidence that he is the object of perfect love, totally different from human affection at its best. For he is made not only a saint but a child of God. Only God could so love; and Christ His Son came to show it fully, and in order to do so, and blot out our sins, died as a sacrifice for us. This was not as man or the world gives; and it was made perfect, not only by the Holy Spirit coming to abide in us and with us, but in that we now in this world are as Christ is before the Father. For all the evils of us and in us are met and cleared by His death, and we have His risen life as our life, His Father our Father, His God our God; while we are in the world that crucified Christ. Soon is He coming to receive us to Himself that where He is we also may be. Meanwhile there are others who are God's children as we are, and He calls us to love them as He does. As they are in the same relationship and position, all is made plain. If God loves, so do we His children; and He makes it a matter of command to love our brother and to love them all. If we love not them, we do not love Him but deceive ourselves. This then is an end of that question.

But how is the love to the children of God to be shown? It is inseparable from loving God and keeping His commandments. It is not true love to them, if we fail in love to God or in keeping His commandments. Is not this a remarkable and heart-searching turn given to loving them? Is it not a matter for serious consideration? What a check to easy-going indifference! Suppose a child of God to be entrapped in an offence against God, either in false doctrine or in any practical way, what then? Is it love to sanction the evil thing, to make light of it, or to join one in it though a brother? "Herein we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments." It is not loving God's children when we show how little we love God by indifference to His injunction. Thus we have the principle of obedience affirmed in a new way to check the abuse of loving those who are sinning and call for censure. If we trifle with sin, if we slur over evil and wrong against God under the pretext of loving the children of God, we cannot know that our love to God's children is a reality, but a snare to us and to them. If through any cause we slip into disobeying God's will, all is wrong in our souls, and we have no certainty in our paths; for we have ceased to enjoy communion with Him, and we are in danger of humouring instead of loving the children of God. It is no longer true that we love them in a divine way. But if on the contrary we by faith introduce God into the question as One that the heart loves, then keeping His commandments follows, which forbids human yielding where He is concerned, and we have confidence that we love His children as in His sight. This is therefore an important test to judge our souls before Him. It is a truth which goes deep indeed, and closes the question by His word.

"For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not grievous." Thus the Holy Spirit gives not only a test in ver. 2 but a counter-test in ver. 3. It is not the love of God, or of His children, if we are disobedient. True love of God obeys, while it also shows itself in loving His children, and not our set or party but all His own. We cannot separate obedience from love. If it is not obedience, neither is it love. If it is divine love, obedience accompanies it. "And His commandments are not grievous." It is the estimate of the apostle and of all who are before God with confidence in His grace. It is the truth pronounced by the Holy Spirit. So the Lord Himself, in Matt. 11, declared His yoke easy and His burden light. But there is in the way of the children of God a constant hindrance, greater perhaps than anything else. At first sight you might think of the flesh. But no: near as the flesh is to us, there is a more serious difficulty. When the flesh in Christians breaks out, they are conscious of shame and sensible that they are wrong. But the world is a subtle malaria around us; and, when it affects us insidiously, we may remain unconscious what it is that produces spiritual dimness and inability to enjoy the Father's love or to return it. This again is what alienates the children of God one from another in various ways, and corrupts in proportion as it influences. If the heart values the world, it is stolen away from God's children as those whom God would bind together with the nearest of family ties, and would have love to be ever flowing in the Spirit's power. This the world utterly forbids; for it loves its own in its poor selfish and heartless way. Thus no small danger arises for the saints who seek its ease and honour. It is a pitfall for these and other reasons. If a Christian wants to stand well with the world, he must please it to the grief of the Spirit.

Men cannot tolerate the love of God's children, because it condemns the world. They are unwilling to associate with such as love the brotherhood, and ask if these low people are really your companions. How can you make such folk your special friends? If a saint wants to keep up a position in the world, the difficulty is at once felt. The gentlemen and ladies you court refuse to let you shame them with those of your intimacy they despise. This is and must be the spirit of the world. Yet you, a child of God and heir of heaven, wish to stand well in their eyes who crucified the Lord of glory! In their presence therefore you seek to avoid even a brotherly notice of poor children of God who are to reign with Christ and before the world too! Is this love to God and to His children? Is it loyalty to Christ, this anxiety of yours to be on good terms with the world? Then His commandments are more or less grievous. Is this not so? Where do you drift? These gentlemen and ladies, are they God's children? You do not say so; but they are nice people! Even if you hope they may be God's children, know you not that friendship with the world is enmity with God? "Whosoever therefore is minded to be friend of the world is constituted enemy of God." Do they not pursue the same principles and the same practices which cast out the Son of God from the world?

This is how we ought to look at the world because God so looks at it. It matters not how long ago it is since the world crucified the Lord. The sin is just as fresh now before God as when the fatal deed was done. No real change has come for the world since that day of guilt. It either claims the Christian relationship, or it denies it to those who believe. "What presumption to call Him your Father!" "Righteous Father," said the Lord, "the world knew Thee not." They might think it serving God to persecute those presumptuous men whom Christ is not ashamed to call His brethren, and who claim God as their Father. "Worst of all, they say He is not our Father, only theirs." What is more offensive to the world than drawing the line — presuming to have heavenly blessings and privileges which the world has not?

Do you plead that it is not exactly for yourself? But you have a son or daughter, whom you desire to have a fair place in the world: you have given it up for yourself, but there are the children! This is often the way in which the worldliness of a parent's heart is shown. It is not the earnest desire for the child to be in Christ, and God's own child. The practical aim first is to secure a good place in the world, though they pray that the child may be saved too. Meanwhile the unceasing effort is to advance the children in this present life. What is this but the world, no matter how it may be put in different shapes? It may not always be said, but the actions prove where the heart is. This seems to be the connection between vers. 3 and 4.

God's commandments are grievous chiefly through the evil influence of the world. "For all that is begotten of God overcometh the world." This is a searching appeal when we think how the children of God pander to the world. In general there is an utterly vague sense of what the world is. One has often been shocked among sober and real Christians to find on asking them what is the world, that they avow themselves unable to tell. Not a few think, since even the masses are baptized that, with the exception of open infidels, the world is gone and that Christendom has replaced it to the glory of God, if not for individual exactitude, at any rate in the moral sense of the expression. But let us not be deceived by Satin or appearances, were it incomparably better than it is. Christ is always the touchstone of truth. Is Christ now the life, the object, of mankind in any country under the sun? Where He is all this and more, simply and truly, it is not the world. Christ gives living consciousness of and rest in the Father's love; and where this is enjoyed in the Holy Spirit, it is not the world. But where other objects than Christ attract and govern the heart, and the Father's love is unknown or counted an impossibility, the world remains in unchanged opposition. Can any question be of greater moment, if we have not already decided it by faith, than that we should examine ourselves and test our conscience, heart and ways? For it is an easy thing to let the world gain advantage in detail, even where in the main we seek to be faithful. Is it not dangerous, if we feel ourselves hazy, to shrink from the scriptural test? Divine love assuredly binds us, if we see more clearly, to help one another, instead of yielding to the unloving habit of spying out inconsistencies in this one or that, is an excuse for being mixed up with the world in divine worship and ways. There is nothing of Christ in anything of the sort.

Here we have the assurance that it is not the mystic  recluse, nor the highly spiritual only, but that "All that is begotten of God overcometh the world." Does not this stimulate as well as encourage the simplest child of God?  Have not all such been begotten of God? There is the principle laid down plainly. Not a single real Christian is exempted from the privilege any more than the responsibility. As every believer now is an object of God's love and in the relationship of His family, so he "overcometh the world."  "And this is the victory that overcometh the world (not service, not sacrifice, nor even love, but) — our faith." Do you believe this, Christian? Be not faithless here but faithful. It is by faith in our Lord Jesus that we are brought to God; so too that we are kept of God; it is so that we discern and repel the enemy; and so do we obediently rest in His love who deigned to call us His friends.

Faith is the victory that overcame the world; but how? This he next adds. It is "he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God." It is now not as "the Christ" simply. It is the same Jesus, but the apostle goes farther in the expression of His personal dignity. And it is always so with the real soul. One might well begin with believing that He is Jesus the Christ, or one might have had presented to faith yet more than this, — though it was glad tidings to hear on divine authority that God anointed Jesus, having sent Him into the world for the everlasting good of those who believe; and this is the Christ. But here we are told of His glory above the world as the eternal Son of God. Is not this far beyond His being the Christ or Anointed on the earth? He was Son of God before the world, and however the world or His earthly people reject, His glory as the Son of God will survive heaven and earth. He that came down was God humbling Himself in love; and He that went up was Man after redemption exalted above all the universe, Jesus the Son of God. He, who is God and man in one person fills the Christian's heart, and shall fill all things. We no longer look at Him only as the Anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power who went about doing good and healing all those domineered by the devil. We see Him in heavenly glory, we are enabled to appreciate Him in His eternal relationship to God, no less than to ourselves and to all else.

This is His title to explain the character of the faith that overcomes the world. How could it be otherwise? Grace in Him attracted our hearts when lost, gave us life, and died for our sins; then the new life is called into exercise in the knowledge of a divine glory that dims and annuls the false glory of man and the world, and of a love that brings us into actual relationship with the Father and the Son, creating kindred duties, according to the entirely new place into which sovereign grace has now brought the Christian. The life we receive cannot but rise to its source, and as the grace better known gives it more power by the Spirit, we rise in our appreciation of Christ and of His word. Hence is seen the bearing of the truth that He is not only the Anointed coming into the world on His errand of divine mercy but the Son of God with a personal glory irrespective of any such mission, which is only enhanced by the world's ignorant contempt of Him to its own ruin. He is the Son of man who went down into all the depths to glorify God even as to sin and to save the lost. But as He was the Son of God before the earth and the heavens, so He abides when they shall perish. Hence this glory of the Lord Jesus is brought forward as that which strengthens faith against all difficulties from the world. For "Who is he that overcometh the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"

It is a soul that did not settle down in the truth received when first converted, but having tasted its preciousness was led on by the Spirit to know Him better in relation not only to its own circle but to God and His glory. "To him that hath shall be given"; and the diligent shall be made fat, yet better still have the joy of apprehending His love and His perfections. This therefore gave power over all the world could do in hatred and frown, any more than in its attractions, ease, or honour. Faith ever sees in the world the murderous hatred of the Son of God. Are we then to fear what we must abhor? "In the world ye have tribulation; but be of good cheer (be courageous): I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

The ever deepening faith in the glory of Christ is the main preservative against the world. As Satan is its prince with no end of wiles to mislead and injure, we need all that our Lord is even as Son of God to overcome in the conflict to which our very blessing in Him exposes and commits us. To be assured that the God of peace will bruise Satan under our feet is excellent; but to rest on that final victory alone would be a snare for our souls. We are here to defeat him now and always, as Joshua exhorted Israel; and we must be faithful in little things every day if we are to overcome in great difficulties.

Hence we may see how the Lord in His epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia expects it in every one of them, and gives special and suited promises to invigorate the faithful individuals when He could not count on the declining assemblies. See too how, when it was not only the Balaam spirit with Nicolaitanism as in Pergamos but the yet more audacious Jezebel in Thyatira, it is there that He presents Himself as the Son of God, the rock on which He builds His church superior to the power of death. It is life in Him that fits us for fellowship with the Father and Himself; but in order to overcome the world and enjoy the fellowship, faith in the Son of God must be fresh and firm by grace, and the Christian world so-called (as many are not ashamed to call it) becomes more painful and disgusting than the gross and open heathen world. So it is to the Father and the Son. The Patristic corrupters of the truth used to teach that if people got baptized, even if living wickedly, their sufferings in hell would be mitigated through their baptism; but the Lord had ruled the contrary if they had only an ear to hear. "That bondman who knew his own lord's will, and had not prepared [himself] nor done his will, shall be beaten with many [stripes]; but he who knew not and did things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few" (Luke 12:47-48).

Oh let us see to it that, simple and strong in the faith that Jesus is the Son of God, we too may overcome the world!


1 JOHN 5:6-12.

"This is he that came through water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by (or, in the power of) the water only but by the water and the blood; and it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth. Because three are those that bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and the three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; because this is the witness of God which he hath witnessed concerning his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he hath not believed in the witness which God hath witnessed concerning his Son. And this is the witness that God gave to us life eternal, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."

The verses last before us in the beginning of this chapter indicate both those whom we are to love according to God, and that this love is inseparable from obedience. Divine love in the Christian cannot be without obeying God's commands. It is not so with natural affection, as this too is entirely independent of obedience. Christian love is the spiritual activity of the new man, and as it goes out to all that are God's children because they are His, it cannot go out to any apart from subjection to God's will. Love must take a different shape if dealing with the disobedience of such as are bound to obey God. In every case divine love and divine obedience are supposed to be inseparable in the believer.

Then we learn that there is a present enemy against us in both respects, an enemy which children of God are apt to overlook in its insidious character. The youngest have reason to feel that what is called in scripture "the flesh" is a source of hateful and selfish evil, though alas it is easier to detect its uncomeliness in another than in oneself. Indeed it is part of its deceivable working that we are as quick to discern (if not imagine) its offensiveness in another as we are slow thoroughly to judge it in our own case.

But the world is often a subtler snare. It has its own code of decorum, while it offers many an object which is pleasant to human nature, and to many real Christians; its religion (the worst part of it in God's sight) has powerful attraction. The world therefore is a far more dangerous enemy than the flesh. An outbreak of the flesh is not only disreputable but humbling and a distress before God, even to a comparatively small measure of spirituality. But the world to a large extent seems respectable, and consequently, where not a saint would fail to discover the ordinary works of the flesh, most are apt to make excuses for the indulgence of the world. Now the world is the direct enemy of the Father, so much so that the love of the Father as such can never have power or be enjoyed where the spirit of the world prevails. It has often been remarked and is evidently true, that in Scripture as the world is opposed to the Father, so the flesh is to the Spirit, and the devil to the Son of God. But opposition of and in this triple evil to the Trinity Satan works for mischief through the world and the flesh; and we have the comfort that God the Father works for good through the Lord Jesus by the Spirit. We may distinguish the different forms of evil, but in fact they often coalesce in practice, and so also it is in the working of the Godhead; and greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.

This brings before us the testimony of God in the world, which appeals to man and forms His own family. It is therefore through faith in the word which reveals Jesus the Son of God. It is not a matter of reasoning nor of affection, any more than through a rite applied by a special class of men. It is through God's testimony dealing with the conscience of the sinner, purifying the heart by the faith which rests for atonement on the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus. "This is He that came through water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by the water only, but by the water and the blood." For God gives special witnesses in order to act on man under the pressure of uncleanness and guilt, whether believers or unbelievers — unbelievers that they may bow to Him and the truth; believers that they may be purged in conscience, enlarged and strengthened in their faith.

Here then we are led from the person of Christ, which had just been before us, to the work of Christ characterising His person. For His work it is which furnishes the witnesses. God deigns to give us more than sufficient testimony. Two witnesses were required in the things of man with man, two sufficed, three better still. Here God provides fully. He presents to man three witnesses of the greatest conceivable weight for leading into the truth. "This is He that came," neither by human birth, might, or wisdom, nor yet by divine power or glory. It was not through His incarnation nor through His unequalled ministry. "This is He that came through water and blood, Jesus Christ." He who was the true God and life eternal came to die as truly as any man, yet as no other could die, He by God made sin to save sinners and wash them, not only purified inwardly but in God's sight whiter than snow through His blood. Yes He came to die, for His death alone could blot out our sins or glorify God as to sin (John 13:31-32). The allusion is unquestionably to our Lord on the cross, dead already, pierced by the soldier to make sure of His death, out of whose side flowed blood and water. In the history the blood is that which caught the eye first of course, and so there first named. The water was observed however to flow also. Whoever saw or heard of a fact so extraordinary that blood and water should issue out of the side of a dead man? Yet so they did here.

The Gospel of John (John 19:33-37) had drawn attention to it more than to His most stupendous miracles. "But when they came to Jesus they broke not his legs; but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he that hath seen hath witnessed, and his witness is true, and he knoweth that he saith true that ye also may believe." It was really from the dead Man. God furnished this preternatural sign of a work peculiar to the incarnate Son of God alone; and the Spirit of God thought it so significant for His glory and man's reconciliation as first to record it signally in the last Gospel, and next to apply it to us in the Epistle before us.

"This is he that came through water and blood." Adam did not become father of the race till sin entered and death began its work. So our Lord became Head of the new creation when He rose, having borne our sins, the Firstborn of many brethren. Through "death" (not birth, as Puseyites, Irvingites, Rationalists, and other errorists are alike now asserting) He annulled him that had the power of death. Till then the Levitical system with priests, sacrifices and earthly sanctuary had God's sanction. Then only was the work finished, and Christianity began on the basis of one efficacious offering and a risen Saviour, soon to be glorified in heaven. Hence as Paul, in restating the gospel to the volatile Corinthians, began with Christ dying for our sins according to the Scriptures, so in enforcing God's testimony the apostle John passes all else by and comes to the Lord's death for purification and atonement. Here he begins with water, the well-known figure of the cleansing power of the word, as we read among other Scriptures in John 3:5, there the Spirit co-operating, as here "blood" follows. The word of God first deals effectually with souls. God speaks to our conscience thereby, and brings us in guilty. His word, never tradition or any rhetoric of man, proves us deaf, stubborn, sin-defiled in His sight. But how precious it is henceforth, so to speak, as flowing from Him thus!

Consequently the washing of water is from the riven side of Him that died for sinners. This enhances its force immensely. So before He died the Lord laid down, "He that is bathed (i.e., washed all over) needeth not save to wash his feet." The person receives but one bathing; the feet need to be washed throughout the earthly pilgrimage. Christ's advocacy is what really meets the daily failures, not the Lord's Supper (a profane as well as an ignorant misuse of it); and the Holy Spirit applies His word on the ground of His death, whenever the need arises; but there is once only for the Christian "the washing of regeneration." Nothing but the death of Christ gives us clearance from sin. We may indeed feel and hate the sin, and judge ourselves because of it; but there is no clearance of the soul apart from Christ's death. "This is he that came," etc. Such is the grand truth that was before God in Christ's death. And Christ is here summed up for the testimony of God in His death. How deep the truth! How incomparable the grace which could so speak to us!

But it is not only true that this is the purifying power brought to bear on us from the threshold of Christianity; His death was as absolutely needed on God's side as on ours. Here of course it was not for cleansing but for expiation. Sin had dislocated and thrown all here below into a moral chaos. The cross established divine order for ever. Without it how could love and light, grace and truth work together? How could love bring to heaven the sinner whom light disclosed to be only fit for hell? If grace pleaded for mercy, what could gainsay the truth that he is a heartless ungodly enemy? In the cross God's nature and attributes find perfect vindication and harmony. There God is glorified in the Son of man; and it is His righteousness thereby to justify the merest, yea the worst, sinner who truly believes in the Lord Jesus.

Hence it is that He came through "blood," and it is added, "not by water only, but by water and blood." God's majesty, His authority, His word, His holiness, His righteousness, no less than His love, were all concerned. But now in the death of the Son of man all are harmonised and glorified in absolute perfection, as could be in no other way; and if God there rests in everlasting delight, He is working by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven to reveal it by His word to all that receive Christ, and His word by faith.

But what did the Lord's having come (for it was the end of His earthly life) by the water and the blood tell concerning man? The awful truth that man was so utterly bad that even a living and divine Blesser, who deigned to become man in His love to man, did not and could not draw man out of his evil and enmity. It must be a dying Saviour. "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life" (John 5:40); "Except the corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone" (John 12:24) "I, if I be lifted out of the earth, will draw all to me" (John 12:32). Christ's death is the overwhelming proof of man's moral death, and now is by grace the basis of the best blessings of God. How it demonstrates that the law of God could only condemn man! It no less proves the total ruin of human nature in every class. Though all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Jesus bodily, even it could not deliver man from his sins short of Christ's death, who thereon risen is the fulness and pattern of the new and heavenly estate of man according to divine counsels of grace.

It is not easy to render adequately the two prepositions in ver. 6, which are nevertheless alike rendered "by" in the Authorised Version. For the first used once (διὰ) is here given "through," in order to distinguish it from the second (ἐν) which has a stronger force expressed fully by "in the power of," but perhaps sufficiently as "by." The first, looking symbolically at water and blood as the means of meeting man's extremity, conveys that the Lord Jesus came to make this good for the believer's deliverance from defilement and from guilt. In the next and emphatic clause "in" is employed, which here as often would mean "in the power of," and hence "not in the power of the water only, but in the power of the water and the blood." So lost was man that Christ come on his behalf, though God and man in one person, was unavailing through anything but death to purify and atone. And so did He in fact come in or by His death in this full power. There was His death infinitely efficacious in itself for the foulest and guiltiest of sinners, even if not a soul had believed. But God's grace would and did work, so that there should be faith in Him, and hence "by the water and the blood."

But there is another addition of great moment. "And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth." All know that the Lord Jesus speaks of Himself as "the truth." How then is the Spirit also called the truth, though God the Father never is? The word, as the written or verbal answer to Christ, is also so designated, which we can readily understand, the word which the Holy Spirit employs for glorifying Christ to and in His own. But the difference seems to lie in this, that Jesus the Son is the truth objectively before us, the Spirit as the power that works inwardly in the saint to realise and enjoy Christ. Two deep wants must be met in order to be blessed of God. The truth we need from God for conscience, heart and mind; and it is given fully and perfectly in our Lord Jesus, the truth objectively. But there is "sin" in the old nature which resists what condemns; and even when a man is begotten of God, vigilance against its working out is always necessary here below. How is this met? By the Spirit of God, who is therefore the truth as the inward power for bringing home and applying the truth which is found in Christ outside. The Holy Spirit makes the object of faith received and intrinsically prized. He is the appropriating energy to the new man, life in Christ. In this which is a very needed and real thing He too is the truth inwardly, though we cannot quite correctly say subjectively. In simple English, we look on the Lord as set before the eye of faith; and the Spirit is the power within our hearts. As the truth is the revelation of every one and every thing as they are, we can understand why the Son and the Holy Spirit can alike be called the truth, but neither God as such, nor the Father, because in neither is the revealer, though by the Son and the Spirit fully revealed.

If you listen to theology (that is, the attempt to make revealed truth a "science," as rationalists and ritualists love to do to God's dishonour and to their own grievous loss), they talk of God as the truth. I remember, years ago, meeting a celebrated but sceptic foreigner of the Romantic school who, though to me he discarded the Voltaires and the Rousseaus, laid his main stress on God being the truth. To a mutual friend he tersely if not reverently reported the difference, in that he saw God for himself, I only "through the spectacles of Jesus Christ." Yes, he deceived himself that he saw or knew Him in any real way. God in Himself is entirely above creature ken. Man requires a mediator who is man no less than God, in order that we should be enabled by the Spirit to know Him. Thus only can truth be known. God as such is not the revelation of God (nor man's conscience, nor his reason), but Christ as object, and the Spirit as the inner power for the new nature. How is God revealed? In Christ. Christ is the Revealer outwardly, as the Spirit works inwardly, and the word is the revelation of God or the truth. Christ might be before us every moment of our life, and we no better for it, unless the Holy Spirit co-operated with the word in enabling us to receive it by faith and thenceforward in the new life.

But the apostle had more to say in his few but pregnant words. "For three are those that bear witness: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and the three agree in one." It will be noticed that the order is here reversed. Historically it was the blood, the water, and the Spirit sent from heaven in honour of Christ's redemption, to give the saints the abiding Paraclete, and to spread the glad tidings universally in God's power, not in man's, though working through man. God gives three testifiers, which agree in one testimony; but in spiritual fact the order is, "the Spirit, and the water, and the blood." Of course, literally speaking, the personal witness is the Holy Ghost, and He too is the present living power. The water and the blood are but figuratively called witnesses, and so are personified. But the Holy Spirit is a true person in the Godhead; and one of His special functions, like the Son's, is to bear witness on earth, He of Christ, as Christ of God and the Father. "And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth."

But the text here has suffered, whether by inadvertence or by design. Be it said briefly that from "in heaven" in ver. 7 to "on earth" in ver. 8 is not scripture but an interpolation. It may have been at first a mere marginal note, copied afterwards as the text by men that did not understand the truth. The history of the case has been fully and minutely traced, the result of which is that the same grounds which make the New Testament text certain elsewhere prove this insertion as certainly to be a human accretion. Let me however show that any Christian who does not know one Greek word ought to be satisfied that it is spurious. Such a one requires neither men of learning nor even the fruit of their researches to decide the question for himself. The word of God itself is amply sufficient and perfectly conclusive.

First, what is the meaning of bearing witness "in heaven"? When you weigh the thought, is it not (I will not say unscriptural only, but) rather folly? How could there be such a need or fact as to "bear witness in heaven"? The natural denizens in heaven are angels who never needed witness borne to them. They were elect and holy. In their case witness is superfluous. The fallen angels are irreparably lost, having left their first estate, some delivered to chains of darkness, others as yet allowed, like Satan, to accuse the saints whom they tempt, and to deceive the whole inhabited earth. Neither is witness for them. The spirits of the saints gone to be with Christ, what possible witness can they require?* It is on earth that witness is needed and is given by God's grace, because men are steeped in darkness and lack the truth. Pilate only expressed the ignorance of all the world in his question, What is truth? He was otiose, and like most waited not for the sure answer. None could find it out unless God gave competent witnesses; and here they are, His three witnesses, "The Spirit, the water, and the blood."

*There is another internal proof that the three who bear witness in heaven is human error, and not the revealed truth of God. No inspired man ever wrote, "The Father, the Word." They are not correlative terms. In scripture we have the "Word" with "God," and the "Son" with the "Father." The editors of the Complutensian Polyglot first printed the unauthorised words from some recent MS. of no account, even if not written since printing came into use, and perhaps to authenticate the Latin Vulgate for Romanists use against its old and best MSS. One of the Greek MSS. represents it in such bad Greek as only an ignorant and non-Hellenist can have written, omitting the article where required.

By the way, it may be well to advertise any limited to the English Bible, that the "record" is the same thing as the "witness." Both mean God's testimony to man; as in John 5:22-23, the same word rightly rendered "judgment" appears wrongly as "condemnation" and "damnation." It is a loss that the word was not, especially in the same context, translated in the same way, because it leads people to fancy there must he some difference, as indicated by two or even three English words. "Three* are those that bear witness," but without "on earth," the last words of the interpolation. These words were unnecessary, because only there does God give His witnesses; and the object is to present the truth to those who do not know it. Thanksgiving and praise characterise heaven, not witnessing. But here, if we receive the witness of God ourselves, the love of Christ constrains us to bear witness to others who are still sinners as we were.

*It was a blundering idea after all to make six witnesses, three for heaven and three for earth. It supposes the Spirit in heaven answering to the Spirit in earth. It is as awkward to conceive the Holy Spirit an earthly witness also, as to imagine Spirit in the second triad to mean another, as some defenders of the importation contended. But it is needless to say more than that the Codex Ravianus as well as one of the Wolfenbüttel copies (in Berlin), is an evident forgery which Copies the Complutensian Polyglot in its misprints and the peculiar letters. The Codex Regius Neapolitanus (173 in Scholz' list) confirms the true text, and gives the clause in a correct shape only in the margin. The other two (Cod. Ottob. or Vat. 298, and Cod. Montfort. or Trin. Coll. Dubl. G. 97) grossly omit the article and are otherwise quite in error.

Now let us come to what the Spirit wrote. There is nothing but the truth there.

It has been already shown how right the order is in verse 6, which puts the Spirit last, because the presence of the Spirit as the divine witness on earth not only followed Christ's work on the cross, but also is given individually since on the faith of the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation. Consequently the water and the blood preceded, as in fact so in the dealing of grace with the believer. Is it not so that one receives the truth of the gospel? First the word of truth enters through an awakened conscience, and one comes to God as a sinner in the name of the Saviour. Then the blood of Christ is privately presented or publicly preached to him as the perfect sacrifice to meet his case; and, if he submit to God's righteousness instead of his seeking to establish his own, the Holy Spirit is given as a Spirit of liberty and communion. This last he could not have without resting on the all-cleansing blood of Christ. Thus the order in the soul's blessing by grace answers to the water, and the blood, and the Spirit, just as in the terms laid down in verse 6. So in the consecration of the sons of Aaron, the priests, first came the washing with water; then the blood of the ram of consecration put on the right ear, on the right thumb, and on the right toe (the organs of reception, of work, and of walk); and in the last place the anointing oil with blood from the altar sprinkled on them and their garments. What believer can fail to see how the type conforms to the New Testament reality in Christians now constituted a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices, the only priests and the only sacrifices in worship on earth now acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

But we come now to the witnesses looked at in the order not of God's dealings historically but of the operation in the Christian individually. Now when we speak of three as bearing witness, the Spirit necessarily comes first, because He it is who not only has His crowning place but makes known in power the water and the blood for the soul's blessing. That is the reason of the difference in the next verse. "For three are those that bear witness, the Spirit, and the water and the blood, and the three agree in one" — three witnesses, jut for one united testimony. "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater." May I recall the divine relief and deliverance these words gave more than sixty years ago to a soul converted but harassed and deeply exercised through sense of sin which clouded his soul's rest on Jesus? These words chased away all doubt, and made him ashamed to question God's witness. It became God's application of the truth to him and no longer his applying it to himself, though not at all doubting the intrinsic worth of Christ's death for the sinner. It is not my seeing as I ought the efficacy of the blood, but resting by faith on God's seeing it, and God's valuing it as it deserves.

What then is God's witness spoken of in the beginning of verse 9? The answer is, "Because this is the witness of God which he hath witnessed concerning his Son." The troubled spirit just because no longer dead is intensely anxious for His witness about itself; and this agitation hinders it from hearing God about His Son. But this is the whole matter when one has given up oneself as good for nothing before God, a mere and lost sinner. Christ thus received on God's witness enables me to have done with myself altogether. What Christ is and has done gives peace. The Lord's death is the best proof that there is no life in the first man or his race. From Cain to the cross, bad as fallen man is elsewhere, his worst is when he professes religion and makes it his dependence and boast; as from the blood of Abel to the infinitely precious blood of Jesus we learn man's hatred to the grace and truth of God in Christ. But all becomes clear, though not always at once, to faith. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he hath not believed in the witness which God hath witnessed concerning His Son." Can any witness be simpler, clearer, stronger than God's in these few and plain words? Are they not meant for anyone brought to feel his need of such mercy? Oh the unbelief of calling faith presumption! of doubting that one is entitled by God's word to take Him at His word, to own Him true and faithful in receiving His witness concerning His Son! Can any seek a more thorough proof that man, however religious after the flesh, believes Satan and disbelieves God? Ordinarily nobody would think of doubting a grave man's witness. Everybody just as ordinarily doubts God's witness for himself, and runs down the believer as presumptuous if not a hypocrite.

How foolish too to listen to the enemy's whisper that you are too great a sinner for Christ to save. He came to save the lost: can you be worse than "lost"? What does not "lost" include? Think of the Samaritan; of the sinful woman in a city; of Mary of Magdala: all desperate cases, each different from the other; all saved, and given to know it; and all recorded that you too may believe and be saved. They were each saved "by grace," God's grace and not theirs, and "through faith," not feelings, or love, or service, or sacraments. The apostle thanked God that he had baptised few of the many Corinthians that believed and were baptised. Christ, he said, sent him, the apostle, not to baptise but to preach the gospel. It was in Christ that he begot them through the gospel, not through baptism, excellent for its own end as it is. But baptism never gave life to a single soul; Christ is the life-giver to all who believe, working in each individually by His word and Spirit, as He will judge all who reject Him to their ruin. What will He say to those who make void His word through a tradition, and in place of believing God, put a rite to give life to His deep dishonour and to magnify their own office, as if they were mediators between the living and the dead? This is the real presumption, not faith which gives God the glory.

Eternal life is in the Son of God, the Second man. Such is the prime doctrine of the Epistle. To this we come round once more after the very striking use made of the blood and water from out of the dead Christ, with the gift of the Holy Spirit given in consequence, to the chief characteristic of the Epistle — eternal life in the Son of God. It is indeed one of the greatest truths in all Scripture, and of capital importance for the saints in our day. We have learnt by experience the mischief done by such as lapsed into undermining or obscuring it, under the vain pretext of new truth, while it was no better than old trash revived, a frequent device of Satan to accomplish his malicious purposes.

Well then, "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater." — What is so good, and wise, and sure? what so satisfying as God's witness? He knows all truth, and as the God of all grace has given His Son both to declare it and to make us capable of receiving it in a new life; and further, after redemption His Spirit is divine power both to enjoy it and make it known to our fellows. Therefore one can understand the weight of such a word as "the witness of God," greater than all difficulties.

And this triple witness of God is first of death written on all mankind by Him who drank the cup to the dregs, but His death issuing in a life without sin for us, though this for Him was always needless. That eternal life did not require any work for itself. It was our state of sin and death that needed His death for victory over all evil to God's glory.

"For this is the witness of God [which] he hath witnessed concerning his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." "Ye receive not our witness," said the Lord to Nicodemus. Man must be born anew; he is incapable otherwise of learning according to God. Faith in God's word alone leads to being taught of God. The church ought to have been, like the Lord, a faithful and true witness. But its state had already become such as to make it untrustworthy. What unfailing comfort then especially for the believer to have the witness, God's witness "in himself!"

But here, where was absolute need, and where by grace we have "the witness of God," how barefaced and faithless it is to call any soul to "hear the church"! Nay, the same word of God, which shows what the church was called to be in the world, equally shows that the church was to fall into all sorts of disorder. And remarkable it is in the two Epistles to Timothy that these two views are given: in the first Epistle the church in order, "the pillar and pedestal of the truth"; in the second Epistle, the church in a state of sad disorder. But the church is not the truth which the Christian is bound to hear and receive, though the corporate witness to it, as the Christian is the individual witness. Both the church and the Christian are called to hear as the truth nothing but the authoritative word of God. In 2 Timothy we learn that the Christian profession has become like a great house full of vessels to honour and dishonour. Therefore when the leaven was accepted and enforced instead of being purged out (1 Cor. 5), it became a question of purging oneself out from these radically settled evils, in order to be a vessel unto honour. Yet it is not for isolation, but "with those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart."

But so far is Scripture from allowing such a claim that we learn from its final book, the Revelation, that each faithful soul is charged to hear, not what the church says, but "what the Spirit saith to the churches," and this expressly in each of the Lord's messages to all the seven churches. Can anything be conceived more opposed to the Lord's mind than such an assumption, as Christendom sinks into ruin?

But whatever be the state of Christendom the word of God remains ever true and applicable to the Christian, "He that believeth … hath the witness in himself." Were the believer in a land where he could enjoy no fellowship with saints, where he had no opportunity to hear a Christian teacher, where he knew of not a single brother in the Lord, the Son of God on whom he believes remains just the same; and he has the witness in himself as surely as if surrounded with every Christian privilege possible on earth. He is not dependent on any one under the sun; he has the Son. How profoundly wise and gracious is this witness on God's part! For in such a case how many might cry out, What audacious presumption! But "he that believeth hath the witness in himself," says God Himself. The audacity is in the infidelity which rejects it: "He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he hath not believed the witness which God hath witnessed concerning His Son." What could be worse than that? It is bad enough to lie about oneself, like a full-blown Brahmin saying that he had not sinned, though it gives the lie to the word. It is worse, not negatively only but positively, to make God a liar, and this every one does who rejects God's witness to Christ His Son.

"And this is the witness that God hath given to us life eternal; and this life is in His Son" (ver. 11). Can anything be more plain or precise? "God hath given to us," to every Christian, "life eternal; and this life is in His Son." Even an infidel, hardened as he is, cannot hear without emotion the calm and bright assurance which this faith and confession impart. He knows his own misery if he thinks at all. The believer's peace turns wholly on having God's Son, and life eternal in Him. Some of late have made much of life being said to be "in His Son" and not in us. They seem pleased with the idea, because they draw from it the desired inference that the Christian has not life eternal. Why this should make them happy it is hard to understand without remembering the blinding power of the enemy; and, sad to say, I do not forget when their joy seemed to be in the truth they now deny. Is it not horrible to pervert one Scripture into the contradiction of another? Here it is written that this "life is in His Son;" because the Spirit would comfort the believer with its security independently of himself and every other creature. In the Son is this life, where no evil can reach, no danger approach. It is his joy to know his life, the life eternal, in Him who is not only its unfailing spring but its divine preservative against all the wiles of Satan; and yet more, that he is in fellowship with God the Father, the object of his love and honour more than ever since redemption.

But John 5:24 equally assures us that we have this life, and that God has given it to us here; as a crowd of Scriptures show that with redemption it is essentially ours as the only life which the Spirit finds suitable to work on and in. The natural life may help to explain. Life acts from the crown of the head to the extremity of the fingers and toes. But they are not the seat of life, nor even an arm or a leg, which may be removed without injury to that seat. Only in Christ there is no such loss. There the new life rises far above the natural. Christ is the central seat of life eternal; but even the babes have it most truly, and shall never perish. Our blessedness lies in the certainty that the life is in God's Son. This maintains it in all the confidence it inspires for every believer; but to turn it into a proof that the believer has not now eternal life is not only to evince personal unbelief but misuse of the word of God.

"He that hath the Son hath the life." It is inseparable from the Son. None can have the life unless he has the Son, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Not only is He God to give it, but as the glorifier of God, the Son of man who was also the Son of God. And God witnesses it of Him and of none else. The believer honours the Son by believing, and receives life eternal. The unbeliever dishonours Him and rejects the gift of life to his own perdition, but must bow when he is raised for judgment. Could life have been detached from the Son of God, so as to be in us only and not in the Son, it might conceivably be injured or decay; but inasmuch as it is in the Son, it abides holy and imperishable; and so it is that we have it, and know that we have it on His word. Every good work, every right affection, all true service, and acceptable worship, flow from eternal life in the power of the Spirit. It is impossible that the Christian could please the God and Father of the Lord Jesus without the action of life eternal; for now that life is come in the person of the Son of God, the Father too delights in our having this life and repudiates any other; for this life has its joy in knowing, serving, and worshipping the Father and the Son, as led by the Holy Ghost.

But let none forget the other and solemn side. "He that hath not the Son of God hath not life." If you who read these words be an unbeliever, beware, I beseech you. Why perish everlastingly? Why reject the love of God in giving and sending His Son? Why reject Him who tasted death for you? Yet He never did you anything but good, and what have you ever shown to His name but neglect, dislike, and despite as far as you could? Oh believe what God tells you of His Son. If you believe on Him, you have Him. It is impossible to have the Son of God and not have eternal life; but "he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." This is no less true than terrible: the unbeliever "shall not see life." "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things in his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath life eternal; and he that disobeyeth (or, disbelieveth) the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:35-36).

Before closing let me remark two things of interest and moment. The first is the care to present life eternal objectively in the Word of life, the Son of God, in the first chapter. The apostle had freely given in the Gospel the Lord as giving life eternal to the believer in John 3, 5, 6, 10; but here he begins with the Word Himself as that life without one hint as yet about its communication to us. Yet it had been known as a truth familiarly before this Epistle was written. There was therefore a blessedly divine purpose to serve by saying not a word here about ourselves receiving, though the writer and the saints knew it already. Here then the aim seems to be to present Him as an object, so that we might delight our souls in Himself as the eternal life in divine being with the Father, and manifested in its perfection when manifested to us here below as Man among men. How immense the loss if there had not been in fact this objective manifestation of eternal life, the peculiar charm through the Gospel of John! So doctrinally there would have been in this Epistle if Christ had not been the starting-point and basis. And it is very gradually that we come to the open treatment of the communication of life eternal to us; in fact, it is only explicitly handled in 1 John 5 before us, the close of its teaching, as its objectivity in Christ was the beginning.

The second point appears also very suggestive. If there be any part of Scripture more than all the rest devoted to unfolding life eternal in Christ, and in those that are His by grace, it surely is the Gospel and the First Epistle of John. Yet Christian baptism is as absent as the Lord's supper from both. They are occupied with life eternal in all its fulness and power in Jesus the Son of God beyond all other Gospels and Epistles; and more than all they bear witness to its communication to the believer. Yet neither one nor other speaks of that Christian institution to which the declension from the truth in East and West, in ancients and moderns, in Episcopalians and Presbyterians, attributes it. The only shade of difference in Presbyterians from the rest is that their code of doctrine makes the life-giving efficacy of baptism contingent on election, but equally with the rest depending by divine appointment on baptism. The Scotch statement is as distinct as Calvin's for the Reformed abroad; and of course Luther went as far or farther.

But if Christian baptism be really, as tradition has taught wide and long, the means of quickening souls, how comes it that the Scriptures which are the fullest on life eternal and life-giving never notice it, and dwell exclusively on its being In immediately divine operation by the Spirit's using the word to reveal Christ to the believer? For it must be said plainly that it is as glaring a mistake to foist baptism into the "water" of John 3:5 as into "the water" of 1 John 5:6, 8. The apostle absolutely leaves institutions to dwell on truth vital and of everlasting consequence, and only alludes passingly to the baptism of the disciples during the days of our Lord's ministry in John 4:1-2, with the careful comment that He Himself did not baptise, He, though quickener of the dead. And the baptism before His death and resurrection was so distinct from what He commissioned after He rose, that persons so baptised were baptised in the Christian way even by the great apostle (Acts 19:5), who thanked God that he baptised but few in Corinth, avowed that Christ sent him not to baptise, but to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:14, 17), and declared that in Christ Jesus he begot them through the gospel. Christian baptism is really to Christ's death, as Rom. 6 clearly teaches, and if we believe God's word; it has nothing to do with the impartation of life to the soul dead in sins.


1 JOHN 5:13-21.

"These things I wrote [or, write] to you that ye may know that ye that believe on the name of the Son of God have life eternal. And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he heareth us. And if we know that he heareth us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him. If anyone see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and he will give him life for those that sin not unto death. There is sin unto death: I do not say that he should request for it. Every unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not unto death.

"We know that everyone that is begotten of God sinneth not, but the begotten of God keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God came, and hath given to us understanding that we should know the true one; and we are in the true one, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and life eternal. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols "

It is noticeable how the Spirit of God repeatedly presses on believers not only that they have eternal life, but that they know they have it. It would be possible, as it was the fact before Christ, to have eternal life without knowing it, and assuredly even now there are plain workings and effects of that life where its possession is unknown to not a few who have it. Nevertheless the lack of discerning a deleterious influence always exposes him who is ignorant of so great a privilege, not only to a great loss of happiness in his soul before God, but to the practical result of lowering his standard of walk. How can such a one without the peaceful certainty of having life eternal avoid anxiety when the conscience summons as it were the heart to search and see whether he is after all a Christian after so much failure in his ways, and having to do with the tempter continually seeking to draw him into dishonour of the Lord, and then to produce distrust of God's grace?

Another reason why the Spirit of God so urgently and so repeatedly presses, not only the knowledge (γιν.) but the conscious knowledge, as here (εἰδ.), of having life eternal, is that in and since the apostle's day there have ever been adversaries of the truth who disputed the possibility of the knowledge of eternal life, so as to make it a very uncertain thing indeed. Such is the common road taken by unbelief in all ages, clouding certainty, often on the specious plea of our ignorance, unworthiness and liability to err, which is undeniably true enough. This however is not the question, but whether Christ has not fully and clearly revealed His gift of life eternal now to the believer. It is wholly false that this privilege is merely for certain favoured and highly spiritual members of God's family. The New Testament reveals it as meant for all who believe on the Son of God to know it as theirs.

Now nothing can be more certain than that God's love is toward every child of His family. Therefore is the word of God most explicit that this privilege was meant to be inwardly known, enjoyed and exercised in personal communion, worship, and walk of every Christian, however immature; just as the other life, the flesh, always utterly hateful to God, is now more than ever, through Christ and the given Spirit of God, made hateful to the saint. Hence the Christian has to disown and set aside the fallen life, and to walk by faith according to the only perfect model of Christ in his new nature, called here and in the corresponding Gospel "eternal life." It is the life of Christ, and now by grace "our life."

The apostle John had as his allotted task to unfold, not so much the Saviour's work of redemption — though he does speak of it, for heavenly glory, and God's great future purpose for the universe, or His counsels — as the personal dignity and grace of Him whose glory gave its value to the life He imparts as well as to His work. God could righteously and according to all that is in Him have delight in those counsels that are yet to be accomplished. Consequently all ground for dwelling on either worthiness or unworthiness on our part is taken away. It is no longer a question of the first man, but entirely of the Second, Christ the Lord. Our ground is what Christ is and has wrought as given us of God. What do His person and work claim from God, who above all appreciates Him aright; and for whom? Not for Himself certainly, for He needed nothing, as being the Son one with the Father, the object of God's love from all eternity. He came and gave up Himself to vindicate the glory and give effect to the perfect love of God as the answer to Satan's lie, who having rebelled against God himself sought to bring man under God's displeasure, and succeeded to all appearance. But His counsels could not fail, and God will surely accomplish them on the ground of redemption. For redemption was no after-thought, nor were God's counsels formed because of failure in anything He had instituted. They are indeed made known to us who believe after man's total failure here below. But as God's love, so His counsels were before even creation, as the apostle Paul shows in Eph. 1:3-14, Col. 1:26, 2 Tim. 1:9, Titus 1:2.

John in particular was given to enter deeply into the nature of God, and consequently dwells much on the Lord's eternal person as well as His incarnate condition, so as to stay the heart and raise the believer above the sad fact of the church externally departing to utter confusion, ruin, and the approaching judgment of God, who begins with His house. The still growing defection of Christendom is no reason why our confidence in Christ should be shaken or wane one iota. How then does the Spirit of God ever strengthen the heart? By pointing us to the eternal life with the Father before a creature existed and God came down, true Man in the person of the Lord Jesus, that eternal life might be our known portion not less really than in the day of glory. Of course it is now ours in Him by faith. But it is a strange doctrine that a "present" thing is not ours now by faith as truly as the "future" thing for which we wait (1 Cor. 3:22). Only the case is still stronger for life in Christ.

Words could not be clearer than the Lord's in John 5:24, or the apostle's in ver. 12 before us. We might acquire the knowledge (γιν.) of what we expect to receive, but could not be inwardly conscious of what we do not actually possess. No Pelagian ever went so far as to deny that any Christian could have eternal life now, though he might explain away that eternal life. But to explode it altogether was reserved for a modern resuscitation of some Gnostic heterodoxy to which this Epistle gives no quarter. No orthodox sect ever adopted the deadly error.

But deadly error is now more rampant than ever; and infidelity knows no shame in our day. It would be difficult to mention a society of professing Christians having the reputation of being an ecclesiastical denomination, that has not scepticism as to the Scriptures at work more or less actively in it at the present moment. Even I can recollect when so fatal an evil was unknown save outside them. Nor had infidelity then covered their opposition to God's authority in Scripture with the veil of "the science of literary and historical investigation." They openly rejected His word, refused to sign articles of faith which asserted it, and renounced office and emoluments as the penalty. The present race relinquish common honesty and retain earthly honour and profit. Where will it all end? In the apostasy and the man of sin, as the ritualists in Satan's mystery, great Babylon, the mother of the harlots and the abominations of the earth.

Let us now consider the concluding remarks of the apostle. "These things I wrote [or, I write, as the epistolary aorist] to you, that ye may know that ye who believe on the name of the Son of God have life eternal." Grace found in us only sin and death: grace gives us the best God could bestow, and this by faith on the Lord Jesus His Son. And what so fitting or needed as life eternal, a divine nature that loves God and His Son and all that is good and holy; that hates sin and loves righteousness according to the perfect law of liberty, obeying God, not as a Jew under restraint but as our Lord did filially. And how ominous the school, who abandon their old convictions for novel and wild ideas, and say not only that you cannot know that you have life eternal, but that it cannot be for any now! Life eternal is the good ground indispensable for what another apostle calls "good works which God fore-prepared that we should walk in them." Far from leaving any excuse for the doubters or disbelievers, the apostle here, as from the first, says all that should establish in Christ against any misleaders. He had shown the supreme excellence and fulness of that life in Christ as the object of faith and love for souls at the beginning; now, in the last chapter, he insists on the believer's possession of it, and here in conscious knowledge. Is not this just as it should be? It is due to the Son; it is the delight of the Father; and it enhances the boon all the more to the believer. If it be the first gift of grace to souls heretofore, if it be that on which fellowship with the Father and with His Son depends, if it be that on and in which the Holy Spirit the Paraclete acts in power at every conscious moment of our Christian life, how immense the loss, how incalculable the mistake of all who imbibed the poison, and of all who for any pretext made light of it if they did not dissemble and try to excuse!

The reader has a close rendering of the best text ascertainable of what the apostle here wrote. As ver. 12 stands in the Text. Rec. and the A. V., it is deplorably confused and even misleading. Here it is as simple as it is important, so much so that there is no need to criticise what any Christian reader can do for himself by the bare comparison of the two. The Revisers give what is substantially correct.

Then comes another point of moment, confidence or boldness for the heart in our intercourse with God as His children. Without the consciousness of having life eternal, and the relationship of children, it would be impossible. No wonder that those who do not believe in either, as existing privileges now enjoyed, decry any such boldness as highly improper. How can they seriously read these words, and many more to the same effect, and fail to learn that God expects it from His children, and had such words as these written to encourage them in it, and to judge themselves for allowing any obstacle in its way? It is the main animating principle of Christian prayer. It ought to imbue our every petition. Not that where confident boldness is lacking anyone should suspend prayer. For we must not forget the Lord's parable (Luke 18:1- 8) spoken to the disciples that they (not "men" in general as in the A.V.), should always pray and not faint. But a different entreaty is not the proper spirit for a Christian's prayer. He ought earnestly to seek that such a dead weight be removed, and that holy boldness be given him. The very fact of having life divine and redemption, as well as the nearest possible relationship to God in the midst of a world of unbelief (which has no real part in any of these privileges, yet deceived into thinking their religious position assured corporately if not individually) creates a constant crowd of dangers, difficulties and wants for ourselves and our brethren. The resource is prayer, which God encourages, even if it be not always the prayer of faith, but too often of sheer perplexity. We should, if the eye were single, pray more freely in the Holy Spirit; but we may ever encourage ourselves in crying to Him as our Father, who loved us when there was nothing to love, and loves us now as His children arrayed with the best robe, even as Christians are here in this world. If we had been left to choose the strongest proofs of His love to us, could we have asked anything to compare with what His pledged word declares He has given us in Christ?

Let us then, abiding in love, abide in God, and God in us. This through His grace expels hindrances great or petty, and gives us to have boldness through the love that is unchanging in the midst of all change. God is pleased with this boldness in counting on His care for us in the midst of our trials, our weakness, our need, in the sorrow that sickness brings, in painful circumstances, in all the ways in which we are put to the proof from day to day. What then should be our feeling? Have we boldness of faith in our present intercourse with God and reckoning on Him through the grace that delivered us from death and sins, that gave us life and the Holy Spirit? and are we trembling and doubtful in the little troubles of this life? Is not this unworthy, and a strange inconsistency? Let us, by faith bold about the best blessings, have no less boldness about these least things day by day. Doubt not that He who loves us enters into all allowed or sent to prove us. Here are the words: "And this is the boldness which we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He heareth us." Surely we should be ashamed to ask anything against His will. His word lets us know what is His will, and what is not. But there is more: "And if we know that He heareth us, we know that we have the petitions which we asked of Him" (vers. 14, 19). Oh let us not doubt Him in these comparatively small trials, after having proved His infinite love in the deepest wants that can be! What a proof is 1 John 4 that in Christ is nothing too great for man, and in these verses of 1 John 5 that nothing is too small for God's love. How easily we forget to act at the moment when it might be for His answer, and then calls come in when it cannot be! Prayer is due to our God, and a rich blessing to us and for others. But it is not as it should be without the boldness which honours God's love to us.

Knowing that we are His children, and having life and redemption, let us judge every obstruction. In spite of sin and Satan we have even now these incomparable privileges, the harbingers of everlasting glory, and, better than all, we have the Son and the Father and the Holy Spirit. We are blessed with the Blesser. Those believers who defer this blessedness to the day of glory may be right as to that day, but are utterly wrong in excluding their proper joys till then. Now is the time when we need those blessings: they are wanted most in the evil day for God's glory, and for His children too. When the day of glory comes there will be no need of exhortation to boldness in prayer, for all will be praise. There is urgent call for such prayer now in this world with its difficulties and perils; withal it is the day of the richest blessing for the Christian when we know that Christ is in the Father, we in Him, and He in us. It is therefore just the time for this practical boldness in asking God for anything and all things according to His will: aught else we dare not wish. And we know that He hears us. How wrong to doubt it! Has not God proved His perfect and constant love to us? He may see good to prove us by a hard trial. He may let a Christian (perhaps caring for money as he ought not) lose every half-penny in a world where every half-penny is useful. He may not know whence his breakfast is to come. But is he to doubt God after all he knows of His goodness and wisdom, as well as of his own folly? He is to ask Him to do as He will, assured that He hears him, and that we have the petitions which we have asked of Him.

I remember, perhaps a half-century ago, a godly ex-clergyman asked in the open street by a friend how he lived, and his family. His answer was that he could not well say how, yet they did live by God's grace. Up came the postman with no words but a banknote, which he showed to the inquirer with the remark, "This may, perhaps, tell you how I live." Our God is a living God, and answers faith as He sees fit, whatever the circumstances. Heavy trial is an honour to a Christian now as to Abraham of old. There may be those whom the Lord tries little, because they are weaklings in faith and cannot bear more. But he who is strong in the Lord is sure to be put to the proof, and for blessing. "He withdraweth not His eyes from the righteous." But we are surrounded with need and misery and sorrow. We are not to be self-occupied with a lively sense of our own trials, and dull about others. We know others brought into the same relationship of grace suffering severely in one way or another. Am I not to ask of God as heartily as for myself, and to act as becomes a brother in Christ?

But bold confidence in God practically according to His love is for each and all. Accordingly we learn to distrust our own will, and ask only what we know is according to His. And with what result? "He heareth us." Privileged, yea pressed, with confidence to ask of Him who loves and knows all, we are taught to count on His answer of grace. And if we know [it is knowledge, not objective but inward and conscious] that He hears us, whatever we ask we know [it is here the same inward knowledge] that we have the petitions which we have asked of Him. What could so much embolden the believer? It may not be our thought, but His answer in a wiser, deeper and more intimate way.

All is founded on the love of God, who gave Christ for us as sinners and to us as saints, with the Holy Spirit to make it good in our hearts and our ways. But if God encourages us to ask with boldness, we are constantly exposed to miss-asking according to His will unless we grow in the knowledge of His word. Here lies the practical value of cultivating a deeper spiritual understanding of the Scriptures. The word of God He magnifies above all His name; so did the Lord and the apostles; and so should we. What a wretched return for His love, and the abundance of truth in Scripture, and the gift to us of the Spirit who inspired its writers, to look for little else than personal salvation, and consign ourselves to spiritual starvation, blind to revealed riches of grace without end!

In vers. 16, 17 the apostle touches on the delicate case where we may or may not do well to ask of God. "If anyone see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask; and He will give him life for those that sin not unto death: there is sin unto death; not for that do I say that he should request. Every unrighteousness is sin; and there is sin not unto death."

This passage often raises difficulties, because of preconceptions imported into it by such as forget the moral government that ever holds good for believers. It is the question discussed in the book of Job, where his three friends failed so conspicuously. The New Testament sets it out plainly: see, among others, John 15:1-10, 1 Cor. 11:27-32, Heb. 12:5-11, and 1 Peter 1:17. It is so here. It is no question of the second death, but of a saint cut off in this world for a sin of such a character, or in such circumstances, that God chastises it by death. It might be, as we see of old, the removal of saints previously in high honour, as Moses and Aaron who greatly displeased Jehovah in Kadesh (Num. 20), or its immediate execution, as on Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). But the principle is explained by the apostle to the Corinthian saints, many of whom not only were old and infirm, but a good many had fallen asleep. "But if we discerned ourselves, we should not be judged [as all these were judged in varying degrees]. But when judged, we are chastened by the Lord that we should not be condemned with the world." This then was sinning unto death, the Lord's chastening of erring saints, expressly that they should not be condemned to the second death as the world is.

Hence it would have been quite a mistake of the Lord's mind to pray that a brother should have his life prolonged, when he had so sinned that the Lord meant him to die as a chastisement. The world, which does nothing but sin and refuse the Saviour, is reserved for that awful second death, the everlasting judgment. To bring this into these verses is nothing but confusion to the spiritual understanding. But in another way they mark the gracious way in which God deigns to keep our boldness unbroken and free, only guarding us from a mistake to which otherwise we were liable.

A lie is a great sin, particularly in a Christian. But it has too often been since early days without entailing death. The Spirit first given, and the great grace in all, and the marked power which prevailed gave a lie in that day its special evil in God's sight. The hypocrisy and deliberate agreement of the pair too, each denying Peter's solemn charge to each, so aggravated the case as to make it a marked sin unto death. For it was a lie made the more intolerable by the wondrous blessing which God was just giving in honour of His Son. How odious then in particular to pretend to a degree of devotedness that was utterly false! And so it was at Corinth: they were profaning the Lord's Supper besides by their misconduct.

This recalls a striking case that occurred years ago within my own knowledge. A brother who appeared to be in strong bodily health was suddenly laid aside; and I went to see him. As a medical man, he was a better judge probably than others. But he calmly told me, not without gravity and feeling, that he was about to die. There was no appearance of disease, nor could he say what it was; but he was quite sure his last on earth was come, and he added: "I have sinned a sin unto death," thereon disclosing to me what it was. He had no wish to live, neither praying nor asking me to pray for it. He bowed to the Lord's chastening, only grieved that his sin called for it, and quite happy at departing to be with Him. And he did fall asleep. He owned the Lord's righteous hand, and died without a cloud as to his acceptance.

This is a solemn way of the Lord, no doubt; but there is no reason for confining it to any particular age.

What then is the great difference? Not the enormity of the sin, but that the sin is committed under such circumstances as to make it egregious in the eye of God; and it just becomes a question for spiritual intelligence either in the man (the subject) himself who does not wish himself prayed for, with no desire to live whatever. In the case I mentioned he knew it was wrong to pray for him. I do not recollect any prayer made for him: indeed he died quickly. In ordinary cases it is the very thing we are called to do. Our affections go out towards a person who is ill. We love to think of them being here with us a little longer. We delight to know their Christian character, to hear of their faith tried in one way or another, and their patience under it; so that we need correction.

"There is sin unto death": rather than "a sin." "Every unrighteousness is sin." Every act of inconsistency with our new relationship is sinful. We are now left here to do the will of God. But it is only when aggravated by special circumstances of affront to God in private or public that such an evil act becomes sin unto death. Ordinarily it is not so.

Vers. 18-21 form a conclusion worthy of the Epistle. In those early times, when some who at first seemed to run well proved their lack of faith and life by abandoning Christ for knowledge (γνῶσις) falsely so-called, and ended in hostility to the Father and the Son, the apostle takes his place with the believers whom grace enables to say, "we know" (οἴδαμεν). Theirs was inward knowledge, though first learnt from without. With those not born of God it never became the inwrought consciousness of their spirit. But so it is with every child of God. They had neither value nor desire for that external knowledge which beguiles and enchants the natural man. They were simply Gnostics; and what is really a shame was their glory, fable and philosophy, which characterised not only the antichrists but early Fathers, such as Clemens of Alexandria and the like. But not so true disciples, who find in Christ, viewed either on the earth (or in the heavens where "the mystery" appears as in the Pauline Epistles) all the treasures once hidden of divine wisdom and knowledge. And in this pursuit they have the Holy Spirit guiding them into all the truth, the old but ever new, and always fresh as no earthly knowledge can be; for he only receives of Christ's things and announces to us, as it is now in the written word.

"We know that every one that is begotten of God sinneth not, but the begotten of God keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not." Here it is the divinely wrought conscious knowledge for every individual which is of immediate and deep concern for the Christian's heart, that it be kept up bright in his soul. In form it is a general and abstract statement, and no more, however faith may enter in and apply it. There is a shade of difference in the expression of "begotten" in the first clause and the second, though they equally belong to the same person, the Christian. The first is the continued effect of being thus begotten, the second the simple fact without question of continuance. If sin was a slight matter to Gnostic eyes, ignored by them or accepted as an unpleasant necessity (for these men differed not a little among themselves), it was a grave thing to God's children as it is to God. And it was alike a comfort and an admonition to be solemnly told that being begotten of God he does not sin, and the wicked one does not touch him. For God's word is living and energetic, unlike every other word; and the Holy Spirit abides in each Christian to give it power. Communion and walk, service and worship, fill up the life here below.

"We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one (or, wickedness)." There is nothing indefinite here, no toning down of the absolute contrast firmly and unhesitatingly drawn between ourselves, as the family of God on the one hand, and the whole world on the other in its awful subjection to the wicked one. With the same inward consciousness the Christians knew that their new being had its source in God Himself, and that the whole world lay in the power of the wicked one. What more distinct on both sides? God the source of all on the one; subjection to Satan as complete on the other. It is not the church, opposed to and by Jews and Gentiles; but "we are of God" in our own consciousness, and the whole world unconsciously under the wicked one's thraldom, as we too well know. This belongs to the new life to realise, appropriating by faith the known blessings to ourselves as is God's will.

"And we know that the Son of God came and hath given us understanding that we should know the true one, and we are in the true one, in His Son Jesus Christ. This [or, He] is the true God, and life eternal." The consciously known object of faith, as already come, is as momentous as the new nature, and its divine source; and here it is declared to be ours fully. We have here the same inward knowledge as before; "we know that the Son of God came," in clear contrast with the Jews who look for another to come wholly inferior in every respect; and with the Gentiles, who not knowing God and worshipping demons are still more ignorant, if this may be said. But He, the Son of God, who gave being to all things, did in infinite love become man, to give not only life eternal to us but Himself in atoning death for our sins, as is testified elsewhere.

"'Twas great to speak a world from nought,
'Twas greater to redeem."

But here it is said that He came to give us understanding to know the true One, the true God. For He alone was capable of being the perfect image of the invisible God in a world of darkness and shame and shadows, with invisible powers of evil behind them to give colour to falsehood and blind men against the truth. His is no idea so dear to deceivers, but a real divine person, life eternal as a living fact, on which is based the deep and high and holy truth which is known in Christ, of whom the church is the corporate and responsible witness-falling even then, and how much more since. But there is a resource for faith in the darkest day, and this Epistle has a large part in pointing it out more clearly and fully than ever, with divine authority in Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and unto the ages, to the individual believer as in Himself.

Here this unchanging privilege is briefly but powerfully expressed: "And we are in the true One, in His Son Jesus Christ." Thus it is explained that the manner for us to be in the unfailing security of the true God is by being in His Son; and this we know from His own words in John 14:20: "In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father and ye in me and I in you" — not only to be in Him, but to know this and all else here stated. "That day" is now this day. Now could more be done than to give us divine nature in Christ, and give us to abide in God by His Spirit abiding in us? and it is all the more striking, because those who go on, content or not content with worldly Christendom, never seem to have even the notion that these wondrous privileges are meant for every child of God to realise and live. How full of meaning and blessedness are the closing words of this paragraph! "This [Jesus Christ His Son] is the true God and life eternal." He, of whom we are and in whom we are, is the true One, as against all false gods, or the falsehood of not having God; but as a fact He is unknown save in His Son Jesus Christ, for through Him only will He be known, who gave up all to accomplish it and fit us, through His nature given, to be in Him. He is the true God; and He is also eternal life, without which, given to us, we could know neither the Father nor Him whom He sent. In Christ risen we have the full character of that life for our souls now; in our resurrection or change at His coming we shall have it for our bodies.

Along with the truth and the grace thus impressively presented is a short and solemn warning: "Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." Every object outside Christ, that man's heart sets up and cleaves to, Satan makes into an idol. They may not be for the present gold or silver, or stone or wood, but of a subtler nature. Yet the day hastens when the mass of the Jews, little as they deem it possible, will return to their old sin; and so will Christendom, even where they have boasted of their Protestantism, and of their invincible hatred of Romish idolatry. They will even amalgamate in the coming apostasy, and as both will adore the Man of Sin, the Antichrist when he sits down in the temple of God showing himself as God, so be hurled to perdition with his great political ally the Roman Beast of that day. The Lord is at hand.

The Second Epistle of John


2 JOHN 1-13.

"The elder to an elect lady* and her children, whom I love in truth, and not I only but also all who have known the truth, for the truth's sake, which abideth in us, and it shall be with us for ever. Grace shall be with you, mercy, peace, from God [the] Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

"I rejoiced exceedingly that I have found of thy children walking in truth even as we received commandment from the Father. And now I beseech thee, lady, not as writing to thee a new commandment but that which we had from [the] beginning that we should love one another. And this is love that we should walk according to his commandments. This is the commandment even as ye heard from [the] beginning that ye should walk in it. Because many misleaders went forth into the world, they that confess not Jesus Christ coming in flesh. This is the misleader and the antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we may not lose what we wrought but receive full reward. Every one that goeth onward and abideth not in the doctrine of the Christ hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine, he hath both the Father and the Son. If any one cometh to you and bringeth not this doctrine, receive him not at home and greet him not; for he that greeteth him partaketh in his wicked works.

"Having many things to write to you, I would not with paper and ink; but I hope to come unto you and to speak mouth unto mouth that our joy may be made full. The children of thine elect sister greet thee."

{*There have existed from post-apostolic times till our day all sorts of differing views as to this address: Some for Eclecta as a proper name; others for Kyria; a third class for "the church" in more senses than one adumbrated thereby, to say nothing of the Virgin Mary. It appears to me that it was a living sister in Christ to whom the Holy Spirit would have the apostle write without giving her name; and that her "elect sister" in the last ver. (13) strongly confirms this, as it explodes the notion of "the church," which pleased Jerome (Ep. 123 ad Ageruchiam), the Schol. i., in Matthaei and Cassiodorus; and among moderns, Calovius, Hammond, Michaelis, etc. I am disposed even to think that the more literal rendering was really intended "to an elect lady," etc., though I shrank from acting on what seems not to have occurred to any one else.}

It ought to strike any careful reader of Scripture as remarkable, that we have an apostolic epistle avowedly addressed to a lady and her children. Considering the reserve of the apostles and the unusual character of such an address, surely we ought to inquire why the Holy Spirit here departs from His ordinary way, and the more so as the first Epistle of John is so expressly general and large; for it is addressed, if to any, to the whole family of God. It has no local association, nothing personal in the usual sense of what is individual, that is to say, belonging to specified persons. 1 John is so open as to take in every member of God's family wherever they may be, more so than any other save perhaps the Epistle of Jude. Yet the same John, and it would seem at a subsequent time, was led by the Holy Spirit to address one individual, and this not a man but a woman and her children too. Later still he writes to a man in his Third Epistle, and we may readily see the propriety both of this and of the topic there handled for his good and ours. His name is given, but in the Second Epistle before us the lady is addressed as such without indicating her name, wherein we may perceive a delicate suitableness. Although no doubt the lady's need was met, nevertheless she was spared needless pain and publicity, whilst an Epistle inspired and of the utmost value was meant for saints then and at all times.

At any rate these are facts, and we are entitled to form a judgment which none need accept who are not convinced that the explanation fairly approves itself to their intelligence. We have a brief letter, but one of the most solemn Epistles in the New Testament, more fundamental than the very interesting and instructive one addressed to Gaius afterwards. Yet this was written to a lady and included her children. Reasons therefore of permanent and urgent importance must have outweighed ordinary considerations for the Holy Spirit through the apostle to send such a peculiarly serious Epistle to the elect lady and her children; and so we cannot but discern from its contents. For they entirely corroborate this fact, that the Holy Spirit went out of His ordinary path, and here for reasons of commanding moment addresses a lady and her children, making them immediately and in the highest degree responsible to act on the truth conveyed in this letter.

A true Christ or a false one was in question. In all the Bible what is more important than that, especially since the manifestation of the Christ? Before He appeared it was the enemy's aim to occupy the minds of believers with present and subordinate objects. But now the true Christ was presented according to promise, now the Son of God was attested with irrefragable testimony and in personal grace and truth, and has given understanding that we should know Him that is true, Himself too declared to be "the true God and life eternal." It was a bold step of Satan who knew this well, to engage professing Christians to falsify the truth about Christ, to make an idol against Christ, as of old he made idols against Jehovah, when He dealt with Israel after the flesh under law. For one so subtle it became, now that the Son of God had come in grace and truth, a congenial enterprise to decry the truth as but elementary, and to present a wholly false Christ, so as to pollute the source of all blessing, and destroy souls misled to the wrong Christ instead of the One not only true but the truth.

This is exactly what Satan was there and then attempting by the many antichrists, and it is what accounts for the extraordinary appeal of the Holy Spirit in this Epistle. "The elder," says the apostle. Thus does he descend from the first place in the church of God, which he was fully entitled to fill, but love instinctively takes the more excellent way, and here the Holy Spirit inspired it for the special need. So the apostle Paul did now and then; and so did our apostle in all his Epistles. It is thus we have God teaching us even by the smallest change in scripture, by everything said and by everything not said, something more perfectly than in any other way. Hence we may not doubt that there was a particular wise and worthy reason why the apostle John should introduce himself under the name of "elder," rather than apostle, both to the elect lady and to the beloved Gaius.

Yet observe another point. He does not say to the 'well-beloved' lady. Some Christians are fond of warm expressions to individuals without any sufficient occasion for them. It is not a good habit, particularly where a lady is in the case. There is no indiscretion in so writing to a brother. When one thinks of what men and women are, one apprehends the wisdom of God that "the elder," old as he was, avoids these terms to the lady, and sets a good example to others in this respect. Had he ever so holily done otherwise, many would have imitated him. But, as it stands, all was wisely ordered; and it is well for us to profit by what we read here.

"The elder to an elect lady." He is careful to write with respect but without adulation. There is no commending of himself, no self-seeking. He might be considered cold rather than erring on the score of strong expressions. "The elder to an elect lady." Her position was not slighted, but what both valued was the title of divine grace, not what she owed to providence. She was elect of God, one chosen in Christ by and for God Himself. What consideration is nearer to the heart purified by faith? The apostle was led to use the term which owned the sovereign action of God. God had chosen her out of all her natural associations, and the apostle delights to recognise that she was brought even on earth into new and divine ones. How blessed to know that so it is still for every true Christian! But even in these introductory words we may notice how true each Epistle is to God's object in it. The aim here is to guard the elect lady and her children from the seductive snares of an antichrist. The aim in the Epistle to Gaius is to encourage him in the face of obstacles to persevere in the path of grace as he had begun. "Elect" brought God before the lady, as "The beloved" cheered Gaius not to mind the frowns of Diotrephes. People often grow weary in well-doing when they find themselves deceived by those whom they might have lovingly served, and ruffled a little by the criticism of such as habitually oppose without any serious effort to help in difficulties. These enigmas Christ enables us to solve.

"The elder to an elect lady and her children." Who can doubt in ordinary circumstances that, when the apostle John saw these children, he accosted them affectionately, and that they knew his tenderness of feeling for them. But he was writing on a very solemn subject, in presence of which a lady and her children of themselves dwindle into insignificance, were it not for the Lord's name, and the title grace had given. Here the apostle puts before them in the most forcible manner their obligation to care, and jealousy for the glory of Christ. It admitted of no compromise. Satan's undermining of the truth of Christ was a fact going on then. They were in danger; the apostle knew it, and writes to put them on their guard. Everything usual became subordinate to God's honour in the case. It is now a question of a real Christ, and John has before him their danger of unwittingly slighting Christ's glory. Therefore his words are comparatively few, plain and decided. He soon reaches the point, and he speaks in a manner that ought never to be misunderstood by any Christian. He does, however, assure them of his love in truth; for this failed wherever Christ was lost. "Whom I love in truth." Oh how weighty and searching! It was not because of personal qualities that he loved. He may have seen ever so much sweetness in them; but of this he says nothing, only of "love in truth." This goes beyond loving "in the truth"; he loved "in truth." No doubt they had the truth. While of course there never can be truth without the truth, in truth means truly.

The apostle felt it of importance, in the midst of hollowness through waning of the truth, to assure them of divine reality in his love. They were souls whom God had brought to Himself through the truth; "And not I only but also all who have known the truth." What a wonderful thing it is to count on the love that is of God in such a world of vain show as this! John can warrant every Christian's love without any modification. As having Christ their life, he can assuredly count that every Christian loved this elect lady and her children, as he himself did. His apostolic authority in no way hindered his loving these children with their mother — They were God's children, and not merely hers, whom he says "I love in truth;" and he could say further that not he only loved them but also all those who have known the truth. Are not these the links to rivet and value, dear brethren? The apostle then could count upon all those that knew the truth loving the lady and her children in truth. It could not be without life in Christ, and the Spirit given to us after redemption to carry it out in the face of all obstacles. Seen in the fullest perfection in Christ, it is reproduced in the Christian.

"For the truth's sake, which abideth in us, and it shall be with us for ever." This is a very striking way of speaking of the truth. The apostle here personifies the truth as Paul did the gospel in Phil. 1. The apostle was a minister of the church as well as of the gospel, and although he wrote of the church as none ever did, nevertheless he preached the gospel too as no other ever preached. He delighted in the glad tidings of God's grace and of Christ's glory. He never set either against the truth of the church. On the contrary, he ministered both in the depth of grace and in the height of glory. He felt as the apostle John here expresses it "for the truth's sake which abideth in us, and it shall be with us for ever." Neither would have said this for any Christian institution however significant. An institution has its place which none can despise or overlook but to their real loss; but what is it compared to "the truth"? The institution is only for a little, and might terminate for ever in a moment. But the truth! Why, it abideth in us, and it shall be with us for ever. It is meant to have growing power over the heart all the time we are here below; and we shall only have it perfectly to enjoy in heaven and through eternity.

Then follows his suited salutation, "Grace be with you, mercy, peace:" "Grace," the fountain of divine love toward sinners; "peace," the fruit of Christ's work for believers, both generally wished to the saints; "mercy" meeting individual need in weakness and trial. So here it is for the elect lady and her children. We can see its suitableness here, for the very writing to her and them implies it. Whenever we think of ourselves individually, the need of mercy from God is felt. When we speak about the church and her privileges and the height of glory to which she is destined in and with Christ, the need is swallowed up in the glory of God's grace. But the individual has wants still calling for "mercy" in evident ways.

Grace and peace are for the church as a whole while here below. "Grace shall be with you, mercy, peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of the Father," must have been all the more cheering to the lady and her children, as it took the form of an assurance rather than a wish or prayer. "The Son of the Father" is also said here only. Why? The denial of His glory by the enemy was answered by an unusual assertion of it. The Spirit of God waves the bright banner in Satan's face for the strengthening of this Christian family summoned to stand loyally. "The Son of the Father!" What a glorious title! Christians are often called sons and children: none but our Lord is called "the Son of the Father." All is assured to them in truth and love. He alone secures. Without Him we never could have been brought out of darkness into the light of God. To Him we are indebted for the knowledge of the Father and of Himself. He was the fulness of truth and love, and has by His grace and work made us to know, possess and enjoy it all in our souls.

"I rejoice greatly," he continues, "that I have found of thy children." He does not say thy children, and why? Because there may have been one or more of them who not yet had confessed the Saviour and Lord. Possibly one or more might have slipped under the evil influence of the misleaders. He, for some sufficient reason, only goes so far as to say "of thy children walking in truth." This is the grand point, because of a necessary limitation even then, not merely knowing the truth but "walking in truth," or as the same apostle says in the Gospel, "he that doeth the truth" (John 3:21). But he proceeds, "According (or, even) as we received a commandment from the Father." As some Christians are apt to think that a commandment must necessarily be legal, it is well they should be disabused of the mistake. No one speaks more of commandments than our Lord, and this too in the Gospel of John, who repeats the same word frequently in these Epistles, wherein the law is completely left behind and never alluded to. There the Son of God shines as nowhere else; yet the Son of God loved to speak of commandments both for Himself and for us on principles wholly distinct from the law, as in John 10:18, John 12:49, John 13:34, John 14:15, 21, 31, John 15:10.

And why so? Because He had taken the place of man, that is, of entire dependence and even obedience. Albeit the Son of the Father, He emptied Himself, taking a bondman's form as He took His place in the likeness of men; and being found in figure as a man He humbled Himself, "becoming obedient unto death, even death of the cross." It was not that He gave up or could give up Deity, but He renounced the glory proper to His personal dignity in order to vindicate God and bless man; and in order to accomplish this work, He as the perfect servant, He a dependent man, received everything from God His Father. Consequently, as is said of Him in Ps. 40 "Mine ears hast Thou opened" (or, dug) in becoming incarnate. More than this, His ear was open daily, morning by morning, as in Isa. 50, He listened to what His Father had to say. Finally, as the true Hebrew servant, Ex. 21, instead of going out free, He abides servant for ever, of which the ear bored before the judges was the sign, to the Lord the still deeper sign of death. Such was He alone. But we, once lost sinners, by faith have received the life of Christ, as well as the anointing of the Holy Spirit; we love His commandments, as He loved His Father's; and we are thus meant to show forth His excellencies. For what else are we left here? The Lord Jesus always hung upon the commandment of His Father. In Him the love and the obedience were absolutely perfect; and we follow Him, but Oh how unequal are our steps!

The Lord Jesus learnt obedience by the things that He suffered. We learn to obey, judging our reluctance; and the Holy Spirit makes it liberty through the grace of Christ. He learnt obedience because, as God, it was quite a new thing to Him. We have to learn it because we are naturally disobedient, which is quite another thing. By grace we love the word, and honour the God that loves us with all our hearts. Now we thankfully receive a commandment of the Father. Is there anything good that is not based upon divine authority? And the blotting out of divine authority would be an unutterable loss. No doubt there is more than authority, there is divine love; but while love was ever in God and manifested to us when godless and evil, we when converted always begin with divine authority and submissiveness of heart, horrified at our old rebellious spirit. In conversion a man truly submits to God for the first time in his life; and this, as God wills, in bowing to the Lord Jesus.

"And now I beseech thee, lady, not as writing to thee a new commandment, but that which we had from the beginning, that we should love one another" (ver. 5). On this, one may say the less because we have had it so much before us already. Still it is always good to remind ourselves, not only of its being a great characteristic of the new nature and of divine teaching, but of its inseparableness from obedience, an equal characteristic of being begotten of God, as we have it laid down in ver. 6: "And this is love that we should walk according to His commandments." It is only the wicked self-will of fallen man that he seeks to sever. Not only are both God's commandments, or Christ's as is true also, but they are identified in these striking words so far that they are inseparable from the life we have in Christ. And again in the rest of the verse all are bound together in what Christ enjoined on His disciples. "This is the commandment even as ye heard from [the] beginning that ye should walk in it." These words "heard from the beginning" are carefully annexed; and the reason is to remind all then, as now that the injunction was from the time that Christ was manifested here.

Adam was the beginning of the human race on earth. But Christ is the beginning for the Christian: with Christ came grace and truth, and the spring of Christian obedience and mutual love. Before Christ came and was manifested here below, how could anyone know the truth about Him? The faithful surely looked for His coming for blessing to man and the earth; but how little was definite to their faith? All distinctness was reserved for the future. Worldly minds thought of Him for their own earthly and human aspirations; but those born of God had more or less the prospect of faith only in the revelation of God. Still before Christ came even the saints could not but be more or less vague in their anticipations. But when the Son of God came manifested in flesh as foretold, grace and truth came in Him; and the light judged everything inconsistent with God's nature, and the truth manifested every one and thing as it really is. "This is the commandment, even as ye heard from [the] beginning, that ye should walk in it."

But the worst evils pressed now on all sides. Satan, not content with corrupting, was now denying the truth by those who once professed it. Hence the urgent call to assert it plainly and act faithfully more than ever. "Because many misleaders went forth" (not exactly "entered," as in the Rec. Text and the A.V.) "into the world." They had once been in the church, and they went forth to pursue their unhallowed work of defying God's word and denying the Son. "Entered the world" in no way expresses the fact, nor has it any just sense. They left the Christian confessors when duped by Satan to deny the truth of Christ. They bear the awful character of misleaders "that confess not Jesus Christ coming in flesh." "This is the misleader and the antichrist." In the Epistle of Jude the deadly evil was from such being within, though they set themselves up apart there; but the Epistles of John contemplate a later day, "a last hour," when they went out to resist as open antagonists. One that enters the church of God, and takes his part for a while in it as a Christian, goes out a great deal worse than when he, however bad, came in. He now hates the truth, and those who cleave to it. It becomes his active business to mislead the saints, defame the truth, and deny Christ.

Here, we learn, went out into the world "those that confess not Jesus Christ coming in flesh." Christ's coming is now expressed in the abstract present, rather than as the perfect of 1 John 4:2 (the present result of a past action). This makes no difference practically for the truth, which in both cases is the confession of His person thus qualified. Accordingly, as there so here, to leave out the words "that is" gives the force better than in the Authorised and the Revised Versions. The truth of His person these misleaders did not believe. They do not confess Him. Not that they denied necessarily the historical fact of His birth, but they did not confess Christ's person coming or come in flesh. For the deep and wondrous truth is that He who was the Son of God from all eternity should so come. Such is the confession of all who have life and are anointed by the Spirit of God. He might have come as an angel or in any other way possible, but for God's will and glory He was pleased to come in flesh. This the misleaders opposed. It is the confession of Him whose divine and human natures united in one person. It is not all that Christianity means, but it is its basis without which redemption is impossible. For one not to confess Jesus thus come is to be the misleader and the antichrist.

"Look to yourselves that we may not lose what we wrought, but may receive full reward," or wages (ver. 8). It is not only an earnest caution but an appeal to love thoroughly in our apostle's manner as in 1 John 2:28. Not seeing this, old copyists and modern editors and translators lost its point, and reduced it to a common-place. The Authorised Version, after the commonly received text, has excellent support, and yields an eminently touching reference. "Look to yourselves that we," not ye, "may not lose," etc. It is an affecting draught on their love. So, 1 John 2:28 appealed to all God's family, as here the apostle to an elect lady and her children.

"Whosoever transgresseth" does not express the sense the law has nothing to do with it, therefore the word "transgress" is a bad one. It should be, "Everyone that goes onward," or "beyond" the truth of Christ. It is a further blow at those enamoured of progress, as if revealed truth could be like a human science susceptible of development. On the contrary, he who is not content with the truth which God has given in Christ, who therefore goes beyond that truth, really abandons and loses the truth for phantoms of man's mind. "Everyone that goeth forward and abideth not in the doctrine of the Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine, he hath both the Father and the Son." Whatever may be the pretensions to higher light or truth, whatever may be his confidence in these new-fangled notions, he who goes forward out of the inspired word into ideas of his own head or imaginations of others "hath not God." He is out of all present relationship with God even of the most distant sort. Whereas "he that abideth in the doctrine [of the Christ] he hath both the Father and the Son" — the highest, deepest, and most intimate revelation of the Godhead.

"If any one cometh to you and bringeth not this doctrine, receive him not at home and greet him not; for he that greeteth him partaketh in his evil works." Now here is one of the most distressing duties that ever was or can be laid on a Christian; and it is laid on the lady and her children peremptorily. Take this illustration. Many years ago a dear friend of mine fell into trouble through being in a Christian assembly which evaded judging similar error. This sister came to live where the assembly did judge the evil thoroughly; but she was slow to allow her responsibility as to it, pleading that she was only a woman, and what could she say or do? Such excuses may sound fair and fine; women might thus act laudably in matters wherein they are not so reserved as they might be. Who expected or hoped to see the evil to be duly judged on that ground? I reminded this "elect lady" of 2 John. This silenced her, for she was intelligent and experienced as well as God-fearing. The issue was that she stood convinced of having shirked her bounden duty.

Where the doctrine of Christ is at stake, one must not hesitate: compromise is treason to the Lord; and if we are not true to Christ, we shall never be true to anything that God has revealed to us. The honour of God is centred in Him through whom grace and truth came to us. Therefore if one come, not bringing this doctrine, even had he been once the dearest Christian friend on earth, she and her children were under the most solemn obligation to ignore him for Christ's sake. Here lies the present call of God. If he does not bring the doctrine of Christ, close the door, have nothing to do with an antichrist. To those who do not value Christ's name and word it must seem outrageous, especially in these liberal days, where man is all and Christ is little or nothing; and even professing Christians are so ready to say nothing about it. "What a pity to disturb unity by these questions! Is it not their chief duty to hold together and avoid scattering which is the shocking evil? Besides, he is such a nice and dear brother, who may see fit to give up his little notion if you do not fan it into a flame." These are the neutrals, more dangerous than even the beguiled misleaders.

No, my brethren, we owe all through grace to the Son of God and the Father who sent and gave Him. If there be anything to which we are called as Christians to be resolute and unbending at all cost, it is where the glory and the truth of Christ is undermined and overthrown.

The closing verses (12 and 13) are a fine testimony to the holy but hearty love which bound the early saints together, as we see here between the aged apostle and this Christian household. "Having many things to write to you, I would not with paper and ink; for I hope to come unto you, and to speak mouth to mouth that our joy may be made full. The children of thine elect sister greet thee."

We can gather, alike from his hope of his coming and from his greeting, how fully the apostle counted that those addressed would lay to heart and carry out without fail his exclusion of one false to Christ and going about to ensnare others into his wicked works. There was no threat of consequences beyond the warning that compromise in such a case is to have fellowship with the evil-doer. Nor is there any effort to effect compliance with the injunction by appeals to his own place, or to their intimate friendship hitherto. It all depends on what grace has made us feel to be due to Christ. For even the youngest may be unwavering, when others who for the time ought to feel far more deeply have tampered with little evils, and thus grown insensible to the infinite worth of Christ, playing the amiable where the sternest decision is due to His name. For it is really a question between the Son and Satan. How he looked for fidelity to Christ is made very plain, in that when he comes unto them, he speaks of their joy being made full. This he could not hope for if he stood in doubt of their fidelity.

But it may be well to add here that nothing can be less of the Spirit of God than to apply to minor differences of a disciplinary sort the rigour which is an absolute duty where it is a question of the true Christ or a false. Such a mistake is turned by the great enemy to the scattering of those whom Christ died to gather together in one. Even doctrine in general, unless fundamental, is not a Scriptural ground for so extreme a course. Still less is it due to a difference about the institutions of Christianity, whether baptism or the Lord's Supper. But the doctrine of the Christ does claim the allegiance of every saint; and he who undermines His person is to be discarded not only publicly but from private recognition at all cost.

The Third Epistle of John


3 JOHN 1-14.

"The elder to the beloved Gaius [or, Caius] whom I love in truth. Beloved, I desire that in all things thou shouldest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. For I rejoiced exceedingly when brethren came and bore witness to thy truth, even as thou walkest in truth. I have no greater joy than these things, that I hear of my children walking in the truth. Beloved, thou doest a faithful thing whatsoever thou mayest do unto the brethren and this strangers who bore witness to thy love before the church [or, assembly]; in setting forward whom on their journey worthily of God thou wilt do well; for they went forth for the name's sake, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive [or, welcome] such, that we may be fellow-workers with the truth. I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes that loveth pre-eminence among them receiveth us not. For this reason if I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he doeth, babbling against us with wicked words; and not content with these things, neither himself receiveth the brethren, and those who would he hindereth and casteth out of the church. Beloved, imitate not the evil but the good. The good-doer is of God; the evil-doer hath not seen God. Demetrius hath been witnessed to by all, and by the truth itself; and we also bear witness, and thou knowest that our witness is true.

"Many things I had to write to thee, but with ink and pen I will not write to thee; but I hope soon to see thee, and we will speak mouth unto mouth. Peace [be] to thee. The friends greet thee. Greet the friends by name."

It is difficult to conceive an epistle which has stronger points of contrast with John's Second one than that which now comes before us. Nevertheless they have one common root, and that fruit which it produces only takes so different a colour because of the different wants of Christians. In Christ is no real discordance but infinite adaptability to all our needs. Nevertheless their objects strikingly differ. The Second Epistle conveys the most solemn warning, and what gives it both special point and general application is the fact of being addressed not even to a bishop or overseer, nor to men like Timothy and Titus, who in a limited space and for a particular reason represented the apostle to an extent beyond those local charges, but to an unnamed Christian woman. An elect lady, and even her children, are all embraced and summoned to discharge the duty laid upon them. Nor was it of course a public or ecclesiastical act, but individual loyalty to Christ so stringent that they were forbidden to receive the false teacher into the house, or even to salute him in the ordinary way, being an antichrist.

The Third Epistle is the outgoing of the strongest Christian affection, being addressed to a Christian man already well known for his love, especially in caring for those engaged in the Lord's work. His heart received and went with them in their service to further the work and themselves according to all that lay in his power. Therefore the keyword of the Third Epistle is "receive," as the keyword of the Second is "receive not." This may seem to the natural man arbitrary and inconsistent. But what of him? Natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him (1 Cor. 11:14). Here on the contrary the direction is wholly opposite: there is really, perfect harmony; and what makes harmony is Christ. Souls there were and are who identify themselves with the truth of Christ here below; and the word in the Third Epistle is "Receive them." It is enough that they bring the doctrine of the Christ, always taking for granted that their ways are according to Christ. No question is raised of ministerial position. The church in those days had not yet assumed the title to interfere with the rights of its Head. The free action of the Holy Spirit which the apostles upheld in the earliest days was honoured still. The measure and character of gift in those days, when parochial limits had not yet been invented, might differ much. One preacher might be dull to see the bearing of Christ in every part of the Bible, another might be ready and bright. Others again might be disposed to sentimentality and feeling though not really Christian, any more than addiction to dialectics or erudition. Faith and love are very different things, and it was these that wrought in their self-denying and laborious service, which Gaius prized for the Lord's sake.

The First Epistle rises by the Holy Spirit above personality, and binds together in faith and love all the saints in view of Christ's person, and in fellowship with the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus. No Epistle more thoroughly and comprehensively takes in the whole family of God; none has less to do with a particular time or place. But the Second is addressed to an elect lady and her children, as the Third is to the beloved Gaius: so far in pointed contrast with the First, yet both the Second and the Third are but special applications of the selfsame truth and love in Christ made known in the First.

In the Third it is divinely formed largeness of heart. "Love in truth" is the governing note here as in all. Gaius refuses either to be cajoled or to be frightened out of what is due to Christ. Authority, actual or assumed, was at work to criticise truth and love. One of narrow heart lifted himself up, it would appear in the assembly where Gaius was, who sought rule not according to Scripture but in his own way. Many have followed; no lack of succession in this line. The apostles and prophets did their work and departed, leaving their incontestably inspired testimony. But self-willed men are never wanting in any age.

We are given therefore invaluable instruction, what we should think of such men, and how to bear ourselves toward them. It is one of the needed lessons of this Epistle not to mind them but pursue the path of Christ ourselves. The Lord does not fail in His own way to bring to remembrance unloving work and babbling words, and to make manifest in due censure the selfish emptiness which slights apostolic authority, opposes active testimony of the gospel, and casts out of the assembly on false pretences those who withstand such ways. We do well not to be overmuch occupied with impropriety, nor to be diverted from the true path of devotedness to Christ; nor ought we to fear the big words habitual with men who, instead of following Christ, seek to exalt themselves and their party. Cleaving to Christ is the only true way of deliverance from self. There is the proud way of despising a Diotrephes, without even pity for his soul; yet Christ is not with such a feeling, but warns him.

The great principle, whether for the church or the Christian, is obedience, especially when we can say little of power. Subjection to the word is of the Lord; and is there anything humbler and also firmer than that? It gives alike courage and lowliness, with entire dependence on Him in whom we believe, whose ears are attentive, and who will vindicate His own word. Principle is indispensable, but it is not all. Principle alone never made a believer lowly or loving. It is often taken up in a dry, hard, and legal way. But we can never dispense with a living Christ; and He is accessible and active to all who wait on Him, however valuable truth may be, and God entitles us to have all the resources of Christ in His love, as being in His hand and the Father's.

"The elder to the beloved Gaius." Here he lets out his heart as he does not to the lady. There is divine wisdom in the language of Scripture. Too often unctuous expressions have led to folly if not to sin. "An elect lady" reminds us of God, if to Gaius affection could safely flow out in the simplest way. He was thus led to the right word, "elect." If God had chosen the lady, He chose her not to yield but to resist the devil, who would then flee. The way in which this lady was tried was very difficult for her. A lady instinctively shrinks from doing anything that seems unladylike. How shocking to refuse to receive, under her roof, a gentleman perhaps, and probably an old acquaintance. Not even to give him a common greeting! This to all who love not our Lord seems harsh indeed; yet it is exactly what the Spirit of God enjoins. How could it be otherwise when Christ is fundamentally assailed, and we are called to be His good soldiers?

"An elect lady" is bound to Christ's honour like all for whom He died and rose. No Christian can be absolved from this duty. At any rate, it is what seemed good to the Spirit of God in former days. The question is what is one doing and teaching now? He might have been the instrument of her conversion or that of her children, and it would go hard against her — a lady — not to notice this man. But circumstances were altered, now that he was an enemy of Christ instead of a true preacher of Christ. Perhaps the man secretly opposed. For we have to bear in mind that these deceivers are self-deceived, led too by Satan to think themselves better friends of Christ than real Christians, and their doctrine the right line of truth, supremely beautiful as well as new.

But in the Third it is quite another duty. Had we only the Second we might be in danger of becoming rigid, hard and suspicious. But the Third Epistle exhorts us whom we are to receive, and this with all our heart. If dangerous men go about and seek to enter, we must not forget true men earnest to spread the truth of Christ. The elect lady had to beware of wicked men however plausible; the brother is called to persevere in hearty love for the good and true. Sometimes such a brother is ruffled because of disappointment once or twice. He hates to be taken in; and such a case stumbles him, so that he is determined that it shall not occur again.

At any rate the apostle writes to encourage Gaius in the path of love. It is not enough to begin well: the still greater aim is to grow in love, never weary in well-doing. Accordingly the apostle says of Gaius, "whom I love in truth." This is the common ground of both Epistles; whatever be the difference in application and aim, loving in truth is an equally marked feature in each of them. "Beloved, I desire that in all things thou shouldest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" (ver. 2). How simple, large, and cordial!

There is no haste in broaching the matter; as indeed this is a beautiful feature in Scripture. There is gracious consideration of one another in general, unless grave danger claimed an immediate appeal, as we see in the Epistle to the Galatian saints. But as no such peril here existed, Gaius is assured of the personal interest that the apostle took in him. He wishes that in all things he may prosper. "Above all things" goes too far. Perhaps some have adopted the extravagant idea that no matter how ill our affairs go, or how bad the health, the only concern is that the soul should prosper. The inspired apostle does not favour such fanaticism. A brother may prosper or not in what he undertakes. His was true brotherly feeling; but he carefully gives the first place as a matter of course to the soul's welfare. If this be safeguarded and real, we can as a general rule count on the Lord's interest both in our undertakings or business, and in our bodily health. Our gracious God, if the soul prosper, has pleasure both in ourselves and in all our matters. The very hairs of our head are all numbered. If a sparrow does not fall to the ground without Him, if He thinks of the ravens and the lilies of the field, what a Father we have to do with for every day and in all things!

We know that if our earthly house be destroyed, we have a more glorious building from God, and if our outer man is consumed, yet the inward is renewed day by day. This is the highest and should be the nearest consideration. Still here was this good brother who had proved his kindness in caring for others, and especially those who gave up all to serve the Lord Jesus; and the apostle wished him, prospering in soul, to prosper in all things, and to be in health, so as to be cheered and free and unimpeded.

Sometimes, that the soul may prosper, God withers up what we are too engrossed with; and if this suffice not, He disciplines with bodily sickness. And the Lord takes away the idol and smashes it to pieces. This is gracious of Him. Of course it may be painful, but our hearts go with what the Lord does to remove a snare and win back the soul to honour and enjoy Himself. Sometimes a zealous man is set aside in order that he may learn that God can carry on His work without him. He has been absorbed in reaching and preaching to others, and slipped into less vigilance as to his own soul's communion. The Lord in His goodness and love corrects, and a little sickness is turned to much good. But here, as Gaius was prospering in soul, the apostle wishes his prosperity in all things else and in his body too.

"For I rejoiced exceedingly when brethren came and bore witness to thy truth, even as thou walkest in truth" (ver. 3). Truth delighted the apostle's heart. Gaius was walking in truth. This indicated his soul's prospering. Kindness to the brethren, thoughtfulness about others, prospering in his affairs and in bodily health: what were they all to holding fast the truth — "thy truth," and his own walking in truth? And such was the witness that brethren bore to him; so that it was exceeding joy to the apostle. Gaius sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all else was added. His heart was not set on his own things. There was no compromise of Christ, no making truth a secondary consideration, but he kept walking truthfully. It was a matter of plain testimony on the part of others. "Brethren came and bore witness to thy truth [or, that is in thee]." Had it been Gaius talking about it, it might have been questionable; for who has ever found men whose love for the truth was unwavering and unstinted loud about their own fidelity or service? The more a man loves and values truth, the more he judges his own shortcoming in his service and his daily life.

"I have no greater joy than these things that I hear of my children walking in the truth" (ver. 4).

It is no longer the lady's children or "the children of the elect sister." Of "my children" we read here, those who were spiritually related to the apostle of whom Gaius was one, and on this account dear to the apostle. Gaius had not only begun well, but was going on well in face of evil. Still there was the need of cheering him on; and this comes out in a delicate form. "Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatever work thou mayest do toward the brethren and this strangers who witnessed to thy love before the church, in setting forward whom on their journey worthily of God thou wilt do well" (vers. 5, 6).

Benevolently or thoughtfully, generously or lovingly, would have been the words most Christian men might have used. With Gaius it was primarily a matter of faith before God. Faith always brings in God in one way, as love does in another. Faith bringing in the word of truth, as love is the energy of the divine nature in gracious affection.

In the last clause of verse 5 the common text as presented by the A.V. is not only defective but contrary to sense. For it conveys the notion of two objects given, "to the brethren and to strangers." The true text, as attested by the best MSS., is "and this strangers." Hence the point is that the love was shown in faith to the brethren, not as old friends but where they were strangers. And Scripture is express on the value that God attaches to love toward strangers, though here with the added tie of being brethren. God's children are nearer to God than angels could be; and we may thus say that it ought to be more to us to entertain our brethren, and this strangers, than to entertain angels. Oh how far has superstition reversed the truth, and nature darkened the sense of our relationship to God!

Many saints are drawn out in love for labourers whom they know and admire, but they are reserved as to stranger brethren of whom they have not heard. The love of Gaius for the stranger brethren had the marked approval of the apostle. Before the church they "bore witness of thy love." "Charity" has another meaning quite unknown to Scripture, wholly alien from the case before us, and beneath the divine affection here contemplated. No doubt its use in the English Version of 1 Corinthians 13 elevates it not a little above conventionalism, but "love" is unequivocal save to the base. It is a good word of our mother tongue, whereas "charity" came in through the Latin. The Spirit of God uses a word which in a heathen's mouth had a sensual force, gave it a blessed and holy direction, christened it and thus hallowed it for ever.

But the apostle would add rather than diminish the draught on love when he writes, "Whom if thou set forward on their journey worthily of God thou wilt do well." Even if the love of Gaius had been abused, the apostle would not anticipate any halt. These brethren were going elsewhere, and the word is, "Whom if thou set forward on their journey worthily of God." Its force is melted down by the enfeebled expression, "after a godly sort." Undeniably "after a godly sort" is much and excellent in itself; but it is always safer and more reverent to cleave to the actual words used by the Spirit of God. And nothing can be more intelligible than setting them forward, not after a man's thought of godliness, but "worthily of God." For God is love, and love is of God. It may be about a little thing here below; but it connects one's soul in faith and love with what is unseen and external, with God who blesses for all eternity.

Yet the apostle in suggesting it says no more than "thou wilt do well." It is simplicity as to Christ, this guarded language of the Holy Spirit, which avoids all approach to pressure or exaggeration, though the thing was near the heart of the apostle. One is reminded of something like it in Hebrews 13, where the apostle speaks of two sorts of sacrifices: "sacrifice of praise continually to God, that is, fruit of lips confessing His name"; "but to do good and communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." The first is of incomparable moment and value; but the lower form is of doing good and communicating here below, yet flowing from the same faith and love, "for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." The spiritual ones are the delight of God; those on the human side are well-pleasing to Him.

"For they went forth for the Name's sake, taking nothing of the Gentiles." Here is what especially endeared these labourers to the apostle. They kept themselves totally free from profiting by the resources of the world. Needy as they might be, they maintained the heavenly dignity of the gospel, and proved that they sought the best good of the Gentiles, not their own things. What more degrades the gospel than to let its ministers or the church become beggars from the world? What so openly denies faith in the Lord's care for His work? And how refreshing to see a man above anxiety for himself in devotedness to the Lord! What knit the heart of Gaius to them was "that for the Name they went forth." They were not sent by man. The church has no authority for choosing, ordaining, or sending out the servants of the Lord. It is an unworthy and presumptuous mistake for the church, or for the servants, thus to usurp the place of Christ. Christ is the Head and the source and the sender of His gifts for ministry, and He only. Local charges were quite distinct.

The church however ought to take delight in acknowledging those whom the Lord sends. We find it so at Antioch (Acts 14:27), when Paul and Barnabas came back from an errand on which the Spirit of God had sent them. Thus, brethren "let them go" (ἀπέλυσαν); but they were "sent forth" (ἐκπεμφθέντες) by the Holy Ghost (Acts 13:3-4). The Lord Himself "sent" the Twelve and the Seventy (Luke 9:2; Luke 10:1) when He was here: and now that He is above He, by the Spirit of God, gives and sends forth those alive again for evermore whom He has qualified for His work whatever it be. He has not abnegated His rights or bequeathed them to the church, or to any individuals in it. Nevertheless we read in Acts 13:3, that their fellow-servants had communion with the envoys of the Holy Spirit, and marked it by laying their hands on them as its sign, as they appear to have repeated it later, not for Barnabas, but for Paul when he went forth another time (Acts 15:40). It has nothing whatever to do with what they call ordination. It was simply a solemn sign of commendation to the grace of God, which has been done of late on befitting occasions, and without the least pretension. But there is no such thought as the authority of the church in these matters. Mission like gift belongs to the Lord; and He is the same still, which Christendom has forgotten; and the Spirit of God is down here to give effect to it in us as then. There may not be the same manifested power as we find over and over again in the Acts of the Apostles. Yet God knows how to make good the same divine principle by ways suited to the present state of the church, which calls for humiliation on our part. But it is faithless to give up God's way for an unauthorised invention of man.

"We therefore ought to receive such." How gracious and how wise! It not merely calls on Gaius and other saints to receive or welcome such. We, says the apostle, ought to receive such. What more than moral beauty is this! It might have seemed enough to urge, "Ye receive such"; how much more to include all in the "we!" The apostle was not above joining himself to the rest. He thus sanctions and encourages those humbly going forth on the work, even though none else had a position comparable to his own in the church, which so impressively bespoke the grace of Christ, and reproved the nascent clericalism which despised these zealous labourers, and demonstrated to all how thoroughly they enjoyed the apostle's countenance and love.

Not content with so much, he goes so far as to say "That we may be fellow-workers with the truth." May I warmly commend these words to all of you, my dear brethren! What an honour! The truth is here personified as hated by the devil and the world, through which he works in a thousand ways to thwart Christ and all identified with witnessing Him. Diotrephes was doing this, though we are not told that he sympathised with the antichrist or the heterodox in any respect. It is quite a different form of evil. His state was wretchedly bad, so that we do not well to say more. But it is open and right for all Christians to be fellow-workers with the truth. Some cannot preach; but we may and ought truly and practically to sympathise with those that do the work. Do we pray for them habitually? Do we watch to serve them in any way we can? If so, "we are fellow-helpers," not merely to them but "with the truth." One cannot suppose it a real difficulty for any saint to be a fellow-helper with the truth. The love of Gaius was marked; but for any in earnest before God it is the same call of love. "If the readiness be there, one is accepted according to what he may have, not according to what he hath not." All can help acceptably to the Lord in some way, which makes them in His grace fellow-helpers with the truth.

"I wrote something to the church." Hence we learn that it is a mistake to suppose that the apostles never wrote other epistles than those we have. God took care that those meant for the permanent blessing of the believer should not be lost; as He inspired them for continual service, He watched over them accordingly. We need not imagine such a thing as that the apostles never wrote anything else. Why not? But without pressing overmuch the allusion here, the fact cannot be doubted that communications by inspired men were written not necessarily inspired to form part of the Scriptures. We find a similar fact in the Old Testament, as for instance books by Solomon and others. If God has not preserved the whole amount, He has secured what was inspired for abiding use, of which His prophets were made competent to judge. When such inspiration ceased for Old or New Testament, the prophets also ceased.

This divine selection is a thing to admire instead of causing difficulty. Had all the books been written that might have been written, the world could not contain them, as our apostle declares. The words and works of our Lord alone, if written out as they deserved, would overfill the world. How precious is that all-wise selection which is a characteristic of inspiration! God was the only judge of what is to most profit. Even the Bible, as it is, how little it is really known by those to whom it is dearer than life! Would that every child of God knew it all more thoroughly. Were you to read the Bible often every day of your life, not only in a way both pious and studious, any real Christian will tell you how far you would be from fathoming its depths. It is always beyond the greatest teacher. If there were only as many books as there are verses or even chapters of equal length, it is evident that the difficulty for the serious reader would be increased enormously.

Let us admire God's wisdom in selecting by inspiration what was for perpetual use within the short compass of the Bible as He has given it to us. It is not a bad adage that one may have too much of a good thing as well as too little. In the Bible we have neither, but what the only wise God saw best to His glory and for our blessing. It was of prime importance that His word should be as brief as could be consistent with the fulness of revealed truth. "I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes that loveth pre-eminence among them receiveth us not" (ver. 9). There is no difficulty then in understanding why we have not the letter that John wrote. It would seem that Diotrephes showed his bad spirit by having this letter to the church kept back, and that in this way the apostle was not received by him.

"For this reason if I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he doeth, babbling against us with wicked words and not content with these things, neither himself receiveth the brethren and those who would he hindereth, and casteth them out of the church." Whatever his doctrine might be, his works were evil. "Wherefore if I come, I will remember his deeds." The same spirit which Diotrephes showed in rejecting what the apostle wrote — if that be the meaning of not receiving the apostle — displayed itself in his contempt for the brethren who went about preaching. His feeling seemed to be this: What business have they to come here? "I am here. It is for me to look after the truth; and I never thought of asking their help, especially as they are strangers who come without being sent for or in any way sent. They are intruders." This is not an uncommon sentiment, and although some may not express it, how often is it not felt! It ran through the spirit and the conduct of this man, so high up in his own esteem as to evince a total want of respect toward the apostle. Who can wonder at his hostility toward the lowly brethren who addicted themselves to preaching far and wide? Doubtless he thought it a better thing if they had stuck to earning an honest living instead of going where he at least did not want them.

"Beloved," as the solemn reference is, "imitate not what is evil but what is good." Diotrephes was clearly doing that which was evil; Gaius must steer clear of imitating the evil, for evil is infectious. Let him adhere to the good. "He that doeth good is of God; he that doeth evil hath not seen God" (ver. 11). We may not affirm that Diotrephes was absolutely involved in this tremendous character; but he gave serious ground for fearing it. The language is general but guarded. The apostle simply lays down the certain principle — doing evil is not of God. He who does it as the habit of his life has not seen God. How comforting is the other side! He is of God. To see God leaves its impress on your soul for ever. One cannot have seen God and be a doer of evil. Evil was true of Diotrephes to a certain and serious point. Whether it characterised him we may leave.

"Demetrius hath witness borne to him by all, and by the truth itself, and we also bear witness, and thou knowest that our witness is true" (ver. 12): Here is a fine character not heard of before. The truth itself, as well as all, bore witness to Demetrius; and we also bear witness, which Gaius consciously knew to be true. "We also bear witness." Gaius could have the fullest fellowship with Demetrius. One reason as it seems why the Spirit of God thus notices Demetrius is that, even in our evil day, we may look for others who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. So here, if we are told of one Diotrephes, there were two to praise, Gaius and Demetrius, to say nothing of the faithful brethren though strangers, of whom Diotrephes had nothing good to say. The apostle would have us not to be overmuch oppressed by the sense of evil or by evil-speakers, but to have our hearts encouraged in the truth and in love.

"Many things I had to write to thee, but with ink and pen I will not write to thee: but I hope soon to see thee, and we will speak mouth to mouth. Peace to thee. The friends greet thee. Greet the friends by name" (vers. 13, 14). We are not to fall under the cloud of evil. There is always a danger of throwing up one's hands, exclaiming that all is gone. Never could I sympathise with so unbelieving a thought. The prevalence of the worst evil, the breaking down of not a few who have seemed faithful, is the more reason to distrust ourselves, yet to abide in the Lord with purpose of heart. Let us never forget that the Holy Spirit abides in and with us for ever, to gather to His name yet more than to convert sinners, though He does both.

How simple and true are the concluding words in the Third Epistle as in the Second! Great artists used to represent not only the Lord but the apostles and the saints with a halo over the head. Scripture speaks of all with unpretending simplicity: the Lord the meekest and lowliest of men; and the apostles differing from other brethren in deeper self-abnegation and a more vivid sense of abiding in God, the privilege of His grace. And here who can fail to discern the heavenly-minded dignity of being but "a bondman of Jesus," as the greatest of them loved to designate himself?

The Holy Spirit gave energy to work signs and wonders and powers, and yet to work as if oneself nothing. The inspired man had many things to write with ink and pen, but he hoped to see his beloved Gaius when "we shall speak mouth to mouth." He preferred living fellowship, and wished him peace meanwhile. Here we have the friends saluting mutually, and in no vague way but "by name;" as in the Second Epistle it is family greeting: "the children of thine elect sister greet thee."