The World and the Love of God.

1 John 4.

At the end of 1 John 3 the Holy Spirit is mentioned as having been given to believers, and by this we know that God dwelleth in us. Immediately afterwards we find the work of the enemy in sending forth many false prophets into the world, and the necessity of trying the spirits; for ever since the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, the tactics of the enemy have been those of spiritual imposture. The world's true character comes out here, and note that it is a world into whose bosom many false prophets have been received: no one is more likely to receive a ready welcome from the world than a false prophet. Such have been popular in all times.

But a certain test is given whereby the spirits may be proved - that is, Jesus Christ come in flesh - and every spirit that would take away in the least degree anything from the divine or human glory of our Lord, is not of God. The presence of the blessed Son of God - truly incarnate, as John's gospel presents Him - is the test, and the spirit of antichrist is detected where Jesus Christ is not confessed.

This then is the character of the world in which we live. It has rejected Jesus, and has received with open arms a host of false prophets, and it will end with the acceptance of Antichrist. The age will end in the development of man's independence to such a degree, that he will exalt himself to the very highest point of pretension, and revolt against God; and, as one who has climbed recklessly to the top of a high steeple, suddenly smitten with vertigo, falls and is broken to pieces, so shall the pride of the antichrist come to an end, judged as he shall be of the Lord when once he shall have attained the bad eminence to which he is ascending.

The point is that the spirit of the antichrist is already in the world, and we have to meet it on all sides. It is the spirit which denies man's ruin, and which would exalt him to the skies.

But we have a very blessed statement as to all believers, "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world." The presence of the Holy Ghost in the family of God (for here the "children" takes in all Christians) is a most wonderful fact, and He is infinitely superior to the terrible and restless spirit which is in the world.

They are of the world, and speak according to its principles, and are listened to readily; the false prophets have very often a philanthropic doctrine to propound, the amelioration of the whole human race, universal brotherhood, and other very grand schemes, but all these things are of the world, that is, according to its principles.

These men will be listened to, and I recollect once seeing an immense crowd round a preacher in London, and saying to a friend, "Let us go to listen; I am perfectly certain that it is not the gospel he is preaching, for if so he would not have so large an audience." And indeed it was not the gospel, but exhortations to abstain from alcohol, and to practise civic virtues, and thus to prosper on earth, with a hope of Paradise hereafter. All such teaching will be readily received, provided that man's fall and ruin and God's claims be ignored.

The world studies political economy, in which there is not one thought of God or of His Christ, but how to make the best use of the resources of this planet without Him.

The world listens to the false prophets; but those who are of God listen to the apostles as having the divine message from the Lord Himself, who came into this world, the Son of God incarnate, the Truth. Blessed be all they who receive His message!

The manner in which the love of God is presented to us in the following verses makes a very blessed contrast to this dark world and the Antichrist. The whole family of children are characterized by love, and the nearer we are morally to God the more will this be known. I recollect in reading of Mahomet's supposed journey to the seventh heaven (the whole thing an impudent imposture), that the false prophet said that when he approached within a bow-shot of the deity, a mortal chill froze the very blood in his veins; and this, I thought, condemns the whole system of Islam, for the nearer we are to God the less are we chilled. It is the very contrary.

The three blessed aspects of the love of God have often been insisted upon, and I merely wish to call attention to the subject.

1. The love of God manifested. (v. 9.)

2. Perfected in us. (v. 12.)

3. Perfected with us.* (v. 17.)

*This is the true sense of the passage thus, "Herein has love been perfected with us," etc.

We are called upon to love one another because love is of God, and the character and nature of one born of God is to love. God's love was manifested in the gift of His Son when we had no love for Him, and now, in the midst of a heartless world, we are exhorted to love one another. This has often been spoken of; may we show it in true self-denial and devotedness!

In verse 12 the beginning is the same as in John 1:18; the ending different. It is no longer a question of the presence of Jesus in the world, the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father declaring Him; Jesus is in heaven glorified, and the children of God upon earth are to express God's love. "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us." And the blessed communion of saints follows; for when the apostle says that we know we abide in Him, he adds not merely that the Holy Spirit has been given, but that He hath given us of His Spirit; there is communion, participation. We form one family and have by the Holy Spirit the same blessed objects, the Father and Son.

To give a simple illustration, I recollect that when brothers in different regiments met sometimes at a station on the high road in India, at the change of troops, all their conversation was of their own family - their father, mother, etc.; they were of one family, and had the same joys in common. Only for us it is by the Holy Ghost.

The third aspect of the love of God carries us right on to the end - love perfected with us; all fear has been driven out, and it is not said "As He is, so shall we be in heaven"; but "as He is, so are we in this world." That is, we are perfect in Him who shall eventually judge the quick and the dead, and knowing the Judge 'as our blessed Saviour we have no fear of any kind, but the assurance that the same love which was manifested in the gift of the Son to be the propitiation for our sins; that this same love, I say, shall accompany us to the very end of our course.

May our souls be confiding in the God of love, so that we may be kept in the midst of this benighted age, in the full enjoyment of our highest privileges, and be showing in all our conduct that we love one another. E. L. Bevir.