The First Epistle of John.

Lecture 1.

The subject of the gospel of John is the Son of God. The subject of the epistle of John is the sons of God. The whole epistle is divided into two parts. The first, comprising the first two chapters, shews us the family with their Father. The second, comprising the last three chapters, gives us the family in their life in the world.

The first of these subjects is subdivided into two heads, or divisions. I think these aid in impressing the matter upon the minds of those who hear.

First, then,—A glance at the family together.

Secondly,—A glance at the family looked at in their different relationships, viz., fathers, young men, and children.

The first subdivision consists of four pieces,— thus:

    1. About the communion of the family with their Father.

    2. What the character of the Being with whom they have communion—a Being of perfect light.

    3. The manner in which that communion is possible, seeing we sin; and that is found to be through two things—the blood and the Person of the living Christ.

    4. An objection met, as to how those persons who say they are His people, but do not walk as such, are to be dealt with.

Then it opens with stating that He was from the beginning. Anybody can see the allusion to the gospel of John. We remember how that commences. There is a slight variation from the manner in which the gospel begins. In the gospel Christ is seen “in the beginning.” In the epistle, He is seen to be “from the beginning.” Is there any reason why this is so? Why did not the Holy Ghost commence the epistle the same as the gospel? Why did He use the words “from the beginning?” There is a reason for everything in the Word of God. Can I make it plain? I think I can. We have seen men with the Father in the epistle of John; it is the family at home with their Father. The epistle opens by showing the children at home with their Father. Every child of God must begin with Himself. So Christ must begin with coming down to us. Because the picture is of children at home; so the picture is at once the Son of God descending to the state in which we were, to bring us there.

These next words suggest this coming nearer and nearer. You will observe there are four verbs used, “Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life.” If you analyze this, you will see the Lord Jesus Christ drawing nearer to us. The verbs are arranged in pairs; the last two are parallelled (so to speak) with the first two.

“Heard,” in the remotest distance; because you can hear a person frequently, before you can see him. A person may be so situated, that you can hear, but not see him. The second verb represents a nearer place within sight; anybody can see the progress of thought from the first to the second verb, “which we have seen,” and, as if that were not enough—with our very eyes. (I must pause a moment, the thought is so precious. We want to see Him, and therefore we cannot rest till we are with Him.) There is a great difference between “seen with our eyes,” and “looked upon.” The word translated “looked upon” means really, attentively contemplated. The more you look at Him, the more you see the glories which are in Him. A plough-boy might see Him; but only a Christian could attentively contemplate Christ, so as to see the unveiled glories of our God.

“Handled” is rather a peculiar term. It is doubtless in allusion to the 20th of John: “Handle Me, and see.” This epistle of John begins where the gospel leaves off. Did you ever observe this fact about the gospel of John. In the beginning of the gospel Christ is seen in the Father’s bosom, and at the end of the gospel a sinner is seen in the bosom of Christ, showing us where our Father would have us be.

“Word of life” is explained in the second verse. It explains what it was that came down. Christ is life. It was He who came down from the bosom of the Father. The Life died that dead sinners might live. Thus, whilst He is seen coming forth from God, He is still seen to be with the Father, and the Father with Him. It is implied that He was with the Father, even when down here. Christ came down, because, as we find in the 8th of Proverbs, “My delights were with the sons of men.” Wisdom, or Christ, was always rejoicing. Then we see He was, as it were, preparing to come forth from God, to lift us up to where He is. “My delights were with the sons of men.” Don’t be stumbled because it says “wisdom.” It is the same as “the Word “in the Gospel of John; the difference between the two is—Wisdom is the Word unuttered, and the Word is wisdom uttered. Before you speak you think, and thought precedes spoken language. When Christ came forth, it was as a revelation of God.

Fellowship, or communion. God wanted sinners to have fellowship or communion with Himself. Fellowship is an old Saxon word, and communion, an old Latin one, meaning the same thing

When some good people, therefore, say, “The fellowship and communion of the Holy Ghost,” &c, it is simply repeating the same idea twice. To bring this subject nearer of comprehension, I will use a word all are familiar with. Fellowship means partnership. Then we are told the sons of Zebedee were partners, co-owners of the ship. It is the same word, then. They were all partners together. The Son of God wanted partners, wanted companions. Oh what a precious view one seems to get of Christ. Christ did not want to enjoy His God and Father all to Himself. He wanted companions. It seems to leap forward to the end. Can you not see now, why the preposition “from” is used in the first verse. Why already it seems to link one eternity with another—to link one to the time when we shall share with the Lord Jesus Christ all His glory, as the heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.

“Truly our fellowship,” our partnership, our companionship, “is with the Father,” &c. Here observe another difference between the gospel and the epistle. In the gospel, God is seen seeking our worship. In the epistle, He is seeking our companionship.

There is a further advance made there. Need I tell you the difference between worship and companionship. The difference is just this. Companionship is in advance of worship. We feel more at ease in the thought of companionship. In worship, the thought is rather of the condescension of God towards us sinners at all. But in fellowship, we are so taken up with the love with which God has loved us, as rather to lose sight of the greatness of the Being who exalted us.

Fourth verse: “These things,” &c.

I believe any spiritually taught soul must see that the position of the epistle of John is divinely arranged. I do not think that the Holy Ghost has left the order of the epistles in the hands of men. I believe John to be the most advanced of the apostles. Paul is beyond Peter; he alone speaks of the mystery of the church, and the Holy Ghost uniting all believers in one body. But John is beyond Paul. Paul’s writings are about grace; but John’s are about the root of grace. Paul would say, You are complete in Him; but John would put it in this way: You are in Him; the eye would be on Him alone, not on our completeness. Do not suspect joy—it is the atmosphere of heaven. It is almost the first fruit of the Spirit. It is your new power and strength in service. No, God tells you of His desire and will, that you should be His sons and companions on purpose, He says expressly, that your joy should be full. Let it be!

Well, now I go on to the next division of this section.

2. The sort of Being with whom we are to have companionship. “This then is the message,” &c.

If we say we have companionship, or partnership, with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. He did indeed come down in our place; but not to tarry there, and we cannot tarry in our old place. Believing, is taking His place. Now we are to abide in the light; not for a moment only, but always; this we see from this very suggestive verse. His object was to bring us into full fellowship with the Father, and partnership with Himself.

I sometimes picture the Lord Jesus Christ standing among His knot of disciples, saying, “Children, little children, My Father has sent Me to you, because He wants you with Him; and I have come after you. But I tell you, God abhors sin, and I abhor sin, and there cannot be any complicity with sin in my presence.”

The light came forth from God; it was broken up on the cross—its distinctive rays and colours you now behold there. But the object of God is the reproduction of His life in us. To make us partakers of His own nature; and then we shall be able to have communion with Him in light. You see how different all this is from the heathenism in the world. God is light. The gods of the heathen are all darkness, coming into and enjoying human-darkness.

God is light; if that word searches us, (as it does,) there is gospel even in that word light. A shining body is for others. God is light. It shows us what He wants us for—to bless us. A dark body would be wrapped up in itself.

God is light—is strikingly in place where the family is seen with the Father. “God is light”— “God is love.” Like as in the bright orb of day, there is light, and there is heat; so in the living God we find these two characteristics. He is light—He is love, and it is instructive that the Holy Ghost puts the fact that God is light first. There is a tendency with Christians in the present day, so to exalt the love of God, as to put out of sight the fact that God puts light in the forefront.

I believe God’s truth lies in extremes; but never in one extreme without the other. We are so prone to lean on one side, and if we do, we are going wrong. We are what Roman catholics would call heretics. Heresy is not what it is generally thought to be—heresy it truth—but a selection of truth; a person who leans to one side of a truth without the other, is a heretic. As if we were in a boat, and leant too much on one side of it. God is light, and God is love. God does not want you to steer between them. Go to the extreme; the only care required is to keep the two together—God is light, God is love. Note this order, then, of light put first. Grace only through righteousness. Whatever mercy is shown to us, is shown righteously. If we are to be brought quite up to God, it is because no other place suits us, now that we are made the righteousness of God in Him.

None but those who have the knowledge of God, can appreciate God. So it says, “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have,” &c. If you are a child of God, you have the same nature as Christ. He died, that His life and nature should be communicable.

We are born of the Spirit. We are children of God. We walk in the light, as He is in the light. I can quite imagine Christians saying: “I, how can I walk in the light, as God is in the light; and if I do not take one part, i.e., walk in the light as He does, I cannot take the other, have fellowship with Him.”

But it is possible to misinterpret these words. It does not refer to how you walk; but it refers rather to where you walk. Whether it is there, not whether it is correct; in other words, is the eye pointed to Christ? It is not meant that your walk is as correct as was Christ’s; but that you walk not in Jewish shadows, or in the world. You are to stay in the place where His blood put you.

Pray notice, every time you and I come short, it is put here as coming down from our proper place—whether through sin or worldliness. Declension is nothing else but forgetfulness of position; tumbles from access into unbelief, or Judaism, or sin. We stumble out of access—the blood makes us at home there. Like if you put a cork in water, you may press it down for a moment; but take the finger away, it rises. It does not refer to your enjoyment, but to your position. It is not a position you have to work yourself into; but the position is there. We are simply put there, and we have simply to stay there, where Christ by His death hath entitled us to be, and where we may be always.

For instance, the Jew was naturally prone to walk in Judaism. He saw God a great way off from him. The tendency of his religion was to keep men away from God. (See Heb. 12:12.)

The tendency of the new revelation is to cause us to come near, to draw near to God. In other words, the New Testament is the antipodes of the Old in this respect. There only the high priest could come near to God.

Now we are all priests to God, not by trying to feel very good. If you believe in God’s love, you have not to work yourself there. You are there in God’s own pure light, just there by the blood of Christ. Sometimes I do not enjoy nighness, as I do at other times. In fact, I suppose I never enjoy the nighness as I should But whether I do or not, I am brought nigh. I have been put upon the bosom of God. It does not refer to the manner in which we walk, but to the place; and the light in which we are placed and exhorted to walk makes us intensely sensitive of sin, and at the same time more vividly reveals the value of the blood. Thus are we sustained there.

Fellowship one with another. That is, not one believer with another merely.

John was seen to be lying on the bosom of Jesus at supper. “The embosomed one,” as he was called. John says: I tell you there is the saved sinner’s place, that you may see where you are. We are all equally near, equally dear to God.

Third division—How this companionship may be brought about, and sustained; and that I believe all of us taught of God know very well.

“The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,” and not only cleanseth us, but keeps us clean.

Christians are so prone to stop at that passage, that they forget there is something else beside the blood.

The divisions into chapters are human, they are uninspired; and here they are specially unhappy. There is a living Christ out of death. We do not glory in death only—we do not glory in a dead Saviour; in fact, there is no such person as a dead Christ. There is a Person who was dead; but He lives, and He is living in the power of that life in resurrection. I often quote that verse in the 5th of Romans, 10th verse. I love to quote it to God in prayer. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” There is the same allusion to the two, viz., the death, and the Living One out of death, in the 10th of Hebrews, verses 19—21. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest of all through the blood of Jesus,” (where Christians are again prone to stop.) And then follows, “Having a High Priest over the house of God.”

Here is precisely the same double thought in our chapter. The blood cleanseth; that is, it keeps us clean. It does not mean that it washes us clean again every time. If you will have it, that every time you sin you have again to be washed, you are bringing the blood of Christ down to the level of the Old Testament sacrifices. The idea is, the blood puts me there, and keeps me there, and nothing can tarnish that blood, and then there is that Living One to take possession for me, and actually to lift me up to where He is.

What am I to do when I do sin, according to the Word of God?

“What can a believer do when he is conscious of sin? Cry, “Lord forgive me?” I believe it is very easy to say, “Forgive us our trespasses,” and never forsake them. What we are to do is to confess it. If, when you sin, you say, “Lord, that was sin,” you will not be able to go into that sin so easily as before.

Whenever you are conscious of sin, go to the Lord, and say, “Lord, that was sin.” Then He says, “I am faithful and just to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.”

“Little children.” Do not think that is a mere expression of form or of friendliness. There is a peculiar reason why we are called little children, which is just this: even though you are conscious of sin, you are still My little children. In our condition, after the allusion to the fact of failure, it comes in so sweetly—little children. God does not cease to love us, even when we grieve Him.

God’s children get many names in the Word of God—believers, Christians, brothers and sisters, and kings and priests; but there is one name the apostle John persists in giving us. I like to read that word. Once you hated Me. God replies, “Little children.” You only know a little of My love yet. He classes us all as little children. We may have gray hairs in His service, sixty years, still it is “little children.”

You will find nothing will help you so much against sin, as to know the value of that blood— what it cost Him.

You must not sin. You must be clean, very clean. If you are trusting in Me, you are clean, very clean—clean every whit, and nothing indisposes us so much to sin as the felt consciousness of being clean every whit. God says you are very clean; for the blood of Christ cleanses you, keeps you clean; but you must not sin.

I think we do not teach enough the positive value of being washed in the blood of Christ. The blood of Christ is the most costly thing God has. Supposing you were to clean knives with diamond dust, then you would have some little symbol of what it is to be washed in the blood of Christ. When you are washed, you are beautiful before God (comely), for you have God’s righteousness put upon you.

The word sin, in the 1st verse of second chapter, is rather, did sin. The present tense denotes something done many times; the past tense a thing done once.1

If any man sinned, we have an Advocate with the Father.

When you sin, your position with God is unaltered. You have no advocate with God. It would be sad indeed if you had—it would imply matters were not settled. Matters between the believer and God are irrevocably settled. But we have “an Advocate with the Father.” A father has naughty children sometimes; but they are His children still. We have an Intercessor with God, to lift us up to where He is; but we have an Advocate with the Father.

He wants our companionship, and He has got it. If you believe in Christ, He has got you for ever, and He will never give you up.

Lecture 2.

We have seen, that like as the gospel according to John is a picture of the Father and the Son; so the epistle of John is, necessarily, the account of the Father and the sons—the Father and His family, and the picture is put before us thus —the first two chapters treat of the family along with their Father, and the last three chapters treat of the family-life in the world. It is the first part, of course, upon which we are still to speak to-night— the family with their Father. Then, upon examination, we find that the first part consists, again, of two divisions. The first division of the first part closes at the eleventh verse of the second chapter, and in that the family are seen in connection with their Father. In the second division of the first part, there is a glance at the various ages of the children composing the family.

We will now say a little upon the first division again. It consists of four distinct sections. The first is communion with the Father; the second, where the communion is—in God’s light; the third section, how it is possible for children who have sinned, and who have sin—both of these are clear from verses 8 and 10—to have communion with God in light; the answer is by the blood and by the living Christ; and then the fourth section of that part is the test of professors—“he that saith;” “he that saith;”—“he that saith;”—such are tested, as we shall see.

Now, in the first section it is seen that the overture proceeded from God. It was not that we wanted His fellowship; but He wanted our’s. What He wanted was our fellowship, our companionship; that is, He wanted us to be His children; or even that is not the whole truth. He makes us His children, and gives us His nature and His Spirit, in order that we may be able to have fellowship, companionship, and interest with Him. If there were no correspondence of spirit, we should not be able to enjoy Him and His love. So, every overture proceeded from Him; and hence we read, “That which was from the beginning”—the Son coming forth from God. It is not “He who was in the beginning;” but “that which was from the beginning;” and thus He is seen, I say, in the remote eternity beginning to come forth from God. As Micah puts it—His goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. But why? Because, as He says Himself—“My delights were with the sons of men before the world was.”

Well then, the next few words tell about His advances till He reaches us, and then the dogmatic statement is made, that “our companionship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” Observe, that in the Epistles of John the statements are made in the most absolute manner. They are not spoken as if taking into account our failure. God does not look at things from our point of view, but from His. It is not our “companionship ought to be with the Father, and ought to be with His Son Jesus Christ;” but, if we are God’s children, if we are believers in Christ, our companionship is with the Father. We may not know it well. Through bad teaching, or through unbelief, we may have many doubts and fears, we may be unestablished in Christ, and so we may not know that our companionship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ; but if we are believers in Christ, there it is. The moment we believe in Christ we are placed by God’s hand where Christ is, in His account. We live down here in the world, as a fact, as to our bodies; but in God’s account we are as good as at home; we are on God’s bosom; we are as near to Him now as ever we shall be; we are as dear to Him now as ever we shall be. Our partnership, our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son. We are all one family together. God is the Father; Christ is He to whom we owe it all, and we are the children. I say, Christ is He to whom we owe it all; because, although Christ is the elder Brother of the family, yet I never like to hear Christians speak of Him as the elder Brother. He is the elder Brother; but it is not right, I think, for us to call Him so; and on this ground I think it shows a wart of delicacy. If He chooses to call us His brethren, that is kindness and condescension on His part; but we do not call Him “brother;” we like to call Him “Lord.” We know His love; but if He speaks to us in affection, we do not forget that reverence is due to Him. We still remember that we owe Him everything, and we love Him all the more, and entertain, if possible, the higher thoughts of Him through His extreme grace in coming down to lift us up. So I speak of God as the Father, and of Christ as the Lord, and of ourselves as the little children; though it would rather more keep the idea of a family, to speak of Christ as the Elder Brother.

But now it is seen, that if God have fellowship with us, that fellowship must be in perfect light. God cannot love our darkness. I do not say He cannot come into our darkness. He has done that; but if He comes into our darkness, it is not that He may stay there; nor will He be content in going back to His light by Himself. He wants to bring us to His own light. He tells us, for instance, that “God hath called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” Erst God came to man’s home; but now He is going to bring man to His home. Once God visited man in man’s paradise; but now Christ promises that “he that overcometh shall eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”

We might learn a lesson for ourselves, beloved friends, from the fact that God, if He wants our companionship, only wants it in His own light;—namely, that whenever we want to have communion with a fellow Christian, that communion should be in full light. What I mean is this. Supposing that you are on terms of intimacy with some Christian—but you have got some little private pique against him— do not nurse that little pique. If you believe that you are the aggrieved party, tell it him, and out with it; but do not sulk about it; do not wait till he comes to make it up with you. That is not what Christ did with you. He did not wait till you came and begged His pardon; He came and made it up with you Himself. And listen to what the word says to you: “Moreover, if thy brother trespass against thee”—What? Wait till he conies and begs your pardon? No; but “if thy brother trespass against thee, go.” You are to go to him. That is God’s way—that is the way of grace. If you have had grace shown to you, you must show grace to others. If you are a child of God, walk as a child of God. Not by standing on your rights. God came down to you in grace. “If thy brother trespass against thee, go”—commune in light. I believe you would find, that if that were adhered to, if we followed our heavenly Father in that practice, there would be a great difference in our conduct to one another. You know there are oftentimes little heart-burnings between Christians, and when one has gone, the other will say something about it; whereas if he had said it to his face, it might have been that he would have explained it and cleared it all up. As we are children of the same Father, then let us have communion in the light.

Well, then, how is it possible for us to have partnership with such a God? Because, observe the difficulty. We are told in the eighth verse that we must not say we have no sin. Compare the eighth verse with the tenth verse. In the eighth verse we read: “If we say we have no sin;” and in the tenth verse it is: “If we say that we have not sinned.” So that, you see, there is a reference both to sin past and to sin felt at present. We must not deny either of these. Why, how can we have fellowship with such a Father, with a God in perfect light, while God says: “You must not say you have not sinned, or that you have no sin,” and while we ourselves know and feel that we have? How is it possible? Then there comes in that which brings us into the light, and sustains us in the light. It is the blood that cleanses us; it is the blood that lifts us to God, and if I am washed in the blood of Christ, I am brought nigh to God by the blood. And then, observe, that as it is the blood that lifts me into light, so it is not only the blood that sustains me in the light; but the more I stand in the light, the more I shall see the value of the blood. The reason why I prize the blood so little is because I stand in the light so little; but if I knew more of abiding in the light of God, I should know more of the security of the foundation upon which I stood. It does seem to me to be such an admirable provision on the part of God, that the farther into the light of God I get, the more vividly do I see my security. It is not that the farther I get the less shall I feel at home. On the contrary, nothing tests the value of the blood as the eye of God does. Christ, as our High Priest, has gone under the very eye of God. Going up there with the blood into the holiest of all, He does, as it were, challenge God. “Is it not that which Thy glory desireth?” And there, when God looks upon it, He now beholds us with delight; and the more we come right into where God is, the more shall we feel the stability of the place in which God has put us The blood lifts you into the light, and then, observe, the light shows you the infinite preciousness of the blood. Like as of old, in the extremity of the tabernacle there was a mercy-seat; so now, as Christ has gone up into the very highest heaven, Christ and God are pledged and bound to mercy through the precious blood-shedding of the Lord Jesus.

But that is not all. Another point is, that we have a living Christ, as well as His blood. We must not so think of the blood of Christ as to forget the living Christ. Oh! to think that it is His death saves, and then that I have got a living Christ over and beyond that. I am not to stay at the cross. Christ is the door, and by the slain Christ I am to draw nigh to God, and then I may see that I have a living Christ over and above salvation. Beloved friends, it is not every Christian that sees this. It is not the cross that stands between you and God. The cross is between you and the world. The cross is behind you. It has snapped your connection with the world; but now the cross has lifted you into a new position, and made you a child, and trade you clean every whit, and then there is a living Christ over and above that; and all that we have to do whenever we sin, (I mean whenever there is anything that troubles our minds, that interferes with our enjoyment of our position,) is to confess it. That is God’s simple receipt—confess it. You and I cannot pass through the world without tripping sometimes. It may be a little ebullition of passion in one way or another; there may be some little thing which we may be guilty of—(not little in one sense, indeed)—but when we do anything that would interfere with our saying, “Abba, Father,” anything that would check us at all, then we have to confess it, and then, when you confess it, it is forgiven; it is carried away at once on confessing it. The standing is not then interfered with; but when we give way to the flesh, it interferes with our enjoyment of the standing, and then our Father says—“Confess it.”

So then we find that we have not only the blood; but we have a living Christ. Now, the living Christ is here called “an Advocate.” You will remember that it is not “an Advocate with God;” but it is “an Advocate with the Father;” because it is impossible for there to be anything like advocacy with, God; it would imply that the question between my soul and God about sin was not settled. Either the question with God about sin is settled, or it is not settled. Either it is settled legally, judicially, righteously, on a broad basis, such as the omniscient God can look at, and say it is, or it is not. If it is not, I need a Saviour. If it is, He who undertook my case is a complete Saviour for me, and I do not need an advocate with God. There cannot be an advocate with God, because God never can see sin in His people; as we read in the epistle to the Hebrews: “Now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Did He do it? Let me be understood. I do not deny that we do sin constantly; I do not deny that our Father sees sin: but there is all the difference in the world between our Father seeing our sin, and God seeing our sin. Matters between God and the man in Christ are settled for ever. “We may grieve our Father; we may go astray; we may be unhappy, erring children; but with God all things are done as regards sin. The whole question of sin for the people of God, and those who trust in His name, is done with and settled by the Lord Jesus; and now it is “an Advocate with the Father,” not “an Advocate with God.”

Mark for a moment or two that word “Advocate.” The word “Advocate” is a very precious word. You should bear in mind that, strictly speaking, there are two advocates. The word “advocate “here, is the same word which, in the fourteenth chapter of John’s gospel, is translated “Comforter.” Hence the verse in the gospel, if the word had been rendered there, as it is here, would have read—“I will send you another Advocate, that He may abide with you for ever.” And then again in the 15th chapter—“But when the Advocate is come.” Or, conversely, this word here might have been rendered —“If any man sin, we have a Comforter with the Father.” The word translated “Comforter” in one place and “Advocate” in the other, is the same word in the original. When Christ says: “I will send you another Comforter;” it implies that He is “the first.” You see how He puts it—“another Comforter.” The idea, strictly speaking, is that of one who undertakes one’s case, to conduct it legally. It really means a solictor, or lawyer, one who will take up one’s case and conduct it to a happy issue. We are in a wretched plight. The first Solicitor takes up our case. He does not deny anything that we have done. What He does is to take the culprit’s place, and stand instead of the culprit. You never heard it said of any legal trial on earth, I suppose, that when a man was arraigned for any crime, his solicitor would be willing to stand in the felon’s dock in order that his client might be free. That is what the Son of God did in the character of an advocate. He stood in the felon’s dock; He took the sin; the punishment of it was visited upon Him. I won’t use the word solicitor, as it may offend some—the punishment of it was visited upon our Advocate’s head. Then when He has done it, and has finished it, God in proof that the judgment had been perfectly visited upon our Advocate’s head, raises Him from the dead. Then down comes the other Advocate. “I will send you another Advocate, that He may abide with you for ever.” Then that Advocate proceeds upon the understanding, that the first Solicitor took our place. He then begins with teaching us not to deny what we have been accused of. That is what we are prone to do by nature, either to deny it, or to excuse and extenuate it, or to blink the fact in some way or other. The Holy Ghost shows us that the plea which we are prone to take by nature, is a very unsafe one, and He tells us of another plea which we may take up; and what is that? That our Advocate took our place, that our Advocate has borne our sin, that our Advocate, in proof that He has put away sin, is raised and seated at the Father’s throne, and thus by the Spirit we are led to take up the new standing, to abandon our own. “I, A, B, stand on my own foundation.” No, we dare not do it. The Holy Ghost says, “Do not do it; it is very dangerous, very unsafe; take Christ; Christ endured wrath, that you might not; you will find Christ’s standing a safe one, for Himself, and for you too.” Then, when we take Him, the Holy Ghost, the other Advocate, enters into our hears in person; the Holy Ghost dwells in us. Now observe, then; there are the two Advocates, both understanding one another; the one Advocate there, the other Advocate here within one, and the very fact that it is the same word which is used both by the Lord Jesus and the Holy Ghost, shows that there is a correspondence, a connection, between their two works. The Holy Ghost within me now, as one of the Comforters, keeps me a Christian, and will keep me in the standing of a Christian. We have taken the ground of being in Christ; let us walk in Him, and keep on that ground in Christ. Then, whenever we fail, whenever we come short, the other Advocate sees it up there, where He carries on the work. He carries on the work up there, and then whenever we forget our standing in Christ, whether by sin or by anything else, He takes up the matter there; and observe what is the issue. Presently, in God’s time, the Holy Ghost here will lift up the entire church. As with a pair of compasses: so our one Paraclete is there and for us, and the other Paraclete here and in us. And still the Holy Ghost is one with Christ and with God. So He will lift us up to Him. The two parts of the pair of compasses shall come together. As Rebecca of old was led by Eliezer into the presence of Isaac, so the Comforter here, who is to abide with us for ever, will lift up the entire church, first the dead departed saints, and then, a very short moment afterwards, the living saints, and they all rise together into the presence of the Lord Jesus, and then the two Advocates’ works become merged in one, and Christ presents us to the Father. If you catch the thought about having this Advocate, you will see that provision is made for all the failures of the children, and that His work as an Advocate is continued until you and I, by the other Advocate, or Comforter, the Holy Ghost, are actually and bodily lifted into the presence of God, not of the Father only, but of God; because as we are brought to God through the precious blood of Christ, God eventually must have the gratification of His heart in having the children bodily brought home to Him. It is the costliest love that even God could have, to have the children, sinners, brought quite home to Him, and you know the cost of it. There is one very precious word here; it does not say, “If any man repent, we have an Advocate with the Father;” if we are children that is always required; but, “If any man sin.” It is in the past tense in Greek, showing that it does not mean that we may go and sin in the future but that it refers to a thing of the past. Well, if you are conscious that you had a tumble, do not forget that you have got an Advocate. If you are conscious that you have been tripped up and betrayed, do not forget that still He is interested in you. “If any man sin, we have an Advocate.” When did the blessed Lord Jesus pray for Peter? When he repented? No! When did the blessed Lord Jesus pray for His disciples? After their recovery? “Satan hath desired you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for you.” When did the Lord Jesus wash their feet? Did He wash them when they asked Him? No, He washed their feet before they asked Him. Ah, we little know the number of secret pardons coming from the heart of our Father every time we fail; and when are we not failing? When are we walking in the full sunlight of God’s love? When are we so quite happy and at home with God as He wants us to be? Whenever we are not, there is unbelief, and what sin is there like unbelief? So, then, we see that there is this constant advocacy of the Lord Jesus with our Father until we are brought into the presence of God.

Then it says, “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” There is a little remark worth making here, that wherever the word “Advocate” or “Comforter” is used—and bear in mind that it is the same word in the original—there is always some adjective used to remind us of the holiness of our counsel. Thus, if it is the Holy Ghost, the words are added, “the Spirit of truth.” You will never find the expression Paraclete used, either of Christ or of the Holy Ghost, without some little expression being added suggestive of their perfect holiness; that though they will take up our case, that though they are determined to bring matters to a successful issue, yet it shall be with the full maintenance of the rights, and of the purity, and of the law of God. So here, characteristically, as the word “Advocate” is used, it is added “Jesus Christ the righteous;” and then there is the little clause, “and He is the propitiation for our sins.” There is another very precious thought in connection with Christ as our propitiation, and that is, that Christ is our Advocate with the Father, and that Christ is our Mercy-seat down here. I suppose you are aware that the word “propitiation “is the same word radically as the word “mercy-seat.” You remember that when the children of Israel journeyed of old in the wilderness, supposing they went to a given place, the mercy-seat had to be carried to that given place; and then, if they went to another place, the mercy-seat had to be carried there; and thus by the mercy-seat being carried about wherever the children of Israel were, they could always, through their priests, have recourse to God upon the mercy-seat. Now, Christ is our Advocate there, and He is our Mercy-seat here. Wherever we are, we do not need a mercy-seat to be carried about. If you feel that you have sinned as you have been sitting on that form, if you feel that you have sinned as you have been coming to this room, the Mercy-seat is close to you, just close to you; for it is close to anybody in the world. That is the simple meaning of that last clause, about which Calvinists and Arminians have so quarrelled, that the Mercy-seat is close to anybody in the wide wide world. There it is, so that anybody can just go and touch that Mercy-seat, and say, “O God, I am a great sinner!” and it is near to any sinner in the world, without any carrying about whatever. So that as Christ our Advocate sees our failures with the Father, so Christ as our Mercy-seat is to be touched by the lost sinner, or by the failing saint down here.

And now we come to the next section of this division. You say, “But is not this rather lax teaching? Does not this make some little indulgence for sin? Does it not give some little licence for an unholy walk? “That is at once guarded against. And now we come to the fourth section. Bear in mind the four sections of this division. The first was, communion; the second was, with God in light; thirdly, through the blood and the living Christ; and now, fourthly, the profession of any one tested. You might say, “I am a Christian; I quite admit I do not care how I walk; but there is the blood, and there is the living Christ, and I am a Christian.” So, here now the profession of the man is tested. “And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” Now observe, you will find, if you look down, how the professed believer is tested; you will see three “he that saiths.” There is the first “he that saith “in the fourth verse; there is the second “he that saith” in the sixth verse; there is the third “he that saith” in the ninth verse. If we look at these we shall find that the professing believer is tested by the character of God, by the walk of Christ, and by the teaching of the Holy Ghost. Look at the first: “He that saith I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” If you want to know who is meant by—“I know Him,” read the next verse: “But whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected; hereby know we that we are in Him.” That is, that we are in God; so that the “Him” refers to God. If a man says, “I know Him,” and yet walks in sin, God says that he is a liar, and for this simple fact: if you really do know God, the first thing that the Holy Ghost teaches you is the love of God. There is nothing that is more impressed upon a soul coming to Christ than God’s love to him. If he loves sin, that is as good as saying, and if he indulges constantly in sin, that is a way of practically saying, that he does not believe the love of God; because the love of God is something that so draws a man that he cannot have the appetite to sin. I do confess, though I do not know God well, yet with the little I do know of God, I do feel that the good God so loves me that I have not a greater grief in the world than to think that I ever sinned against Him. It must be the joy of my heart to enjoy Him, and what can interfere with the enjoyment of the-love of God like sin? Nothing! Oh! a Christian cannot want to give up the enjoyment of the love of God for his sin. No, no! he would rather give up the sin than give up the enjoyment of the love of God. If a man say, “I know Him,” and yet does not care for His love, he is a liar. He does not care for His love, whatever he says, if he prefer sin. There is the simple test. It is searching enough, I think.

I will reserve my remarks upon “In Him verily is the love of God perfected,” till we come to the fourth chapter.

Then there is the second test. “He that saith he abideth in Him,”—(that is, in Christ; the context shows that)—“ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.” That is to say—the divine life in us is subdivided in the 15th of the gospel of John into two parts; one part is your being in Christ; the other part is Christ being in you. If you are really a believer, both are true; you are in Christ, and Christ is in you. Now, I must explain what is meant by these two. To be in Christ, and to abide in Christ, is to stand in the position i i which God has placed Him; to stand in the consciousness that you are a wretched, lost, and ruined sinner in yourself; but that in Christ you are an accepted child, a dearly beloved son, one with Christ, one with God, and as you enjoy that, so you are abiding in Christ. Then there is the other truth, that Christ will abide in you. Think of what that means. How would Christ live if He were here now? Would He not live again as He lived before? Surely so. No one can maintain that Christ would live a different life from what He did when He was here before, if He had to live His life over again; because if he did, he would then assert that the life of Christ could be amended, that the life of Christ could be a better life than the life He lived. Therefore, if Christ were here now—and mind you this is a very searching thing—He would live again as He lived before. But Christ is here. He is in you—is in me; and if Christ be in me, if the life of Christ be in me, in proportion as I have that life of Christ, that life must manifest itself in following the footsteps of my Lord Jesus. In any way in which I in my life diverge from the life of the Lord Jesus, it must be the life of the flesh; for if Christ is in me, Christ could not mend His life; His life was a perfect life, and if I have Christ in me, His life is being lived over again. Even this is scarcely the full truth. For Christ is risen and glorified; and the life I have is from that Christ risen. Hence it is resurrection life which I have from Christ, by which I feel quite at home—already there; but utterly a stranger here, I am one with that glorious Christ who is on the throne of God. Surely that is searching enough, and if you want me to confirm what I am saying, read the next verse. There you will see, as if you might have some difficulty in accepting this position, that there are these words added, on purpose to show you that that is the meaning of it. “Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment, which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.” Now, I think there is an obscurity about those words in the minds of some, and therefore you will thank me to make them a little plainer. What is meant by this “old commandment?” What is meant by this “new commandment?” What is meant by not writing a new commandment, and by writing a new commandment? What is designed by this varied language? The force of it is this. The old commandment is—“God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” Christ is God. Very well. If Christ is God. then when Christ was here, the path of Christ in the midst of this world was the path of light in a world of darkness. It was the path of One with whom there could be no alliance whatever on His part, any more than of light with darkness. The light just passed through the darkness untouched by it. That is the old commandment. Then the new commandment is—“Which thing is true in Him, and”—now, mark the “and”—and in you.” Surely this seems to me very solemn and searching. I believe, dear friends, that Christian professors need a verse like this. I do not want to hurry over a verse like this. There is such a mass of profession now-a-days. We had better know for certain that we are the Lord’s, than to be exposed too late when the Lord takes up his true saints. The mass of profession, ay, the mass of evangelic profession, the mass of profession which consists in belonging to some sect or party, in glorying in certain views of truth, in saying,—“I am a Calvinist,” “I am an Arminian,” “I am a Millennarian,” “I am this, that, and the other,”—I say, the mass, of all this, whilst there is the absence of following Christ, is something fearful, is something that no one can deny. I think we all need, whoever we are, however much we may be established in grace—we all need these words of warning. The new commandment is true in Him and in you. The difference between the two commandments is—the old commandment is true in Him; the new commandment is true in Him and in you. Why, not to mention any other failures which are made by many professors, whom we must believe and hope are Christians, only just think of the sins of the tongue. Think of the amount of scandal in which some true Christians allow themselves to indulge. Only think that they will drop on their knees and pray most scripturally, most evangelically, aye, and I trust most truly in many cases, and then they will get up and say the most cruel and biting words, and do not seem to have any fightings of conscience about it! Is that the flesh, or is that the new life in Christ?

This leads me to the third test. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” There is the test of the Holy Ghost. “He that saith he is in the light”—through the Spirit, for it is by the Holy Ghost that we are in the light—“and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” Mind the force of the word “hate.” The word “hate “in Scripture does not only mean what we signify by it. Hatred does not only mean that thorough, settled, undisguised, purpose of malice towards a person. That is not the use of the word “hate” in Scripture. It takes in that; but it covers a great deal more than that. What more is in the word? The word “hate,” means “not to love.” Thus when God says: “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated,” He does not imply that He really felt malice towards Esau; the sentiment conveyed is that He loved Esau less. “Jacob have I loved more, and Esau have I loved less.” I could bring Scripture in proof of that, as the meaning. It is a Hebrew phrase for “to love less.” And that is the idea here. It does not mean that we feel a thoroughly settled malice, and that if we can have an opportunity of doing a man an ill turn, we will do it; but it means the absence of affection towards him. This is a solemn thing; because if a man has Christ in him, though he may have a great deal of the flesh in him; yet he has Christ in him, and you say you love Christ, and you believe in your heart that that man has Christ—well, putting away all the flesh there is about him, there must be something in that man which you must love if you are born of God.

Lecture 3.

We now come to the second division of the first part— a glance at the various stages of growth in God’s family. You can imagine the children at home. You go to a man’s house, and you say: “I would like to see the family.” You are shown into the room where the family are, and there you see that he has so many children; and then, when you have seen that, you soon begin to take an account of their ages. You notice first, probably, the elder, and then a younger child, and so on. That is just what is done here. Hitherto the subject has been the fellowship of the Father with His family. Now it is a glance at the various members of that family—I mean at their various stages in spiritual growth.

“I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” Now, I must mention one point, which I must beg of you to remember; and that is, there are two words in the original used for “little children,” and unfortunately they have both been translated “little children,” and the force, therefore, of the Apostle’s sentence has been somewhat dimmed and lost. One of the terms is a word which is meant to apply to the entire family, and the other is a term which is quite a different one in the original. I dare say there are some of you who know this, and you will quite admit what I am saying, that the other term denotes the actual babes in the family. I will only make the assertion, that the word for “little children,” in the 12th verse is not the same word as that which occurs in the 13th verse, or in the 18th verse. There are two words for “little children.” One is used as a term of endearment, to designate the entire family, and then another word, quite distinct, is used to designate a certain branch of that family that are very young, that do not know God as God wants to be known, and as God will be known by them. One is a term of endearment, referring to all the fathers, and to all the young men, as well as to all the babes; and the other is a term used contradistinctively from the fathers and the young men, and applied to the actual babes.

Now, when he says: “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake;” observe that before he begins to divide them, he speaks of the entire family. Before ever he looks at the stages of growth, he speaks of all the family— every one of them, and he comprehends them all in that first word for little children, and of the entire family of God he says that their sins are forgiven. That is the first word; that is the fundamental thought in this passage, that everyone in God’s family has his sins forgiven. It is not, they shall be forgiven; but, they are, and, as we shall see in subsequent chapters, the epistle is written on purpose that they might know the love that God has to them, that they might know that He has forgiven them. I do think that it is most appropriate in the epistle of John, where God shines out so much as the God whose name is Love—(“God is love”), and where we are seen to be one with God and in His family, that He should speak of us altogether as “little children;” that God would have us to be so at home with Him, as to know well the love that He has to us. If I may speak for you, I say that we are very dull scholars, very slow learners, for God to love us as He does, as we shall see in the fourth chapter, and for us to apprehend so little of that love, to be, all of us, still only little children, and as such, so little conscious of the greatness, the tenderness, the definiteness of His love to us.

I would like to mention that, having thus begun, so at the closing verse of this section, the 28th verse, there is a word again to all the family. “And now, little children, abide in Him.” That word also refers to the entire family. So that the plan now of the section is just this. First: God, about to give us a classification of His family, begins by speaking to them altogether as “little children.” Then He classifies them as “fathers,” “youngmen,” “babes,” and then, when He has spoken to them each twice, in the 28th verse, He gathers them altogether again, as the Greek shows, and says: “Little children, abide in Him.”

We will now just look a little at the classification. And first as to the order. It is, you will observe, “fathers,” “young men,” “babes;” and it is repeated: “fathers,” “young men,” “babes.” God has two arrangements of us. He proceeds with us in two different methods. Sometimes He begins with the least; sometimes, as here, He begins with the most advanced. When God begins with the least, it is the order of grace; when God begins with the most advanced, it is the order of responsibility. When God is dealing with us in free grace, He will always be sure to begin with the least. If Christ were to come into this room on purpose to show His grace, He would begin most certainly with the youngest, timidest, feeblest believer here. If Christ were to come into this room to judge the works of His servants—and He will judge the works of God’s children by and by, as you know—then He would begin with the greatest. I do not suppose I need give a case where He began with the least; but I will mention one. Christ appeared twelve times after His resurrection, and you will find in the cases, one after the other, that the circle went on widening and the movement was deepened. He ended with: appearing to Paul; but how did He begin? I suppose I need tell no one here that He began by appearing to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils. He began with one sinner, and gave that one sinner a private interview as a specimen of how, when a sinner, even the greatest sinner, comes to Him, He treats him. He has plenty of leisure. He does not say, “You are nobody; I cannot give you a private interview.” He began with Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils—seven, the number of perfection, as if she had been a perfectly abandoned sinner. He began with her, and then He appeared to two other women, and thus the circle widened and widened because it was the order of grace. But here it is the order of responsibility, if you like, of judgment, and therefore God begins with the highest. There is no doubt about it, that when the Lord Jesus begins the judgment of the works of His people in the clouds of heaven, He will begin with the greatest, and I will give you one proof of that, if you like. The judgment of works has already begun. God has judged the work of Christ, and lifted up His Son, and put Him on His throne, and by putting Him on His throne there, He has given His judgment already as to the value of that work done in His service. God has begun by the judgment of the work of Christ, and He is going on with it to this very day. Every time a sinner come and says, “Lord, I am a great sinner, but I plead the work of Jesus”—the judgment of God of the work of Christ is going on, and God, by at once welcoming that sinner to His heart, and making that sinner His child, is giving a judgment of the work of Christ, and He ends the judgment of the work of Christ before He begins the judgment of our works. This is an important thought, if you look at it a moment in this light. Some Christians are agitated as to whether they will pass through the tribulation. You may have heard a question as to whether such and such shall pass through the tribulation, or shall not. If you would only look at this principle, the matter would be perfectly clear to your minds. Before God can possibly begin with the judgment of any of our works, He must close with the judgment of Christ’s work. The judgment of the work of Christ is to be closed by the lifting of the entire church of God into the light of God. When the cemeteries have given up that that was loved of God, all those whose spirits within them trusted in Christ; when this room has been emptied of all that are Christ’s, and every other where there is a Christian gathering of God’s living people, and when they have been gathered right up into the clouds of heaven, and brought home close to God, bodily, where they are now spiritually, when they have been lifted up, and have been seen to be like Christ, and when they are made like Him in body, oh! the work of Christ is to be done very completely; we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is— and when I say the entire church of God has been lifted right up to God, and made like Christ, inside and outside, then God’s judgment of the work of Christ is finished, and then He will come down lower in the order of responsibility; but He begins with the judgment of the work of Christ, and He will close His judgment of the work of Christ before He can possibly begin His judgment upon the works of any of His children. We must be in the clouds of heaven when we are judged; we must be like Christ when we are judged. That shows us, beloved friends—does it not—that we need not be afraid of the judgment? It is not a judgment about our persons; the work of Christ settles that—it is only a judgment about our works. Why, you see, when Christ judges me, I am to be just like Him. I shall be like Him before He judges me. I shall be as beautiful as He is, although, indeed, if I could be separated from Him for a moment, I should perhaps cease to be like Him; but because I cannot be separated from Him, I shall be like Him, and then, when I am thoroughly like Him, He will stamp His judgment on my works, His judgment on what I am saying to you now, His judgment on whether I have sought my glory or His. The judgment of the person is past, as He saith in that grandest verse in the bible, for a sinner: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment (it should not be into condemnation); but is passed out of death into life.”

It is so important that believers should be perfectly established in the grace and love of God. When I am judged by the Lord Jesus, it does not refer to the work of my salvation at all. It cannot do; for then I am like Christ. I will give you an illustration of this, which I have sometimes used. Suppose that a mother has some children, and she goes out for the day, and then she comes home, and says, “Now, who has done the work best? Who has done her sampler best; or has done his sum best?” and she gives an apple to the child who has done the work best, or perhaps she has an apple for each one of the children. So the Lord will come with His crowns, and His rewards, to testify His delight in what we have done, as far as He can, and what He cannot say pleased Him will be burned up. Thus, you see, there is the order of grace, and there is the order of responsibility. In the order of responsibility, the judgment of works, He will begin with great saints—the great ones, as it were, in the family. “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.”

The knowledge of the fathers is not in every sense the knowledge of the children. They seem alike, but notice the difference. “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning.” That sounds at first very much like—“I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.” What is the difference between the matured father’s knowledge, and the actual baby’s knowledge of God? “Him that is from the beginning.” Surely that is God. Well, the actual babies do not know as much as the others. I do not mean, do not know as much of doctrine; but do not know as much of love and of God. Doctrine may be a help, will be, in the hand of the Holy Spirit, a help to the knowledge of God; it is very precious in its place. But if we put knowledge of doctrine in the place of the knowledge of the love of God, it is a fearful thing. To have all the knowledge worth knowing, is the knowledge of God. What do you and I actually know of the love of God? The fathers know “Him that is from the beginning;” the babes know “the Father.” The expression, “Him that is from the beginning,” refers to Christ, as is plain from the first verse of the epistle. It is an allusion to the first verse of the epistle; it is an allusion, too, to the first verse of the gospel by John—“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The fathers have been so taught of God, that they see that Christ is the centre of the divine counsels—the Foundation of the new creation; the full outcome and manifestation of God’s character; His great lesson-book by which we may know God. I will give an illustration, which will perhaps convey the idea better than otherwise. Supposing two stars appear close together in the sky. If I take a telescope and look at the two, they appear wider apart; or if I were to go ever so far towards them, I should begin to see that they were not so close together as they appeared. Or, even if I am walking down the street, two lamps appear close together when I am some distance off; but when I go farther down the street, the lamps appear to divide, and I see that though they appeared one, they are not one. In other words, the more we know of anything in creation, the more we see that it is complex, and divisible. Not so with God and Christ. Whilst we know little of God, we shall not see the wonderful, the divine oneness there is between the Father and the Son. The more you come to know God—not the less, the more—the nearer actually and experimentally you come to God, the more you find that as the Father is in Christ, so Christ is in the Father. You will find that what He said to His disciples in the 14th of John is true: “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father, and how sayest thou, then, Shew us the Father?”

In the epistle of John the Lord Jesus is seen so thoroughly one with His Father, that the names are used almost interchangeably. Thus, turn to the last chapter and the last verse but one: “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ.” The words seem to be used, as though they could not dissociate in thought the Father from the Son, nor the Son from the Father. Of course, no one can deny that there is a Son, and that there is a Father, or else we should come to the doctrine, that the Father suffered on the cross, which would be blasphemy. But still we must not, in our endeavours and desires to keep the distinction in idea between the Son and the Father, forget that there is only one God. We must not forget what He says Himself, “Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee.” A man can easily distinguish parts of his nature. There is a human trinity in man—a spirit, a soul, and a body. But the more you know of God, the more you can see that Christ is the manifestation of God. As some one has put it thus: “All that has come from God is of the Father; all that can be seen from God is of the Son; all that can be felt of God is of the Holy Ghost.” What I am trying to impress is this wonderful, mysterious, perfect union between the Father and the Son.

Well then, if you want any more proof, look in this very chapter—2nd chapter, 28th and 29th verses:—“Now, little children, abide in Him,”— that is clearly Christ—“that when He shall appear we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” That is clearly Christ. Now read the next verse—“If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is horn of Him,”—that is clearly God. And the next verse goes on—“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.”

I will close with one more remark; that whilst in the gospel of John we fully see that Christ is in the Father, and the Father is in Christ; in the epistle of John an advance is made; and that advance is this—that Christ is in the believer, and the believer is in God. “He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” Once, when I was preaching, I made a remark that a believer was brought so close to God, that there was not the shadow of a shade of distance between him and God. A person wrote me a letter the next day, suggesting whether I had not exceeded the truth—for that he thought “it seemed to disparage the Son of God.” There was not the shadow of a shade of an interval, I said, between the believer and God; he was close to Him. Now, what I maintain is that I had not even got up to the truth. I did not state the full truth. I am giving you now an illustration of how slow we are to comprehend God’s love; for now, through Christ and in Christ, it is not merely that we are brought to God; but the language is—“dwelleth in God,”—in, that is more than being brought to God. “He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”

Lecture 4.

Let me remind you again of the divisions of this epistle:—that the first two chapters speak of the family with their Father, and the last three chapters of the family in the world. You will observe, there are two words, both translated “little children,” in what we have read; one word in our version, though two words in the original. The one word refers to the entire family; the other word should have been rendered “babes,” and refers to those who have been new born of the Spirit. It is important to understand this at the outset, because on its apprehension will the interpretation of this portion of the epistle depend.

The first word, “little children,” refers to the entire family, and comprehends all the “fathers,” “young men” and “babes.” But in verse 13, the word rendered “little children” refers to a class contra-distinguished from the “fathers “and “young men.” First, we have the entire family, (v. 12); then “fathers,” and “young men,” and “babes,” (v. 13). Then again “fathers,” “young men,” and “babes,” (v. 14-18). Then, after that, again, the comprehensive word, “little children.” (v. 28). At the outset, we have a characteristic of the whole family:—“Your sins are forgiven you;” and at the close of this section (v. 28,) all are exhorted to abide in Christ; and in between these we have three divisions of the family. You will note that of the entire family it is said, “Your sins are forgiven you.” This is said absolutely of every member of the entire family, “Your sins are forgiven you.” As sure as any one is a member of God’s family, so sure is it that his “sins are forgiven” him. He may have fled to Christ but for half-an-hour, or he may have been His disciple for fifty years; he may have grown much, or none at all; but whether grown or not, of all the family it is true, “your sins are forgiven you.” Oh, grand word this!—“Your sins are forgiven you;” and the reason is, “for His name’s sake.”

Then we come to the classification—“fathers,” “young men,” and “babes.” The arrangement proceeds on a strictly correct plan, and reminds us of the parable of the talents—five, two, one.

There is an order of grace, and an order of responsibility. Sometimes God speaks first to the highest, and sometimes first to the lowest. The order of responsibility begins with the highest, and the order of grace with the lowest. I think, too, that it is not an unfrequent classification of the people of God, their being arranged into three divisions. Take, for instance, the parable of the sower. There you have three classes of unprofitable hearers, and three classes of saved hearers:—“some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred-fold.” I believe this passage alludes to the parable of the sower. There is one class of false professors who are overcome by the “devil,” another by the “flesh,” and a third by the “world.” I believe we have allusion to these here, as in the words, “Ye have overcome the wicked one.” Then there are several other Scriptures, which speak in a similar way as to the growth of the children of God. Let me explain. If we are “forgiven,” we are in the family, and one is as near to God as the other. When we speak of “attainment,” we mean attainment in knowledge. Each one, the very least, has been bought by the blood of Christ, and no one can be bought beyond that price. Being bought, he is one of the family. We sometimes hear people speak of “second conversions.” I think there is a danger in such a notion. If we are Christians, we have been “buried,” “raised,” and “seated with Christ in heaven.” If you are Christians, you are brought as near to the Father as Christ is. Attainment in knowledge is the question here. The babe on the breast may be tenderly loved by the mother; yet be unconscious of the mother’s love. Will not the babe be happier when it knows and becomes conscious of the mother’s love?

I believe that there are also three stages of rest for the soul. “Come unto Me,” said the Lord, “all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” There is first the rest for the sinner; then there is the rest for the obedient Christian,—“take My yoke;” and then there is the rest of God, which we are slow to enter into. “They shall enter into My rest.”

I think, too, there are three “peaces.” There is peace with God through faith; then there is the peace of God—when we “cast all our care upon Him, knowing He careth for us;” and then there is the presence of the God of peace when we are obedient. (Phil. 4.) Peace with God is through being justified by faith; the peace of God is by rolling our cares on Him, and knowing that He will take them up; and then, if we do what He tells us, “the God of peace shall be with us.” There are also three stages of joy.

Now, as to the terms, “fathers,” “young men,” and “babes.” They tell of growth. To the “fathers” it is said, “Ye have known Him which is from the beginning.” The words refer to Christ. The epistle begins with “that which is from the beginning.” It looks to Christ as coming out from from God, as the centre of the divine counsels. He that knows most of Christ must know most of God. The “fathers” have nothing else to do but to be lost in the full enjoyment of God’s love in Christ. To the “young men” it is said, “Ye have overcome the evil one.” This is an earlier stage in the divine life—to be separated from evil. To the “fathers” it is not said that they are separated from evil; but this is the word specially addressed to “young men;” yet here the common saying holds good—”the child is father of the man.” If we really want to increase in the knowledge of Christ, it is most important that we should purge ourselves from iniquity. The two help each other; if we want to increase in the knowledge of God, our way is to depart from iniquity; and if we want to come out from all iniquity, and to bring forth much fruit, the true way is to see the love of Him. “Increasing in the knowledge of God” is in the path of fruit-bearing, and the great way to be fruit-bearers is to know God Himself. Thus, here, the youth being “father to the man,” being clean of iniquity, he is in the way to become full of the divine intelligence of the love of God in Christ.

Then, “I write unto you, little children”—actual “babes”—those who have not known God long; but even these know that God loves them; even the actual “babes” know that in love to them God sent His Son. You see the difference between the babes and the fathers. It is much to see that all the divine counsels meet in Christ; that is the knowledge which the “fathers “learned; but even the babes know that they have a merciful Father, and that He sent His Son to redeem them.

But now, having addressed words of encouragement to each class, He begins again; for He has some solemn counsels and warnings to administer to them. Thus the principal lesson is in the second address; but though he has something fresh to say to the other two groups, he has nothing additional to say to the “fathers.” Their eyes are on the right object, and, says he, “Are they on that?” Are you directing your gaze wholly to that? Then I can say no more to you; I would not take your eyes from Him; be increased in the knowledge of Rim, and see that all glory and grace meet in Him.

But to the other two classes there is something special. To the most advanced he says, “Go on, go on!” nothing more. He changes the word “write,” and puts it into the perfect tense. In the second address it is, “I have written.”

To the other groups he has a word of warning. Now look at the word of warning to “young men;” the warning to them is, “Love not the world.” The third class of professing hearers was overcome by the world in the parable of the sower. They brought forth no fruit to perfection. I do not mean to say that anyone who has eternal life in Him can lose it; but this refers to the manifestation of the life. These young men are exhorted to beware of the “world.” It is their most powerful foe. By and bye the flesh will be their temptation; but first, Satan, hiding as it were behind the world, makes short work of them. “The world” is the deadliest foe with which the child of God has to contend. Observe, “young men” are specially cautioned to beware of “the world;” as much as to say, You have overcome Satan; but now there is the world. And then we have the solemn word, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Thus, always, you have the three foes against the three friends:—Christ and the devil—the Spirit and the flesh—the Father and the world. Then there is another strong expression: “For all that is in the world, &c.;” for all, emphatically all. Then we have “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life;” all will be a snare to us. The term “lust of the flesh” denotes what the flesh lusts after; the “lust of the eyes” what the eyes desire. I sometimes think, when in the streets, watching people looking into the shops, if their affections were set on things above, would they stand looking at the ribbons, and laces, and gold chains? “When I see children standing round a confectioner’s «hop, so sure as I see them there, I guess their desire; so when I see grown people doing as I have said, I think of the lust of the eye. Were an angel from heaven to be commissioned to go to Regent-street, I suppose all the gay equipages and shops would not attract his eye one moment, because he would have no lust of the eye; his one thought would be, “Lord, Thou hast sent me here; what next, Lord?” It is very solemn that people professing godliness should allow the lust of the eye.

Then there is the “pride of life”—the boasting of life—whatever leads anybody to think himself superior to another—the elation of life—“I am somebody, I am learned, I have had a superior education;” this is the elation of life. Not that I have a word to say against the best education a father can give his children; let them have the best. But I say that anything which leads to elation, which leads one to say of another, he is not educated as I am; anything which leads one brother to distinguish himself in the flesh over another, is not of “the Father,” but of “the world;” and it will all go, for “the world passeth away, and the lust thereof.” Then in the 18th verse we come to the babes; for the word “little children” should again be rendered “babes.” It is the same word as in the 13th verse; it is the third group, the youngest born. For them there is a word of warning. There is none for the fathers: there is a word for the young men, —“Take heed of the world.” Then there is a word, of warning to the “babes;”—“Little children, it is the last time, and as ye have heard that Antichrist will come, even now are there many antichrists.” Now you see what the warning is, they are warned of antichrists. There is a difference between “Antichrist “and “antichrists.” You will observe “even now there are many antichrists.” You will never see “Antichrist” if you are Christians; you will be in the clouds before then. By the Unction being shewn to be in opposition to the antichrists, we obtain a clue as to what it is that is said to hinder the development of the Antichrist in 2 Thess. 2. For as there is no question that the Unction here is the Holy Ghost, so St. John becomes the inspired commentator on St. Paul, to tell us who is the Hinderer, viz., this Unction.

God always lets a dispensation go on until its sin has culminated perfectly. The last dispensation culminated in the murder of the Lord Jesus. The tendency of that time was to reject that which was of God in prophets and scribes; now it is quite contrary; the tendency is towards the reception of the false. The end of this dispensation is to be the worship of Antichrist, who will show himself in the temple of God; not the rejection of the true, but the reception of the false. Antichrists are in the professing body. Some think that Antichrist will be an infidel; others that he will be a compromise between superstition and infidelity. But, however, these antichrists are now in the professing body.

Now look at the 27th verse: “You do not need any one to teach you;” strange words! and yet, it is God who says, “You do not need any one to teach you.” We all admit that we do want teaching; what reason, therefore, for this expression? Why, putting these passages together— what is said about the teaching and the Antichrist —it seems to lead us on to the fact, that teachers often stand before their hearers, and, instead of the eye, the ear, and the heart being withdrawn from the poor thing that is seen to Him who is unseen, the teachers gather them round themselves, and the poor silly sheep are instructed to receive their “ipse dixits,” as if they were the oracles of God, and to have their eye rivetted on human teachers, rather than upon Christ unseen! I believe it is possible for the teacher so to perform his office, as to fix attention on himself, and on what he gives, rather than upon Christ. There is a great danger in this, and it is not an imaginary one. There is a tendency in young believers, frequently, to make too much of those who have been a blessing to their souls. The babes are reminded that they have known Christ, and that they are not to gather round mortal man; because, if they did, they would put their teachers in a false position, for which themselves, rather than those teachers, were responsible before God. When I left the church of England, one of the oldest saints of God wrote me a letter, in which he suggested that the clerical element originated, not with the teachers; but with the desire of the people to have it so. Men do not like to lean wholly on God. They do not look to the Lord how the worship should be conducted, and they like a prearranged order. “There are A. B. and CD., and we have come to hear them.” I do not give this merely as my own conviction; it is that of Mr. J. 50:Harris, and has, therefore, great weight in the church of God. When the Israelites were brought into the wilderness, God called Moses up to the mount; the people did not like a prophet unseen. They wanted “gods” that they could see, that should go before them. So now, when people go to church, they gather in the name of an individual; they look for him to do something. I solemnly believe that if there be any covering of Christ—if there is any one making himself head, he is antichrist. He may be a good man; but he allows himself to be put in a false position. Therefore, the warning—“little children, beware of Antichrist;” for, that a man should be worshipped in the church of God is terrible. The last, the great Antichrist, is to set himself in the temple of God. The tendency is, that there shall be a man to set himself as the Lord; for people crave for what is visible. Although we need teachers, we must not rely upon them. “Whenever we come together, as members of “the body,” the Lord says, “I am there;” and then—whether there be persons sent to teach or not—there is the Church, and the Lord is there, though there may be no teachers.

Observe the words, “If that which ye have heard from the beginning,” and “the anointing which ye have received abideth in you, ye need not that any man should teach you.” What is the “anointing,” or unction? There is a Person to guide the people of God—the Holy Ghost. He is the true Teacher. He may send teachers; but then they are not to be put in a false postion. The Holy Ghost is our Teacher. And thus you will see that the apostacy has two stages. On the Divine side, the apostacy consists in the rejection of the Holy Ghost; on the human side, it consists in leaning on some one, instead of Christ, and instead of the Holy Ghost the Comforter.

But here occurs a little difficulty. How can little babes “know all things?” The answer is, that having the Spirit we know Christ. If our eyes be on the risen Christ, however much we may lack in knowledge of details, we have the fundamentals of the knowledge of all things. There is nothing which you and I can learn, except in connection with the Christ in glory. If we want to know God, how He loves, how we may be like Him, how to “know all things,” we must look to Christ. There is no question which you and I can put, that you will not find an answer to in Him. What is the glory given to us? What is the love with which we are loved of God? and other questions, are all answered by His words, “Where I am, there shall ye be also.” “As Thou hast loved Me, so have I loved them.” The basis of the knowledge of all things is found when we fix our eye on Christ. The “lie” (verse 27) is anything that takes the eye off Christ. “Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning.”

Now observe the difference between the way of “Antichrist” and the teaching of the “Unction.” The “Unction’s” teaching is that Jesus is the Christ; that Jesus came from the throne of God down to the cross, and to a borrowed grave. That is the teaching of the Unction concerning Jesus. He came down. Now, the way of the world is to struggle to be up, and to strive to outvie one another, and to be uppermost. But the path of our Lord was to descend; His entire journey was one of descent. You now believe that Jesus is on the throne of God; well, if you believe this, you will follow His path, and not care for place, aggrandisement, or power. He who gave up everything is now on the throne of God. You will often have your trials; but if you believe in Him who gave up everything, you will feel that you need them. If you believe that Jesus is on the throne of God, you will trust God. The Unction will teach you, that the way to aggrandisement is a subterranean one,—that the path to true glory is one of suffering. Let the Unction abide in you; do not care to be great; let your Father see to all that; do not care to be A 1; let your Father exalt you in His time.

Now note the contrast between the path of our Lord, and that of Lucifer, son of the morning. The path of the devil was this:—God made him very high; it is no Miltonian idea. He was the son of the morning. But he was lifted up with pride; he would fain be higher. Then he began to fall; now he is in the air; presently he will be on the earth; then he will be put into the abyss; and then, after the millenium, he will go into hell. God puts him down, because he would go up. Christ was in the bosom of the Father, and He came down to the cross; and then, God put Him high above all heavens, that He might fill all things. Now, you do not believe in the devil’s path; but in that path in which the Unction leads; for we come together before the Lord, owing One as our Leader, and speaking what God shall teach us. God will supply all our need; for “this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.”

Read on to the 26th verse: “These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.” I wonder that God’s people do not heed this warning; that they do not cease looking to this and that man, but to the precious Lord Jesus Christ; that they do not rely upon the Holy Ghost, whose work it is to abide in them, and teach them of all things.

Then, we have a solemn address given to all the family. We have done with the three sections, and again we see the entire family. “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed, before Him at His coming.” All of you, abide in Him, and then we shall be bold at His appearing. Human props will be weak then; but leaning on Christ we shall have boldness, and not be ashamed. There is a little difficulty, but only at first sight, in that word “appear.” Some of you have heard of two schools of doctrine, taking different views on this question. On the one hand it is said, the Church will go through the tribulation, and that the first thing is for Christ to come down to be seen by righteous and wicked, and then to call up His saints. And, on the other hand, it is said that as Christ’s first coming was in two stages, beginning at Bethlehem and ending at Calvary, so His second coming will be, first for His saints, and secondly to the world as its Judge. His first thought is about “My saints;” “My sheep;” and when He comes, at that moment His people will go up to meet Him, and when He appears they will appear with Him. I go with all my heart, with the second. Observe the words, “We may have confidence.” If the taught abide in Christ, the teachers are to have a reward. In proportion as a teacher has been anything himself, and has led souls to himself, instead of to Christ, he will lose his reward; in so far as he has been faithful, he will have a reward—a reward for service when Christ appears. You must note the change in the pronouns: “we;” that is, the teachers, may have boldness. I have thus taken you through half the epistle—the family with the Father.

Lecture 5.

Now, as you are aware, we begin the second half of our epistle. The epistle, as I have already remarked, consists of two main parts. First, the children of God viewed as a family at home with their Father; and now, in the second half of the epistle, commencing at the third chapter, the family is looked at in their life down here. All students of the Word acknowledge that the third chapter should properly begin with the last verse of the second chapter—“If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him.” There the subject is introduced. Oh! if the Father has a family, the family should be like their Father. He is righteous, and therefore they that are doing righteousness are born of Him. It is well for us to attend to that verse for a moment, in the first place, lest haply we should apply the opening verses of the third chapter negligently to souls to whom they do not belong. It is those that do righteousness, that are born of God; and, my dear friends, what a grand truth is enunciated in that expression—“born of God!” How easily it is uttered. How accustomed we are to the phrase—“born of God,” “born again!” But oh! what a vast thing, what a sublime thing it is to be born of God! God could have done anything easier than beget children. He could make stars, worlds, universes; but He could not make children of His own. He could do almost anything and everything else; but that He could not do, save in one single way. He had one Son, and ere He could beget children, that one Son must die, and then from His death, life springs up for all those that believe in Him, and thus many sons are begotten to God. I do not think we realize, beloved friends, what a thing it is for God to have begotten children. I do not believe that any of His saints in the olden time were, in the strict sense of the word, His “children.” Indeed, I know that that passage is sometimes quoted about the angels being His sons —“The morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy,” and again some other texts —“Doubtless Thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us,”—“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” But none of these reach to the full blessing now conveyed through Christ; and if you will insist upon the words, then I must remind you that —with the exception of the first-quoted passage, which regards those who were nearest, in the old creation, to God—they are applied to the nation, as a nation; they are applied to a mass of people collectively, and not to individual believers in particular. But now it is quite the reverse. Now each one that is a Christian, is taught by the Holy Ghost to see that he is an actual child of God, and to call God ever his own dear Father. God has His children, as children, in three ways. The first is stated in the fourth chapter of the epistle to Galatians:—“God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that are under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” There is the first way. The first way is by redemption—Christ giving up His life—Christ dying to reach us. None, strictly speaking, were fully brought to Him before. They were sinners; but when the sin was put out of the way, then God could bring His people close to Himself; and not only so; but the life that was in God could stream out, as it did, from a slain Christ. Until Christ was slain, the life of God, and the love of God, were pent up in Him; but the spear, as it were—speaking figuratively—that went into the side of Christ, opened a wound whence have flowed out to you and to me life and blessing ever since. That is the first way; and we are sons by redemption. There is a hymn which says:—

“Sons we are by God’s election.”

That is hardly the truth; God did elect us; but He could not make us His children by electing us. The first actual mode of God’s making children was by His Son dying; and thus, through His death, grappling hold of sinners down here; so that they are joined on to Him, and become one with Him before God. You remember the illustration of the corn of wheat. A corn of wheat is put into the ground, and when there, it begins to die, and as the corn of wheat dies, so the mould, the earth, around it is drawn to it, and then from that dead corn of wheat there spring up a great many new corns of wheat, and thus the mould and the original corn of wheat all rise together in resurrection—a great many of them. There is the divine medium—the corn of wheat. “Except the corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Christ was alone before He died; God says so; but when He died He brought forth much fruit. God never compares His people in the Old Testament to corns of wheat. He there compares them to trees—quite another figure. The figure of a tree is the figure of taking a firm hold, a firm root in the earth, and so springing up. But with the corn of wheat it is a feeble hold of earth, and then rising up, and the more it ripens top-wards—heaven-wards—it dies earth-wards. It is a new figure. Jesus is the first corn of wheat; He was the germ; and by His dying He got hold of us, and thus we rise together with Him. So in the first of Ephesians, we are told that God raised up Christ from the dead, and set Him at His right hand in heavenly places, and then it is said: “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins,… and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” There is the first corn of wheat raised up, and then all the other corns of wheat raised along with it. It is a precious doctrine, beloved friends, this union with a living Christ in resurrection—one with God through Christ’s dying and rising again.

Then there is the second way in which God begets children, and that is by regeneration. “Everyone that doeth righteousness is born of Him.” This is by actual birth, and here, you see, when God does work to beget children, He does what no one else can do. Anyone can adopt children; but, strictly speaking, an adopted child is not one’s own child. If the queen chose to adopt a child, she might do so; but it would not be therefore the queen’s own-child. But this is what God has done; He has taken children; but He does not adopt them. Such a thought arises only by mistake. He is able, through Christ in resurrection, and by the Holy Ghost coming down, actually to communicate His own nature and life. “Well,” say you; “but does not Scripture speak about adoption? Does it not say: ‘That we might receive the adoption of sons?’ Do we not read the word ‘adoption’ two or three times? “I answer, Yes; I am sorry to say that we do. It is a very poor, bad translation. The word ought to have been rendered “son-placing”—“that we might receive a son’s place;” not the word adoption. The fact is, that when a person puts another into a son’s place, it may be either by adoption, or it may be, as God does it, by the actual impartation of one’s own nature and life to that other. Now the Greek word might mean either. “Son-place” is the exact translation; but we find, as a matter of fact, that it is not by adoption; but that it is by the actual impartation of God’s own life. Christ dies and rises, and then in resurrection the life flows out of Him into you and into me. “If it die it bringeth forth much fruit.” The life of God, through Christ, is communicated to you and to me. That is the second way in which we become the children of God —we are born again by actual regeneration. Oh, it is a grand, it is a wondrous truth, but little apprehended, that Christ now has nothing apart from His church—nothing. The blessed Lord Jesus Christ has nothing now except in common with ourselves. We are one with Him—born again of the Spirit; so that the same Spirit, as this very chapter shows us, that is in Christ, is in us; and then that Holy Ghost, having quickened our spirits, will lift up our very bodies, and then we shall be like Him in body. It says in the 8th of Romans: “Waiting for the adoption;” or as it should have been, “the son-place;” “to wit—the redemption of our body.” We are waiting for the redemption of the body, and that is the third way, and these are His three grand ways, by which He has done what none but God can do, namely, beget a great many children unto Himself, and communicate His own life, His own nature, His own Spirit, unto them.

Now, this is what is unfolded in these opening verses of the 3rd chapter: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” And there are two or three words in the old manuscripts which have been left out in our translation. There are these additional words: “That we should be called the sons of God, and we are.” You can add those words to your bible; for they are in the old Greek manuscripts: “That we should be called the sons of God, and we are; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.”

Now, it is most important that we should notice the position of these verses. These verses are, to nearly all the children of God in England, I presume, tolerably well known. These verses have been a stay to the children of God many a time; but I am fully confident, that if the children of God did but perceive the position of these verses in this epistle, they would be still more thankful for these precious verses even than they are; because, observe how they occur. I want you to see that they are placed in the forefront of that part of the epistle which shows the children of God in the world; and therefore this part of our epistle begins with making the assertion—mind you, the assertion on the part of God—that we are His children, even though we are down here in this world. It seems to me so beautiful, that as the Holy Ghost is about to describe the life of God’s children in this world, He should commence in the manner He does by thus speaking. If we are the people of God, we are the sons of God, and we have the life of God. We may live it out feebly; we may not always exhibit it as we ought to do; we may ourselves sometimes forget it; we may never so rejoice in the fact and exult in it as we ought; but still, if we are doing righteousness, we are born of God. Oh, what a grand word that is in the second verse of this chapter: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God;” and then the additional statement is made, that as it is true now, so, when Christ comes, it shall be seen to be so. Thus the statement is two-fold: that we are God’s sons now, and that when Christ comes it shall be seen, as clear as day, that we are so. What two precious statements these are with which to commence, with which to open the subject of the Christian in the world. What a beautiful description it is! It is not that of a man who wants to be saved, and who tries to be good, that he may please God. That is not the picture presented here. The picture presented here is that of a man who has looked to Christ, and having looked to Christ, has thus been born of God; and being born of God, and knowing that God has forgiven him, and saved him, he can hear God saying: “You are My child; go and live in the enjoyment of that truth every day.” What strength it gives us for daily life. It makes it so much easier to walk and please God, when we know, before we begin to do aught, that we are the children of God. We do not do this, that and the other, in order to be God’s children. Like the child which executes not its mother’s commands in order to become its mother’s child. It is its mother’s child. And so, we do not do this, that and the other, in order to become God’s children. We begin with being God’s children. That is a settled matter. If we are Christ’s at all, if we are believers, if we are disciples, if we are doing righteousness, we are God’s children before ever we have moved a muscle, before ever we have practised anything. We begin with that. You remember that verse:—

“Would’st thou go forth to bless?
Be sure of thine own ground;
Fix well thy centre first,
Then draw thy circle round.”

That is God’s way—to begin with Christ. Sometimes people are in such a hurry to serve God, before they have been established in God’s love. When the prodigal came from a distant country and cried: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son,” the father did not set him to work directly. What the father did was first to see that the son had the full assurance of forgiveness, to put the best robe upon him, to kill the fatted calf, to make him sit at his table, to make him as happy as he could, and to let him know that the father had not a single unkind thought, and no reserve towards him. He would seat him at the table; he would make him partake of the fatted calf, and make him see the glistening of the father’s eyes even before he did ought. They began to be merry; and so the parable closes with merriment. There is the centre well fixed. “God loves me; Christ has saved me; God has made me His child; God has sealed me with the Holy Ghost,” Then, when all that is quite settled, when there is the fixed consciousness of perfect acceptance, and that the eye of love is beaming down upon one, then God says: “Go and serve me; go and walk under My eye.” That is God’s way. That, I want you to see, is the plan, the arrangement of this third chapter.

I may just tell you here that the second part of the first epistle of John consists of three pieces. The first of the three last chapters, that is, 3 down to 4:6, shows the working of the divine life in the believer; the second chapter, of the second part, that is, ch. 4:6-21, shows us how that divine life is got; and ch. 5, or the third chapter in the second part, shows us where it is. It is so precious to see that God fixes well His centre first. “If you are doing righteousness, you are My children; it is proved that you are, for you are born of Me.” Then, as there may be an objection: “The world does not think so, my friends sometimes do not think so; they will not own it; it may be that they see that I am much given to reading my bible, or given much to this or that; but they will not believe that I am a child of God.” In case there should be this objection, the latent objection is at once answered. All that is nothing, provided that we are truly born of God, and truly love Him. “Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.” We only fare like the blessed Lord Jesus if the world disowns us. When He spoke of His being the Son of God, they said, “Crucify Him;” and therefore we must expect to fare like Him. “Therefore the world knoweth us not;” and not merely that we do fare like Him now; but there is the additional statement, full of preciousness, which says: “We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him.” If you will observe, you will see that there is an advance made: “We shall be like Him.” We are already beginning to see that the subject of the chapter is the working of the divine life. Do you not observe how gradually the Holy Ghost is coming to the point in this way? When Christ comes you will be quite like Him. Till He comes, you will be seeking to be like Him; till He comes, the life in you will exhibit itself similarly as it did in Christ. There is here, in a sort of latent form, the subject introduced. We shall be like Him; we shall be quite like Him then, inside and outside. We shall be quite like Him in body, and quite like Him in spirit. There is only one grand fundamental difference, which cannot be altered, and which we should not like to be altered, namely, that He will ever be the Blesser, and we shall ever be the blessed. He will ever be the source of grace; all the life, and light, and love, and grace flowing out of Him and into us. That is implied here: “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” It is the sight of Him that makes us fully like Him; just as it is the gazing upon Him now, as it says in the Corinthians, that transforms us from glory to glory. Beloved friends, how singularly does God develope the divine life in us. I think, if you study the Word, you will find that seven times our eye is pointed to Christ in the New Testament. The first is, “Behold the Lamb of God.” There is a word for the sinner. I will not quote them all. Then there is the matter put personally to us as believers: “We all with open face beholding the glory of the Lord.” There is the way in which the life is more and more continually developed, sustained, and increased. By beholding the glory of the Lord we are changed from glory to glory; and then there is the crowning stage in this same divine process— “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him.” Thus you see, when we were lost sinners, we found life by taking one look at Christ; then, when we are believers, our spirits are sustained in life by the eye being fixed, rivetted more and more on Christ, and so at last, when we are brought up into His presence, we are made fully like Him. Then we shall see Him as He is; so that I want you to observe that the Holy Ghost is evidently suggesting (as we shall see in the after verses of this chapter), that there is a sense in which we are like Him now. So in the next verse he proceeds— “And every man that hath this hope in Him, purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” Observe, it is assumed that there is something which makes us unlike Christ. When it says, “purifieth himself,” that shows that there is need of purifying; that shows that there are things in us that make us unlike the blessed Lord Jesus. Ah! we may be ever so conscious that we are born of God, and we may know that the Lord Jesus is ours, and that we have the Spirit of God; but ah! we cannot shut our eyes to the painful consciousness that there is that in us from which we want to be delivered; that there is the flesh in us which will make itself felt and heard. And so you perceive here another difference between ourselves and the Lord Jesus; there was no purifying of Himself; there is a break in the parallel here. It does not say, “Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as He purified Himself;” no, there is a break in the parellel: “purifieth Himself, even as He is pure.” Why, He was the absolutely pure One even here. There was no purifying of Himself; He was the ray of light shining into the water in the moat. The ray of light is untainted, is untarnished, into whatever dirty place it shines. Christ was that ray of light; He was pure wherever He was; He was as pure in the world as he was in the Father’s bosom. But still, if we are His people, we are seeking to be like Him here. Observe the expression here about being His people. It is connected with the verse before about Christ’s coming—“Every man that hath this hope in Him,” it should have been translated “on Him,” not “in Him.” If you want to read this Scripture accurately, leave out the word “in,” and put in the word “on.” And, perhaps, you will allow me to make a suggestion here. I should recommend every bible-reader, who cannot read the original Greek, but who would like to read the Scriptures carefully and accurately, to get at least another translation besides the authorised one. There are several to be had, Tischendorff’s, etc., and when you read one, read the other, and then, where they diverge, you will see the idea better, and you will very probably catch from the very divergence, the thought of the original Greek. The word here should be “on Him,”—“Every man that hath this hope on Him.” Say you, “I do not see any difference.” Oh! but there is a great difference. The one makes you look at yourselves; the other makes you look at Christ. The one throws you back upon what you have got in you; the other throws you on what you have got in Christ. Oh! beloved friends, there is a world of difference. It reminds me of the way in which I sometimes hear Christians talk, when they say, “Bless the Lord, I have got an interest in Christ.” I would not altogether find fault with the expression; but it is a very poor one. It is a great deal better to put it the other way about, and say this: “Bless the Lord, Christ has got an interest in me.” That is a deal better, surely. It is that the hope is on Christ. It is fixed on Christ; and do you think that Christ will forget you? The word “hope,” throughout the New Testament, is always used by the Holy Ghost to refer to the coming of the Lord. Some Christians have not been established in God’s grace, and in peace with God, and they have lost sight of that fact, and they say, “I hope I shall be saved.” But God stablishes His people in His love, and gives them to see their full salvation as a settled thing, and then points them to something beyond. Christ is coming, and that is a hope for every day; but because Christians are not stablished in their salvation, the consequence is that they put in the future what God puts in the present, What I mean is, that God puts this in the present— “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” “We have passed out of death into life,” as another verse in this chapter says; but Christians sometimes put this in the future; and then, what was in God’s future—that Christ will come back again—gets so remotely removed, as it were, that it is lost sight of altogether. You will, however, find this, that wherever the word “hope” is used, it always means the coming of the Lord. In a meeting which I was addressing last night, I suggested—it just came impromptu at the time—that Christians, if they would really understand the thought of the word “hope,” should read it “this blessed hope.” I do not mean to put that into the text, of course not, I only mean you just to associate that with it—“Every man that hath this blessed hope on Him.” He always means the coming of the Lord. “When He shall appear, we shall be like Him.” Who would not desire to be like Christ, inside and out? Who would not wish to be delivered from the flesh, and to have the redemption of his body? Well, when Christ appears, that is the first thing you shall have; therefore, you cannot help hoping that Christ will come back. Everyone that hath this hope on Christ, purifies himself, seeks to keep down the flesh, to mortify the deeds of the body, to live after the Spirit, to live the new life that God has begotten in Him, even as He is pure.

Lecture 6.

Well then, in the next verses, down some considerable part of our chapter, the life is developed in these two ways; first in the way of righteousness, down to the middle of the 10th verse, and then as to love. You know God’s character is two-fold. God’s character is light, and God’s character is love; and so His children too are children of the light, and they love, even as they have been loved. Thus the life that is in them is seen to be identical. I speak guardedly—identical with the life that is in Christ. The life which is in them shows itself in the workings of righteousness, and in the exhibitions of love.

We will ponder upon each of these for a moment.

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law. There again is another very bad translation. It should be—“for sin is lawlessness.” Man was made with his eye to look upwards, to receive direction from one above him. When he acts as if he had no superior—when his own will is his rule, there is lawlessness. Specially Christians have a Lora. To Him should our eye ever be directed, that we might learn and do His will. And if we know He loves us, we should let Him choose our path and direct our steps. With His eye He will guide us, if we abide in Him and keep close to Himself where He has placed us. Then, on purpose to put the truth in all shapes and sides, observe, he shows that if a man is not a child of God, he is a child of the devil. It is a very solemn matter. He shows that if a man does commit sin, he is of the devil; that either we have the nature of the devil, or we have the nature of God. “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” It is a very strong statement you see; but there it is, and it is put in a stronger form at the end of the fifth chapter, in a-very vivid form indeed. Even this is vivid enough, that if we have the nature of God, there will be the actings of God in righteousness, and on the other hand, if there are the actings of Satan, it is because the person is a child of Satan. “He that committeth sin is of the devil, for the devil sinneth from the beginning,” I understand that expression, “from the beginning,” to refer to the fact, too abstruse to-enter upon here, that as soon as ever the blessed Lord Jesus began to be manifested as the Christ, Satan fell. The devil sinned from the beginning, and herein Christ and the devil are seen to be diametrically opposed as to their works. Christ was so set upon destroying the works of the devil, that He would come down here on purpose that He might destroy them.

Then there comes a verse which many ask the meaning of. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in Him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.” I believe that the meaning is tolerably apparent on its surface. The idea is, that if you have the divine nature in you, it is just the same as it is in Christ, and it can not sin. First apply it to Christ Himself. You will admit that Christ was born of God. Will you not? Yes. Well, then, He could not sin. It is not merely that He did not sin; but He could not. It was one of the Irvingite doctrines, you remember, that Christ did not sin; but that He could have sinned if He had liked. I have often thought that this verse flatly contradicted Irving; for it says that He could not. This is absolutely true, to go back to the illustration I used just now—you could no more get that which is born of God to sin, than you could get the ray of light to be tainted by the water in the moat into which it shone. The ray of light is so dissimilar to the foetid atmosphere of the moat, that you could not, however you tried, blend the light of the sun with the atmosphere of the moat, so that the ray of light should be tarnished thereby. So with the matter we are speaking of. The nature of God is so abhorrent to sin, that it is impossible that He should have any complicity therewith. So, as Christ had the very nature of God, yea, was the very Son of God, co-equal with the Father, He not only did not sin; but He could not sin. Now, through Christ’s death and resurrection, in the three ways which I have before stated to you, that life of His is communicable. It was not communicable once; but it is communicable now. Christ is the Eternal Son; and by His taking human nature, and through His precious death, His nature is communicable, and He has communicated it to us; and through Him, and in Him we are sons; and therefore, if we are born of God, that which is divine in us can no more sin than that which was divine in Him could sin. Of course we have two natures, and He had but one. We alas! know that there is something in us that is not born of God; that of course not only will sin, but cannot do anything else but sin. All that we have to do with that, is to keep it down; to count it to be dead and buried, for it cannot be mended. The old nature cannot be mended; the old nature remains bad, as we shall daily find, until we are finally delivered from it. But the new nature which is in us cannot possibly have any complicity with sin. “He cannot sin, because he is born of God.” There, says the Holy Ghost, is the manifestation of the difference between the children of God and the children of the devil.

There, then, is the first thought, that the children of God do righteousness, answering to the same feature in the character of God. God is light, as we have seen in the first chapter, and therefore so is it with the children, as it says in Ephesians—“Ye are children of the light?” The very illustration helps us to see what is meant by that word—“cannot sin.” “Children of the light.” God is light; and then Christ is the ray of light; and then we, through Christ’s death and resurrection, become the children of God, and therefore children of the light-Nothing can make light into darkness—nothing. Light, as we all know, is essentially the very opposite of darkness; and so, if we have the nature of God, we are born of Him who is light, and therefore we practise righteousness.

Well then, there is the other side of the character of God brought out. Let us look at that. “For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” There is the second feature in the character of God. God is love —as we shall see plentifully enough in the fourth chapter. God is love; and we, as His children, have that nature of His; and the more we exhibit that divine love, the more the world will hate us notwithstanding. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother, abideth in death.” I just pause on that expression a moment. I cannot tell you how many ways there are in which the devil would get us to wrest that passage. We are very prone to read it thus: “He that loveth not his brother that holds the same truths as he does; he that loveth not his brother that goes to the same place of worship; he that loveth not his brother that is a churchman, or a dissenter, or is anything else, as he is; “whereas the Word of God has it, simply and plainly,—” He that loveth not his brother,”—that if there is divine life in me, and if there is divine life in you, as sure as there is, you may not love my crotchets, you may not love anything that is naughty in me; but if there is divine life in me, and there is divine life in you, you cannot help yourself, you must love that divine life in me. If you do not, it is because you are not born of God. I do not say that we should have these crotchets. On the contrary, we should seek to put them away. As a matter of fact, some of God’s people have sometimes many unpleasant traits in their character; but if they are God’s people, then, in proportion as you can see the divine life in them, you cannot help it—you must love them. It is comparatively easy to love a very holy man nearly sixty, or seventy, or eighty years of age—a ripe and mellow Christian. Let me give you an example, shewing that this is so. God made the world in six days, and on the sixth day He said that it was very good. And if you had stood with God on that sixth day, I suppose you would have agreed with what He said, that it was very good, would you not? But the truth is, that God said it was good on the first day. Now, if you had stood with God on that first day, and had seen all the chaos that there was then still in the world—the waters not separated from the land, you would have said, “I cannot see that it is very good yet.” When it was perfectly developed on the sixth day, you would have said, “It is very good.” Ah! but then if you had the eye of God, if you stood by the throne of God, and looked down from God’s height, you would have seen that not only was His work good, very good, on the sixth day of creation; but you would have said that it was very good on the first day of creation. It is very easy to love a man who has grown much in grace, and has mellowed much in the divine life, so that when you come across him, you feel that you are in contact with a holy man; but it is much harder to love a child of God when he is full of oddities, crotchets, whims, and naughty ways, and has a great deal of the flesh about him. When one sees a great deal of the flesh in youthful Christians, it is very easy to despise them; but we must not do so; for the Holy Ghost rules that this is the work of the divine life, that when we see the divine life in others, we love what we see of that divine life. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love”—not church-people, who are Christians; or dissenters, who are Christians; but “because we love the brethren.”

You observe, that there are the two forms of the divine life, and that as with the righteousness, so with the love—the standard is the highest. God cannot alter or lower His standard. The acting of the divine life in you is always the same as the acting of the divine life in Christ. Read the next verse but one. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us, and we ought,”—do you see how those words come in, how appropriate they are?—“and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Christ laid down His life for us. There was the acting of the divine life, the divine life which led Him to love us, so that nothing stopped Him. Then if we have the divine life, we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. The word “ought” is put in there because the life in us is feebler, is not so fully developed, as it was in Christ. If the divine life in us was very strong, we should be willing to lay down our lives for the brethren. Thus you perceive, that whether it be in the first feature—righteousness, or light; or in the second feature, love, we are shown that we are to be like Christ. We shall be like Him, and until we are quite like Him, we are to purify ourselves, even as He is pure.

After this, there is a glance at the other side in contrast: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” And then be passes on to some additional details, illustrative of the workings of this divine life in us, and I ask you to look at these.

One is, that before God, as His children, we shall be quite free, and shall with heart-ease look up to Him. We shall not, as children of God in the world, feel any terror before Him. As we know that we are sons of God, we shall have heart-ease, perfect peace and joy before Him, and like as Christ could look up and say, “I thank Thee, O Father,” so His children are to do. It assumes that we should seek to be established in Christ, that we should seek to know how thoroughly God has loved us—which we shall see in the fourth chapter—how thoroughly He has put away our sins, how thoroughly He has blessed us, and will bless us still with the Holy Ghost. If, then, we are His children here in the wilderness, we look up to Him, we are not afraid of Him now; we do not dread Him now; we talk to Him, and assure our hearts before Him. There is again one of the details of the Christian’s life; namely, that conscious that we are His children, the knowledge that His eye is upon us, only causes us exquisite joy, because it makes us feel, as we sing sometimes in our hymn—

“Tis His great delight to bless us,
Oh! how He loves!”

Well then, there is another. The other side is assumed, that sometimes the children of God are not acting up to their light, or are sometimes doing what their conscience reprehends them for. Then there will not be that same freedom and ease before God that there should he, and will be when the divine life in them is unchecked. I suppose we all of us understand that sometimes we allow ourselves to do what conscience says is wrong, and then of course it is not so easy to look up to God and say, “My dear, good, heavenly Father.” Thus you see there is in everything the acting of the divine life. “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.”

Then there is the next thing, that when we talk to Him in prayer, we know that we are heard. Oh! what a beautiful thing that is! How we let the devil cheat us when we would pray to God! Think how God would have us to pray, to talk to Him as His children, to see that there is no veil between Him and us, that there is no distance between Him and us, that there is no reserve on His part, that there is no separation between us, that we are near to Him, that we are very dear to Him, that we are of His own blessed people. What a beautiful picture that is of the way in which His children talk to Him, that is given in this next verse: “And whatsoever we ask we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” I shall speak of His new commands directly. I only want you to see that there is such a beautiful picture there of the Christian, not merely praying, but knowing that he is heard; and he speaks to God, he tells God all that he does, in prayer, and knows that he is heard, because he knows that he is very near to God, and can say, as His Son said when He was upon earth—“I know that Thou hearest Me always.” I wish, beloved friends, that you and I did more enjoy this consciousness of communion with Christ, even when we talk to Him. If we only did but see what a full Christ we have, what a full salvation we have, what a living Christ we have, how we are brought so near to God, and God has so much love to us, oh! our few moments of prayer would be so much more enjoyable to us than they are. Take one instance. Often and often I have heard these words quoted upside down; I have heard Christians quote these words so many times entirely wrong. “Oh, Thou that art in the clefts of the rock, let me see Thy countenance, let me hear Thy voice.” I have often heard these words quoted thus: “Let me hear Thy voice, let me see Thy countenance.” Now, that is not what Christ says. Christ says: “Dove of mine, dove of mine, thou that art in the clefts of the rock,” and then mark the order—He does not say, “Let me hear Thy voice.” That is not what He says. What He says is—“Let Me see thy countenance.” That is what He wants “Come near to Me first.” Just as if you have a child, you do not always like him to talk to you outside the door, and speak to you from the passage. You would like him to come in, and be close to you before he begins to speak. That is what God says. “Let Me see thy countenance,” first; then, “Let Me hear thy voice.” We have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. Why should we not come close to God? Christians are oftentimes not aware of the devices of the devil to keep them, as far as experience is concerned, at a distance from their Father. Oh! come close to God. Be sure of this, that God wants us, whenever we talk to Him, to come very close to Him before we begin, not to gradually work ourselves up into a frame, into a glow, and then think—“Now God will hear me;” but to see that God has put us nigh to Him, has put us in His presence, has made us accepted in the Beloved, has made us one with Christ; to see that before we open our mouths, it is His great delight to bless us; and then, when our hearts are assured before Him, to tell Him whatever Ave want.

Now we come to His commandments. Do not be afraid. I think, if you will just study the passage a little, you will see that there is some very blessed gospel in these commandments. We shall see, I think, if we look at these commandments, how appropriately they occur here. That is what I want to show you, that this reference to God’s new commandments occurs very appropriately here. I want you to see, in the first place, that the commandments here are exactly the antipodes of the ten commandments. Now I have spoken strongly, and if I can prove it, you will he satisfied. What are the ten commandments? If you sum them up into two, they are these—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and thy neighbour as thyself.” These are the ten commandments epitomised into two. Christ says so. Now, it is singular that there are here two commandments, and if you will but ponder them you will see that they are exactly the reverse of Moses’ commandments; for now, what is the first commandment? The first commandment is, “That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ;” in other words, believe that God so loved the world, that He sent His Son. Now look at the contrast. The old commandment was, “Love Me.” The new commandment is, “Believe in My love to you.” Is not that a difference? Surely this is a very different command; surely it is the very opposite. The old commandment was, “Give to me your love;” the new commandment is, “Take My love into your heart.” Surely that is a very different thing; surely it is the very antipodes. Look now at the other. The old commandment was to love our neighbour; the new commandment is to love one another. That is, the people then were viewed as a nation—Israel, and therefore each one of the nation was viewed as in God’s family; now they are viewed as an election, and it is not everyone of any nation; but it is some out of every nation; and so it is not now to love the neighbour; but it is to love the brethren, to love one another. Do you not see again, that there is here a remarkable contrast between the Old Testament command and the New? If you have followed me in this rapid exposition of these two commands, you will see that they are exactly the opposite of Moses; and I think the more they are studied, the more the fact of their being the opposite of Moses’ commands comes out. I do not know whether it is designed, or undesigned, that the word “commandment” occurs four times, as if in allusion to the first table of the law, which, as we know, consisted of four commands. God begins here with “See My love to you,” and He never in the New Testament—I am going to say something which may startle you—He never in our epistle says, “Love Me.” He does say so in the Old; but He does not now here; because, I suppose it is, that we are sure to love Him if we are born of God. “We love Him because He first loved us.” We cannot help ourselves there; but the divine life of Christ in a believer is often so feebly developed, that you will sometimes find it most difficult to love the Christ in some poor believer, where there is a deal of flesh manifest in him, so that God gives the command to love the Christ that is in a believer; still there is no command to love the Christ of God, or to love God, here. The New Testament command is not, “Love Me; “but “Believe in My love to you,” and that one command is called a commandment four times.

Well then, another point here is, that those commands of Moses occur at the very beginning, as it were, of the Old Testament. As soon as ever God brought His people out of Egypt He gave them these ten commandments; whereas these commandments now stand right at the end of the New Testament— right at the very end, in the picture of the family of God in the world in this epistle of John. And, now, I want you to see how appropriately they occur here. You observe that the line of thought in this chapter is the working of the divine life in God’s people. They are the children of light, and so do righteousness; they are born of God, and so love one another; and then there is one more feature which I have to speak upon in a minute,—they have the same Holy Ghost as Christ has. As the Holy Ghost rests on Christ, and in Christ; so the Holy Ghost rests in us, and therefore, with such an utterly new state of things the old commands of Moses would not avail, and thus there are new commands. They occur so very beautifully in this place—“Believe in My love to you, and love one another.” That He says to us all. Supposing that you or I do believe in God’s love to us; then God still says, “Continue to believe in My love to you.” It is not a command merely for others, and not for you. If you do believe in God’s love, you must believe in it more, take it more into your heart, take it more into the very depths of your spirit; and if you were to take it in, as God wants you to take it in, I believe you would never sin once, because you would be so occupied with the love of God. If we sin, it is because we believe that the sin in which we indulge will gratify us more than the love of God, and that is because we are not taking the love of God into our hearts at that moment. God is saying to us, and He is saying to any unconverted man here, “Believe in My love; I have put My Son upon the cross to show that love; could I do more?” If any unconverted man is here, that is what God is saying—“I have put My Son upon the cross; believe in My love; see how very much I love you.” I shall show you that that thought is worked out more in the fourth chapter; I shall show you there the working out of the love of God, and the believer being perfected in that love; but even here you see the preparation for it, that we are commanded to believe in the love which God has to us.

I just draw one lesson from the exposition of these commands in the New Testament. I do not suppose that anybody can but see that the drift of these two commands shows that we are not under law, but under grace; that we are not under Moses, but in Christ.

Oh! it does seem to me to be such a mistake, for people to rehearse the commandments given by Moses, and even to persist in making that a part of God’s worship, to be putting themselves under Moses; when God, by giving us this marked, this perfect contrast between His commands now and His commands before Christ came, shows us, as I say, that we are not under law, but under grace.

And then do, beloved friends, observe how beautifully this allusion to these two commands occurs just here. “We have got the divine life, showing itself in righteousness and in love; we are looking up to God with confidence, waiting for Christ without terror; we are speaking to God, and knowing that He hears us, and then God says, “Here are my commands; I shall not tell you not to go and do this, that, and the other; if you have got the divine life, you will not want to do them; what I tell you now is to go and love one another, and to live in the enjoyment of My love to you.”

Now, who could suppose that the ten commandments were, as some will have it, “the perfect expression of the mind of God,” as they are called; when, if you come to look at them, they are ten “nots;” that is what I often call these ten commands—“ten nots.” “Thou shalt not have any other gods but Me.” “Thou shalt not worship any graven image.” “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” “Thou shalt not steal,” and so on. They are “ten nots,” negatives, negatives, negatives. Surely, surely, that cannot be the expression of the mind of God. They are all very well as far as they go; I am not speaking against them; but they are only “ten nots.” Twenty “nots “would be better still. Ten candles are very good; but twenty candles are better still. But who needs ten candles, or twenty candles, when we have the light of the sun? We are not Ritualists; we do not need ten candles, when we have the light of the sun. Beloved friends, we are not under law. There is a negative for you; if you will have negatives, have that. We are not under the law, but under grace.

And now observe the last of these workings of the divine life. “And he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him; and hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit He hath given us.” We have the Holy Ghost. Oh! if I have the Holy Ghost, do I need to be limited to ten “nots?” If I have the Holy Ghost, I shall live like as Christ lived, in so far as I am led of the Spirit. This is the meaning of those next verses in the next chapter. It is the mention of the Holy Ghost that leads the apostle to say, “Beloved, believe not every spirit; but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every Spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God; and this is that spirit of Antichrist whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world.” The idea is this:—A man may say, “Oh! but how may I be sure that I have the Holy Ghost?” and God, whilst He answers the question, gives a caution. God says, “Bear in mind there are two spirits in the world.” We must not forget that. It is being impressed upon believers, thank God, just now, that the Holy Ghost is in the church, that the Holy Ghost is in the believer; but this passage shows us that there is also another spirit in the world, besides the Holy Ghost, and that the two spirits go counter to one another. There is the spirit of Antichrist, as well as the Spirit of Christ. How may I know, when I am led to do a certain thing, whether I am being led by the Spirit of Christ, or by the spirit of Antichrist? Why, look and see how Christ was led. We all know that Christ was led of the Holy Ghost. If the spirit that is in us leads us to live and to act utterly dissimilarly to the way in which Christ lived and acted, you may be sure that that is not the leading of the Holy Ghost. I do not need to dwell upon it, because it is much the same teaching that we were considering before with regard to Antichrist. I only just say that the spirit of Antichrist is that which leads a man not to be contented with the favour of God’s smile, not to delight in God, and wait patiently for God’s time for glory; but seeks for glory here, seeks for the praise of men, seeks to attract the eye of men, seeks for glory and honour from men in this world. Christ did not do this. “He shall not strive nor cry, neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets.” There are thus two spirits. The spirit of the world leads men to seek more and more the glare of day, the éclat of life; that is the spirit of Antichrist. But if you are led of the Holy Spirit, you will not care how lowly you are; you will not find much jostling down in the low place; there are very few that struggle to be little; there are many that struggle to be great. If you are led of the Spirit, you will be led to tread the path that Christ trod, and that is the mark which God gives as to the leading of the Holy Ghost. “And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.” And then He shows us how the Holy Ghost works by showing us how the Holy Ghost worked in Christ. You see the path which the Holy Ghost led Christ to take, and if the Holy Ghost is in you He will lead you to take, in your measure, the same path, and to follow in Christ’s steps. “If any man serve Me, let Him follow Me.” That is the meaning of that expression which says that “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” That the blessed Lord Jesus was here in this world, despised and rejected as He was. Oh! it is a wonderful thing that the blessed Lord Jesus hung upon a cross. “Who wants this world, its glories, its applause, when Christ found nothing here? Who wants it? We do not want it, if we are Christians. We are contented to be strangers and pilgrims here, and to wait for our time of manifestation when the Lord Jesus comes. That is the idea, that in the confession that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, there is the Spirit of Christ. So, as you see that He who trod the lowly path, and went on taking the lower place, was Christ, and that that was the working of the Holy Ghost in Christ, and as you confess that, you will follow Christ, and then you are being surely led of the Holy Ghost in your day, like as Christ was led of the Holy Ghost in His day.

Now, this is what a great many Christians will not see; but, beloved friends, I want to be faithful to you. A great many Christians shut their eyes to the path in which the Holy Ghost calls them to walk, to seek to be little, to seek for nothing save the favour, and smile, and love of God, to be contented with God, and to wait for the time of glory when Christ comes. That is the meaning of those words, “They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us: he that is not of God heareth not us.” The meaning of that expression is this:—” We, who are the apostles of God, testify how Christ lived; we testify what was Christ’s path; we testify that the path of Christ was the path of self-abasement; the world will not hear us.” I have sometimes heard these words commented on, thus:—“No one is inspired now, and therefore no one may speak so authoritatively as John did.” That is true enough; but that hardly touches the sentiment of the passage; it has a deal more in it than that. The meaning is, that the inspired apostles of the Lord and Saviour testify that the path of the Lord Jesus was a path, from up to down, a path of self-abasement, a path of taking the lower place, looking for God to exalt Him in His time. “They that are of the world will not hear us; they that are of God will hear us.” That is the meaning of the passage.

Lecture 7.

We have now come to the second section of the second part of this epistle. The first section of the second part shewed us the workings of the divine life; this section shows us how we get that life.

How do we obtain it? Not by our getting up to God; but by God coming down to us. To make us partakers of His nature, He worked to get down to us. I should like to shew you the arrangement of the subject here, before going into the details. God is seen at work in this section in two stages, to bring His love down to us; then His love is seen quite getting into us, and afterwards His Spirit dwelling in us, and we in Him; and in two stages more we are seen to be fully in the position in which His love has placed us. There are two stages in His love descending to reach us; two stages in His love in us indwelling; and two stages ascending to bring us up there; there are many other points; but I speak of these first. For instance, there is the word “perfection,” a word some are afraid of; but we should not be afraid of anything that is in the bible.

Now look at verse 7, which ought to be the commencement of the chapter. For the first six verses belong properly to the argument of the preceding chapter. “Beloved;” that is not an unmeaning expression, when we find it in God’s Word. We are apt to use it as a formal introduction; but not so God. It is the same as in chap. 3:1, “Ye loved ones.” He has been saying, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,” and then He goes on to say, “Ye loved ones, now are ye the sons of God.” God addresses us by all these terms of endearment,— “little children,” “sons,” “loved ones,” and how blessed! it is all in Christ our Lord.

Let us look at the first stage in the descending scale of God’s love. Ver. 8: “God is love,” and if we are His children, we must have His nature. In chap. 1 we are told that “God is light; “here it is, “God is love.” Truth is two-sided; we must not lean on one side and ignore the other; that is the cause of all error. Heresy is just a selection of truth. The statement in ver. 8, “God is love,” refers to God’s love coming forth to meet us; it introduces the descending scale of God’s love. In ver. 9 the love is “manifested.”

There are three manifestations mentioned in the New Testament. Here is one—“In this was manifested the love of God.” The second is in John 14:21, “I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him; “and the third is in 1 John 3:2, “When He shall be manifested.” I beg you to remember that these three must be maintained in their divine order, their proper order, otherwise you may get into mistakes. I have often heard people say, “I want a manifestation of the love of God;” but they forget that God not only does a thing, but He does it in order. Now we find that God’s manifestation of His love in John 14 is dependent on our obedience; “I will manifest Myself,” He says, “to the obedient disciple.” In this Christ is one with the Father; but in this first manifestation, God sent His Son without any obedience on our part; that is past; the second is continually going on; and the third is future, “When He shall be manifested.” There is the divine order of the three manifestations of God, one past, one present, one future. If there is anyone here who says,” I want a manifestation,” are you thoroughly established in this, that the love of God was manifested? If you want a manifestation before being saved, God has given you an overwhelming manifestation of His love. It would be a disparagement of the manifestation of Himself that He has already given, if He were to give you a second before you have believed the first. You must begin with the gift of God, the gift of His Son, His only Son. God does love us, and He has manifested that love.

The second manifestation is one of obedience, that is, it is dependent upon the obedience of a Christian; but if you want a private manifestation of Christ, before seeing the overwhelming manifestation of God’s love in the gift of His Son, this would be a slight upon that Son of His. Are you clear on the first point? Do you see that God in love to you gave His Son? Do you say, “God gave His Son to bear the sin of a sinner like me? “If so, you will obey Him; then you will get the second, and you will have the third in time; but to apprehend the second and third, you must begin at the beginning. In verse 10 we get the second stage in the manifestation of God’s love. You observe there are two stages in the descending scale of God’s love, as if the Holy Ghost would fix our thoughts on the gift of the Son at all, apart from His sin-bearing, apart from His dying on the cross. Look at the two, at Bethlehem and at Calvary. The Holy Ghost suggests, in the first place, the greatness of the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ at all; and then shows him to us as the propitiation for our sins. Now you observe that God has so arranged it that we live, and that we have love in us. It is God working to make us His children. The nature of God is in us, and that gives us a very important principle, now-a-days, to observe, namely, that in divine life there is love and joy. Hence some persons are mistaken as to the non-eternity of punishment. True there is no life but in Christ, but life and existence are totally different. There is so much wretchedness in the world; we are prone to say it is life; but there is no love in it. The world itself is almost driven to feel, that life is one thing, and existence is another; and so it is said of some, “They have a bare existence.” Even in animal life, God seems as if He showed that life was a different thing from existence; life is existence with joy. When a lamb is born, how it begins to leap about the fields; when a little kitten is horn, how it begins to gambol about your fireside; then life is seen to be beyond existence, there is an element of joy in it, and how much more with eternal life—life in Christ! All exist; the wicked, when they are brought out of their graves and stand before the great white throne, are four times called “the dead; “yet surely they are living in some sense when coming out of the graves and going into the lake of fire.

And so, as God works on, the purpose of the Son of God is that we might live through Him.

In verse 9, “the only-begotten Son” is the title given to the Lord Jesus; but that title is changed now by His resurrection. When it was love descending, it was “the only begotten;” but that is not His only name now; in resurrection He is the “first-begotten from the dead.” (Col. 1:18.) God, for you, as it were, gave a new title to Christ in Colossians, when He shows that He regards that blessed Lord Jesus as having actually communicated His own life, and that He is not only “the only begotten; “but, as also having communicated His own nature, He is the first begotten, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence.

“In this was manifested the love of God.” You observe there is nothing here about taking away sins. The fact that Christ came is a proof of God’s love; but that love had not reached us. Were Christ here in the flesh, as He was when, on one occasion, seated on Jacob’s well, or as when walking in the Temple, it would be a manifestation of the love of God; it would not be that full manifestation which has descended to our need, which has come down where the sinner is; there would still be a great gulf between the Lord Jesus and us; for He is holy, and we are sinners. The Lord Jesus comes where the sinner is, and He must come lower than into the world. Nearly all the error of the Romanists, Ritualists, and Unitarians, springs hence—that the Lord Jesus coming into the world, identified Himself with the human race. No; it was in death and resurrection He has got His people identified with Himself. Apart from death He has not reached us. And when they invent a religion, which links Him in with us because He took human nature, they forget the fact that He was a holy man, and that we are not by nature holy men, but wretched sinners. The Holy Ghost says, Here is love for you! “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” There is the love in its descending scale; it has reached us—“a propitiation for our sins;” “Christ was made sin for us.” I have often observed, that when Christians talk about these things, the truth is so strong, so extreme, they wince at it. I have observed Christians speak of Christ as hanging upon “the accursed tree;” that is not the language of Scripture; Scripture does not say the tree was cursed; but He who hung upon it was cursed; not the tree, but the holy, blessed, pure One, was made a curse for us; the Holy Ghost says it. He was not only accused; but was “made a curse.” There is strength of language there, which I am sure everyone here would scruple to use, unless the Holy Ghost said so; as if all the sin of us all was upon Him. Oh, Lord, Thy love is indeed great! Going down till He could not get lower. “Christ made sin for us,” there is the love of God “perfected; “it has come down “perfectly.” If we are Christians at all, it is because His love has got down as low as it could possibly get. God’s love could get no further than for the only-begotten Son of the Father to become a curse for us, that He might be able to say, “Come, ye blessed children of My Father.” There is love which is perfect; it has come right down to us.

God did not ignore that we were sinners; He did not ignore the fact that we had departed from Him. We were sinful; so He who knew no sin, was “made sin,” was “made a curse “for us, and thus His love was perfected. The Lord Jesus could not go lower than He did, and now He has come so low, that whenever anyone hears the gospel he hears this word, “We have seen and do testify, that the Father sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins;” by coming down into our true position, and taking our sin upon Him, He came to be the Saviour of the world. I do think, after all, that there is nothing so comforting as the consciousness that God did not blink the fact that we were sinners, that He distinctly looked at that, and made provision for it; and now, though I condemn myself; and though God’s law and the world condemn me; and I was altogether opposed to God; yet the Lord Jesus can fold me to His bosom, and say, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” The blessed Lord Jesus has come in truth, come in light; yet that Holy One can speak a word of divine grace to my spirit, such as no one else could say—as He could not have said, if He had not come into my true condition, and been made a curse for me.

Oh! it is a fearful responsibility to reject the gospel. If a man hear the gospel, and turn a deaf ear to it, it is not then merely that he is a fallen creature; for God has made a provision for him as such; the love of Jesus has come down so low, that even for the vilest sinner there is mercy, if he accepts that salvation. The ground of condemnation in the New Testament, the reason why men are self-condemned, is not that they have done this, that, or the other; for all sin there is provision; but there is no provision for the rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so, as one has said, “It is not the sin-question, but the Son-question,” between God and the world, and according to whether you receive Him or not, you have condemnation or salvation,— “Whosoever shall confess,” &c. (ver. 15.) “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.” Now as to this love indwelling in us. In the first place, we must see that God’s love has perfectly, actually reached us in our lost condition. Then we know and believe the love of God. Then it is not only “to “us (verse 16), but in us en hjmin. At length it is perfected in us. Now His Spirit can and does dwell in us, even causing us to begin to dwell in God. Nor is this a matter of great and advanced attainment. On the contrary, the Word says that whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. Thus the second process—the manner of God’s love getting into you—is evident. For He wants you, yourself. He will rest in His love to you, and bring you at length to rest in His love, too.

Now, we can look at the love ascending. The first statement is introduced (as was the first view of the descending love of God) by those words, “God is love.” That is a barbarous translation in verse 17 —” Herein is our love; “it should be, “Love with us.” It is the love of God seen to be perfect in its heights, as in its depths. That love was not all seen in fixing the Son on the cross; there is another side; putting you on the throne; that is the other side—and, in one sense, the higher. Christ coming into your place is not the end of His work; there is also the bringing you into His own position, as in that passage already quoted—“He was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” There is God’s object, there is the ascending scale.

“Herein is love.” I could beg those of you who wish to understand the apostle John, to rub out that word “our.” Herein is God’s love perfected in its height. The idea comes in, too, that “as He is, so are we in this world.” What a grand statement that is! Who can worthily expatiate upon it! I feel it to be altogether beyond me. Altogether associated with the Lord Jesus! It reminds me of what I told you on the first chapter, where He was the Son, come down that we might have fellowship, or partnership, with the Father, and be one with Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, instead of attemping to set forth this oneness with Christ, in any words of mine, I will just refer you to one chapter in the gospel of John, where the Lord Jesus Himself states, in seven different ways, our identification with Himself. In evidently the crowning chapter of the gospel (the 17th chapter) there are the words, “as,” or “according as,” seven times. There is the same life: “As thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him, (ver. 2); the same bond of union, (ver. 11); the same separation from the world, (ver. 14); the same sending out into the world, (ver. 18.) How is Christ one with the Father? By the Holy Ghost. You are one with Christ by the Holy Ghost. We are not united to Christ by faith; but by the Holy Ghost. It would be a poor thing to be united to Christ by faith; there is a time when faith shall not be. Do you think our union will end then? No, it is by the Holy Ghost. Then, as to the separation from the world. We are not of the world, for the simple reason that we have died out of it, and are born again. I have not got to mend the world by concerts and philanthropic devices, &c.; the world is doomed; so far from its being mended, it is utterly evil, and the thing is impossible. What I have to do, is to stand out of it, and lift other people out of it, if I can; and the more we know the mind of God, the more we shall see this. We have not to vote for members of parliament, or get up penny readings. Christ did not do that. Christ conquered the world by hanging on the cross. And we are as Christ, identified with Him, and separate from the world. After separation from the world, then we are sent into it. The order of God is very beautiful; we are first thoroughly separated from the world, and then sent into it. We are not to take any lower ground than Christ, because we have the same Spirit as Christ. We are not living down here; we are to bless the world, but as Christ did. Oh that men would reverence God’s order. They go into the world, and try to improve it. If I am a Christian, I am neither whig nor tory, neither Englishman nor Frenchman. I have nothing to do with the world, but to bless it from Christ’s own stand-point. Fifthly: there is the same actual union now as God with Christ (ver. 21), “That they all might be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee.” I am trying to shew you that we are identified with Christ, even in this world. There is the same identification and union with Christ, as Christ has with God. Christ came into our place, took our curse, our sin,. our doom, with the purpose to bring us into this position, the same position as Himself; “as He is, so are we in this world.” Look at those words, “The glory which Thou gavest me,” &c, (ver. 22.) Sixthly, there is a union fraught with future blessing, a union to be developed in the future with God, Christ will be known as one with the Father, and so shall we, (ver. 23.) Then, seventhly, “Thou hast loved them as Thou hast loved me.” It is so like God to keep the best wine till the last. Do we believe this? For this is in the gospel; these are not my words; I am trying to give you simply the solemn utterances of the Holy One. It occurred to me that in enlarging on this subject, I could not do better than give the exact words of the Lord Jesus. In these seven things, He Himself in His prayer says, that “as He is, so are we in this world.” Is not this love indeed?

Now observe; before I go further I must ask your attention to a fact. In the two stages of love descending, God began with the higher and went down to the lower; Jesus Christ came into the world; then, takes our sins. Now, in the ascending scale, God begins at the top, and then comes down a stage, in order to balance with the other two. “Herein is love,” that we saw perfected in its height in identifying us with the Son of God: “As He is, so are we even in this world,” even in the midst of our cares and our perplexities. And then He comes a stage lower; the word is now, “There is no fear in love.” This is love perfected in its heights as well as in its depths; it casts out fear, because fear hath torment. I am only now speaking of the stages of the scale. God first shews He has put you in association with the risen Lord, though you are yet in this world; now then He goes a stage lower, and He says, “You will not be afraid of anything that comes upon you in the world, if so be you are in My love.” As if He had said, “My son, you will not be afraid of anything in the world.” God’s love casts out fear; it is incompatible with it, because fear (as it ought to be rendered) hath punishment. God beholds us as one with His Son, and He cannot punish us. You will be afraid of nothing, because there is no fear in love. You cannot be afraid of poverty, if you are perfected in the love of God. Do you think that God could ever let His Son die of hunger or thirst? And do you think that God could let you starve for want of exercising His almightiness to give you a loaf? You will not be afraid of anything that could happen; there is no fear in love; and if God loves Christ, He must love you; as much as God loves Christ, He loves you. Do you think Christ could have starved? or can the devil hurt Him? I do not say that we apprehend it. “He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” If you and I are fearing, it merely shows that our heads have got beyond our hearts; it merely shews that we are not established in the love of God as we should be.

After an address I gave on this subject elsewhere, a lady came to me and said, “I do not think I am perfected in the love of God; for there is a big dog at my neighbour’s house, and I believe it bites people, and every time I pass the house I fear.” But one perfected in the love of God will say, “God will take care of me; all I have to do is to try and please Him and mind His will, and not care about myself; even my character I should leave to God, and care only to please Him, my Saviour and Friend. What a grand position for the family is set forth in the second part of this epistle! The family in the world are “as Christ” in this world! Oh perfection of love!

But how am I to get perfect? Do you say, I don’t believe in perfection? We have no need to be afraid of anything in Scripture; and if Arminians and Wesleyans wrest the words of God, we will look them full in the face, and lean on all sides of truth. Perfection I take to be this: God reveals Himself in a given form, and then the believer is said to be perfected when there is a full correspondence on our part to that revelation. For instance, we read in Genesis that God said to Abraham; “I am the Almighty God: walk before Me, and be thou perfect; “the idea there is, You need not care for the goods of Sodom; I am the Almighty God, and I will take care of you; confide in My almightiness. When God said to Abraham, “Be perfect,” He meant, walk in correspondence with the revelation. I illustrate it thus: suppose you have a looking-glass, and present a particular object before it; there is a perfect correspondence between the object and the glass. God ever presents Himself before the believer as the object for him to gaze upon. Perfection is correspondence to the revelation. So “be you perfect,” (Matt. 5:48); don’t insist upon your rights; for your Father is not doing that now. God is exhibiting grace; you are His child; don’t insist on your rights. Again, look at Heb. 9:9, 10, “Perfect as pertaining to the conscience.” There is a reference to the act of Christ sat down as the Sin-purger, and presented to your gaze. “When He had purged your sin, there was not so much as a spot of sin upon Him; for if there were, He could not be there. Look at that object, and you will have a perfect conscience; you will see there is no such thing as sin upon you; for if there were, God could not look at His Son at all. Therefore, if my gaze is upon Christ, the Sin-purger, my conscience is clean. There is the Object that God puts before my soul—Christ the Sin-purger; and if it be a question of my sin, it is gone. It is not that I have not committed sin; but, gazing upon Him, I am clean as He is that is on the throne. That is what is meant by a perfect conscience; not that there is no sin; but that you are perfect according to that Object beheld by you.

The perfection of love here is somewhat different. It is the presentation of God as love. We have just seen that the love of God was perfected; God in this epistle of John presents Himself as love; so now it is seen that His love is perfected upward, when the Christian is seen as Christ, and as one with Christ: and the love is perfected downward, for God in His love could not get lower; Christ got underneath your sins; and then God put you as high as His Son. Well then, observe, perfection here is when there is a correspondence of soul to this revelation. Observe these two facts: when you believe in Christ, God’s love gets into you; it has been tapping at the door of your heart (it may be for years) every time you heard the gospel; but when you believe, and take the full salvation, the love of God gets into you; when at last you see that the precious Son of God His own self died for you on the cross, the love of God has got right into you; and so, observe, it is said of every Christian, that God’s love is perfected in him, (ver. 12); if we love one another, that is a proof that divine love has perfectly reached us—the love of God in its descending scale must have got into you, (commonly called conversion). But it is quite another thing to get fully into the love of God. I will read two Scriptures on this point. Rom. 5:5: “The love of God is poured out (Greek) in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us; “that is God’s love, not ours. God’s love is poured into your heart. Once you were hard, and thought perhaps you were a reprobate; but the love of God, like an avalanche, has come down, and broken down every obstacle, and it has got right into your heart. The love of God is shed abroad in your heart; every Christian can say that,—“I know the love that God hath for me.” But then there is another stage, and that is, have you been fully brought into the love of God? Turn to 2 Thess. 3:5: “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God;” there you have exactly the reverse doctrine to that of Rom. 5. Do you see that in Romans, the love of God is contemplated as having obtained an entrance into your heart; but here the prayer of the apostle is, that you may be perfected in the love of God; there is all the difference in the world between the two; and every time you look at God’s love, you will find a driblet of love at least gets further in your heart. You little know how much God loves you; you little see how much is involved in the Holy Ghost being in you; and you are to apprehend that God’s love is perfected in you; for it has reached you in the depth of your misery; and you should then seek to be perfected in the love of God. This you see, when you are conscious that God has put you in association with His Son up there; and then, what is most important, not only has the love of God got into you; but you are in a new element, and as a child you are quite at home in it. Once, it seemed too good to be true, more than you really could conceive, that Jesus came to save you by hanging on the cross; but God says, “I have a deal more to tell you, more love than that; but you cannot bear it now.” God wants you to live, and breathe, and spread out in that love —“rooted and grounded in love;” have the roots spread out in all directions? First it was a tiny feeling—“God loves me,” a tiny root; but it grew, and the more you live upon Him, gazing on His love, the more you will be perfected in love. Have you observed, that in Eph. 3 the believer is contemplated as placed in the very centre of the love of Christ; not the brink, but the centre is the believer’s stand-point, and from this stand-point he may look at the height, length, breadth, and depth of love, as if, whichever way he looks, he is fronted by love in all directions. We may be as full of joy, as free and easy as possible, and the more we get into His love, the more we are at home in it. The believer is made one with the Son of God Himself, and He apprehends all God’s love perfected in its height. As you perceive this, you will not be in spirit fancying yourself in danger, wrapping yourself up in doubt, fencing yourself in apprehension. Every Christian has God’s love perfected in him; but it is not said of every Christian that he is perfected in the love of God. God loves the “fathers,” the “young men,” the “little children,” as He loves His Son; but the babes know less of His love than the young men do, and the fathers know more of the love than the young men. The mother loves the babe, and knows all about it; but the babe knows it not. We have not to earn the love, but to apprehend it more. We are not afraid of the word perfection. I think I see more of the love of God to me than ever I did; and oh, I feel sure that my Father would tell me more of His love, if I would only keep my eye fixed on Jesus Christ. If I look on the Son, and see how God loves the Son, I may sing, “Such is His love to me.” If we have a shadow of fear of anything harming us, or of any good thing being denied us, we are not perfected in love. God says to us, “You are not perfected in My love, you are a little bit afraid to trust Me.” I am sometimes reminded of that text, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” I never heard of a mother loving her child so much as to count the hairs on its head; but God does it for His children, and not with one only, but with all His children. Oh, how dear we must be to God! If we could only give up this hesitation and doubt, and gaze more upon this love, we should come to be more at home in it.

So far, then, as I know, I have cleared the matter. In the gospel of John, Jesus says, “Believe ye not that I am in my Father.” In the epistle it is the love to the sons, God in the believer, and the believer in God. Do you see its connexion with the gospel? yet it is an advance upon it; there it is the “only-begotten Son,” and, “who is in heaven,” as He said to Nicodemus. But now at length the word spoken of us here is, “God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” These are divine, precious realities, and may God the Holy Ghost help us to apprehend them, and live in the power of them, and so go out into the world remembering we are the sons of God, one with God for ever, through Christ.

Lecture 8.

We are now to look at the last chapter of the first epistle. I do not think I need say any more on the fourth chapter; I trust I made it perfectly apparent to everyone why the expression “God is love” occurs twice, and what is the difference between the believer having the love of God in him, and the believer being in the love of God, and also his being perfected, in the love of God. These were the outlines of our thoughts on the fourth chapter. There was first the statement, “God is love,” in the descending scale, proved by two stages: by sending His Son at all, and, secondly, by His sending His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Then, again, the statement, “God is love,” is made, and our eye is pointed not to the love descending, but to the love indwelling and exalting, to the love that lifts us up to the full and perfect association with Christ in heaven; so that “as He is so are we in this world.”

And then the Holy Ghost, as if to make it a very practical matter, comes down from that altitude one step lower, to show that if we are thus conscious of oneness with Christ, we are not, and cannot be afraid of anything. And then that reminds me of the second line of thought in that chapter, namely, the believer having the love of God in him. That is predicated of every Christian, that every Christian has the love of God in him; so it is said, “His love is perfected in us;” it has perfectly reached us, if we believe in Christ. But it is one thing to have the love of God perfected in us, to have quite got down and reached us, and another thing for the believer to be perfected in divine love; one is true, you observe, of every Christian—His love is perfected in us; the other is stated as a matter of attainment—“He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” The love of God, if we are Christians at all, has got hold of us, has quite reached us; and then as He is, so are we; but we do not fully apprehend that. I need not make any more remarks on the word perfection. I just observe that the word perfection is used invariably in the New and Old Testament for a correspondence of soul to any revelation of God. In the epistle of John it is the revelation of God’s love, and, therefore, the perfection in the epistle of John is the full apprehension of God in that character. When I see that God loves me as much as He loves His Son Jesus Christ, how can I be afraid of anything? So I cited the seven statements of the Lord in the 17th of John, in illustration that “as He is so are we.” There are seven comparisons in that chapter, between the Lord’s own position and ours in Him.

Now, then, we go on with this 5th chapter. It says at the close of the 4th chapter, and the opening verses of the 5th chapter, that the life of God in the believer is shown in these two ways, namely, in the love of the brethren, and by the faith in Christ. It is shown in the love of the brethren in the concluding verses of the 4th chapter and the 1st verse of the 5th chapter, and then the love of God is shown by the actings of faith in Christ in the two or three following verses of the 5th chapter; and thus the actings of the divine life in the believer are set forth in those two ways, in the love of the brethren, and by faith in Christ. The fact of the combination of ideas, love of the brethren, and faith in Christ, seems to suggest that the apostle, or rather the Holy Ghost, was regarding the statement in the 3rd chapter, that God had given us two grand commandments, first, to believe in His love—to believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ, and to love one another. I need not repeat what I have said before, that these two commandments stand exactly as the antipodes of the ten commandments of Moses epitomized by the Lord Jesus. The will of God is epitomized at the end of the 3rd chapter; so that we should believe in the love of God—in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another. Well now, it seems as if the 3rd chapter was again had in view; for here again is something about the love of the brethren, and joined to faith in Christ. As the Holy Ghost returns to it, we just return to it for a moment, though there are other important matters which will take up the time, and therefore I need not tarry upon these. There is the love of the brethren. Observe, the two New Testament commands are put in the obverse order from what they were in the 3rd chapter. “We love Him because He first loved us;” and that is balanced by “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; if he 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 who loveth God love His brother also.” We have it already as a command in the third chapter. Then in the two first verses of the fifth chapter, the sentiment is put in a two-fold form, as is frequent in Holy Writ. What I mean is this, if a man says he loves God, God says, You will love My people then; or if a man says, he loves His people, God says, “You will love Me then.” If we love the parent, we shall love his children, (verse 1); if we love the children, we shall love the parent, (verse 2.) Thus you see the sentiment is put on either side. In verse 1, it is, if we love the Parent, our Father, we shall love all His children; in verse 2, it is—if we love His children, we shall love Him—surely. Do not, beloved friends, think that the double exhibition of the truth is not needed; it is needed. There is a tendency in some minds to lean too much weight on the one, and in some, on the other. I think I may speak “what I have on my mind—I shall be pardoned if I do; because we ought to be practical as well as exegetical. Many of us, and those who worship here on Sunday, know that what are called “brethren principles” are the truth of God. Now there is a tendency with brethren holding brethren principles either to be too lax, or too strict,—to make so much of love of the brethren, as to forget God; or to make so much of the love of God—of Christ, so that you forget and shut out His people. Either side is wrong. I own frankly, I dare not go with those who exclude Christians who are quite as good as themselves, for the sake of any action or rules of men, because they say that they must begin with Christ; nor do I, on the other hand, feel able to be so latitudinarian, as to forget the honour of Christ where doctrine and practice are certainly concerned; the love of the brethren and the love of Christ should go together. “We must not make so much of the love of God, as to disparage the love of the brethren; and we must not make so much of the love of the brethren, as to disparage the love of God. The two sentiments are combined in the first two verses of the 5th chapter. You love the child if you love the parent. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God.” You will see the other side is the love of the Parent. There is a danger we must take care of, either excessive liberality and latitudinarianism on the one side, where anything concerning the truth, and honour, and person, and work of the Lord Jesus is clearly concerned,—(I have in my mind that last device of the devil, to break up the assemblies of the people of God by that horrible doctrine of the non-eternity of punishment, which is a slur upon the cross of Christ. Men must stand up for God. You must keep your eye on the Lord),—but when persons will shut out good men on account of some rules invented by those who may have gifted minds, hear the other side of the Word of God, that if you love Him that begat, you will love Him that is begotten of Him. There you see is the working of the divine life on the one side and on the other. “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.” We have had that sentiment once or twice; therefore I do not think I need tarry here. To wit, that this is the faith that will overcome the world. I will try and present it as vividly as I can—the Lord helping me. Bear in mind the Person on whom we venture our all, is a Man that was hung. I use the word hung, instead of crucified, which word has now rather a religious air about it—a Man who was hung about eighteen hundred years ago as a felon; He was not a felon; but He was numbered with felons. We ventured everything in full view of all—we ventured everything in the conviction that He who was hung eighteen hundred years ago as a felon, is the Person who sustains creation: is the Person who made all things, and is the only begotten and well-beloved of the Father.

Now if we do truly believe in Him, we see then what a judgment of the world is here given, and if we do truly believe that He is God’s Son, we shall be like a man who knows that a ship is very sea-worthy—is certain to return with a good freight, and who is not therefore afraid of venturing all his property in that ship. It is going to foreign climes for a number of months, and it is the opinion of a great many people, that it will not have been out a month before it will sink to the bottom, and woe be to the men who have invested anything in it. But we are so confident that the ship will return, and that for all we embark in it, we shall have a hundred or thousandfold, that we venture everything; we part with everything, because we believe that the ship will come back. To outward appearance there is nothing to encourage us. To go back to the fact: the Person on whom we depend was crucified, and we now see Jesus crowned with glory and honour. We see this; we are not afraid; but yet, having ventured all upon Him, staked everything upon Him, “if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,” We have staked our all upon the return of that ship: upon Christ sitting down at the right hand of God, and coming back; we let go this world; we embark as it were our property in the ship; we invest everything—our hopes of the future—we care for nothing if we do truly believe that Jesus, the Person who hung upon the cross, is the Son of God. If we do not believe in Him now, in proportion as we do not believe, we shall clutch this world, we shall hold it tight; the measure of our clutch of this world is the actual test of the measure of our faith in Christ. It is like a man who has ventured one thousand pounds in that ship; but who has two thousand pounds altogether. If he has a little fear that the ship will sink, he will only invest half his property; but if he is quite sure the ship will come back, he will invest the whole of his two thousand, or twenty thousand pounds, in the ship, knowing that it will come back with a deal in it. If we trust the crucified One, we can give up everything, because we know He will come back, and then it will be a grand day for us. If you truly believe, you will venture everything—you will embark everything in that ship, and the ship will return as sure as God is true, and as sure as Christ said, “I will come again, and receive you to Myself.” Oh! believer; it will be a glorious day for those who have trusted the Lord.

We now come to the more important subjects in this chapter. First we notice where this eternal life is. We have seen how we get it; through the love of God descending, indwelling, and exalting. Now observe where it is. I should like, before I go any further, to clear the passage a little. Bear in mind the word witness, record, testimony, and such words which are here translated differently, are all one single word in the original. “This is the record,” is the same in the original as, “This is the witness.” I want you to bear this in mind. That is the first thing to clear up before I comment upon the passage—just to clear the obstacle away. Again, the 7th verse should read “for there are three that bear record; the spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three are one.” That is how it should read, as any critical commentator will tell you; the words I omitted were not written by the apostle John, and were not inspired by the Holy Ghost; they were put in by some lazy monks, I suppose, or some ecclesiastics of olden times, as an easy proof of the doctrine of the Trinity—which proof is not needed. The words here which are not God’s words, are these, “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.” Let me be understood; of course I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity with all my heart and soul; but those words were not written by the apostle John. There are plenty of Scriptures that do prove the Trinity; but that particular expression is not God’s Word. It contradicts other scriptures. It says, “There are three that bear record in heaven,” and one of the three is the Holy Ghost. Now the Holy Ghost does not bear witness in heaven; the place where the Holy Ghost bears witness is on the earth. The Holy Ghost has come down from heaven, and in a personal, and special, and peculiar manner, is on the earth now, as He was not before the day of Pentecost. The place of the testimony of the Holy Ghost now, is upon the earth, and not in the heavens; and therefore the expression referred to cannot be correct. It clashes with other scriptures, and therefore cannot be God’s Word; for God never contradicts Himself.

Well, now having cleared up the obscurities in the passage—notice, please, what is the witness, or the record, or the testimony? The witness, or record, or testimony, is two-fold: that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son; the life is in Christ, and God has given it to you. That is the twofold witness on which so much emphasis is thrown by the Holy Ghost. First, God has given us eternal life. I think I have previously remarked that you hardly ever read of eternal life in the Old Testament, only twice from Genesis to Malachi, and then obscurely; but now you read of it continually, especially in the writings of John; for whilst Paul’s theme is grace, John’s theme is the root of grace— Christ, who is the life. At the beginning of this epistle we read that the life was manifested, and came down on purpose to reach us. I never read of angels having eternal life; I believe that they will ever exist; but eternal life is the nature of God; it is not the same thing as existence; Christ has come down, who is one with the Father, and has brought us into union with Himself. God, because He wanted children—because He wanted those who should be able to worship Him with full intelligence—because He wanted those objects on which He might expend His love—because He wanted those who should be very near and dear to Him for ever—chose to pick up a number of wretched outcasts of creation, and give them eternal life. That is the first part of the testimony which God has given; it is not a thing to be attained; it is a thing that God freely gives to those who believe. Then comes the other part of the testimony—“this life is in His Son.” Say you, “Well, I can’t always feel this life; sometimes I do feel able to joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ; but you may be a good man, and know more of the Word of God, and the love of God, than I do; but sometimes I feel almost as dead as a stone.” Believers, you must bear in mind what the testimony is; the testimony is not that the life is in you; but that the life is in Christ’, that is the difference. “God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in His Sow.” Ah! you are looking in the wrong place for it, when you say, “I feel so cold and wretched; “you are not looking at the right place; the life is in His Son. You are rummaging about, and trying to feel and to glow, and then, because you cannot feel and glow as you like, you say, “I fear I have not eternal life.” The life is in the Son; it is not in our keeping; it is in Christ. Say you, “Surely if I am a believer, I have life in myself?” The life comes to you; but observe, the very first act of divine life will lead you to cling more to Christ, and more to Christ, and more to Christ! I was thinking, as I came along, of some illustration, by which I should be able to make plain to you how that, though the life is continually flowing down unto you, yet that the source is reserved in Christ. Let me try and make plain what I am to illustrate, before the illustration; that as a believer, the life is continually flowing, moment by moment, into you and out of you. “He that believeth in Me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” At the same time Satan might, as it were, be able to stop the stream a little; but he can never touch the source; for the source is Christ, who is our Lord, and only He can touch the source; our life is hid with Christ in God, beyond the reach of harm. Oh! how very many times Satan does get at you so far as to check the outflow of that divine life, and you are conscious of it! An improper look, an unholy word, a passionate thought; many, many, many such things continually occur in our walk through life, so as to interfere with the outflow, with the easy flow of that water of life into us, and out of us! But the source is beyond Satan’s reach, and we have been united to the living Christ. The source of our old life was in Adam: and the devil could get at the source of that life—and very wise he was, in his way, when he attacked that life in its source and ruined Adam; so that through Adam, as a source, there has flowed sin and death to all his posterity. But now this life is too precious a matter to be entrusted to our keeping; it is in Christ’s keeping; no, it is not in Christ’s keeping solely; our life is hid with Christ in God! hid with Christ in God! God must die, before the life that has flowed down to you can be cut off. In order to make it plain—how it is that you are occasionally conscious of a state of torpor and numbness in your spirit? You will excuse the homeliness of the illustration. As I walk along the streets, I occasionally see great flaring jets of gas outside large buildings; then there comes a strong gust of wind and blows it sometimes half out, sometimes nearly all out, and I have thought if the wind should blow very strong, it will blow it quite out—and it has appeared to go quite out; but one or two of the jets remain in, and in a moment the wind ceased, and the gaslight flared again from end to end. It is the same with the divine life, only that although the gas might be blown out by the wind, the devil’s temptations cannot touch the source of our divine life. For why? The testimony is that this life is in His Son; it is not in you. It is flowing down to you continually; flowing into you continually; flowing out from you, in proportion as you give yourself up to the Spirit; flowing out from you; but the source—as the 7th of John says—the source of this divine life is in Christ risen and glorified. Oh! what a source f the risen Christ! You know Mr. Speke is noted as the person who discovered the source of the Nile; that was something; but, beloved friends, the Holy Ghost tells us the source of our life is in Christ glorified, and it is flowing on, and on, and on, and down, and it has flowed into us, and flows out from us; because the testimony is, that God has given us this life, and the life is hid in His Son.

Well, that leads me to the next point. You see what the witness is—that is, the record, or the testimony. Then observe the manner in which it is brought to us, so that we get it. “This is He that came by water and blood”—“that came,” that reached us; for the Lord never stops half way—He does not mock us—He came to us who were in a state of death, in a state of sin, He came to reach us. This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ—not by water only, but by water and blood. I believe the allusion in that passage is clearly to the scene which ensued on the soldier piercing the side of the Lord Jesus. You remember, we are told by the evangelist, that there came out from His side blood and water, and “He that saw it bare record, and ye know that His record is true.” The allusion seems clear, indeed we have no doubt that it refers to the fact that the Son of God’s side was pierced with the soldier’s spear. Of course the allusion in the blood and water is to our two-fold need. There was our sin to be put away; the blood does that; but the putting away of our sin is not all we want, is it? I want life. It is not enough that God should see no sin in me; that is very precious; but what God gives besides is eternal life. He does not merely forgive my sins. He might forgive me, for aught I know, and take no more notice of me. But God wanted children, and so not only puts away the sin, but the Lord Jesus communicates life. He does both—He could not communicate the life before He put away the sin; the life could not flow into you until your sin was gone. “Not by water only, but by water and blood.” There was something between. You could not, for instance, send a telegraphic message from Edinburgh to London, if midway between the two ends of the telegraph wire there was a break. You could not send an electric shock through an iron chain if the middle link were wanting—could you? So the Lord Jesus could not pour that life into you till the sin that was between you and God was gone; “not by water only, but by water and blood.” The blood was needed to make the connection perfect, the communication complete; and when the communication was complete, then flowed in the life; it is life from a risen Saviour; there is no union with Christ before His death. The Lord Jesus had to see that the sin was put away. I have something which Christ wanted; Christ has something I wanted. This you see is the first link of connection; I have got sin; Christ has blood to wash it out. There is the way in which the union commenced, by which I am brought to Him. I have got sin, and I want forgiveness of it; His blood can put it away; thus I am drawn to Him, and not only get my sin put away; but He communicates life—“Son, thy sins be forgiven thee; go in peace,” and life and joy flow into my spirit through a risen Christ. I do not think I need enter here upon any discussion of an important point, namely, that although the saints in the Old Testament had life, it certainly was in a very different form from that of the saints now-a-days. The apostles experienced different stages of spiritual life. The first was Jewish life; it was life in a sense, but it was of a Jewish form; for they clung to the Lord Jesus Christ, and did not know that He was to die and rise again; it is clear they did not. Then, as soon as ever Christ was risen from the dead, He communicated that life in a resurrection form; you remember, He breathed on them, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” “What was His object? I remember, many years ago, being perfectly muddled with the statement in the gospel of John, that Christ breathed on them. What did He mean by it? what was the object of it? The allusion is to the scene in the Book of Genesis, where God breathed into Adam the breath of life, and Adam became a living soul. So the life of Christ in resurrection was communicable! The life had been pent up in Him before; it oozed out at times; but now it might flow freely out, because the sin was gone by water and blood. The soldier’s spear opened the fountain of life, that the life that was in Christ should flow out to us. He breathed on them; and thus they passed into another state, and now had that eternal life freely flowing into them; because the vase of ointment was broken, and its odour flowed out on every side. But presently the Holy Ghost came down from heaven; that is the crowning work of God now, not merely to give us life in a risen Christ; but to give us the Holy Ghost, through a glorified Christ, and thus thoroughly to unite us to the Lord Jesus. There was first the life flowing out from a risen Christ into us, and then came the Holy Ghost; that came to pass at Pentecost. Christ communicated life when He said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost;” and yet He did not give them the Holy Ghost personally then; it was not until after He was ascended. What is meant is, I conceive, that Christ reached us—He came to us; before we could come to Christ, Christ must come to us. We have not a long journey before we can get to Him. That is a precious thought! We have not a long way to go to Christ. The Word is “nigh” to them—one look at Him, and you are saved! What a precious thought! When we use the words, “Come to Christ,” it does not mean a long wearisome journey; but if we jusf call on the Name of the Lord Jesus, we are saved! It is because He has reached us, and thus is so close to us that we can touch Him, and we are at once made whole and clean every whit. He came to us, observe, before we can come to Him. This is He who reached us by water and blood. Thus, then, we get the two testimonies, that this life has been given to us, and that this life is in His Son. These are the two witnesses.

Then comes the third witness, namely, the Holy Ghost, and “it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth;” the Holy Ghost becomes a third witness; and then the apostle brings them altogether: “There are three that bear record—the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one;” that is, agree in one testimony, or in one witness. There is the word witness again, and you see the meaning of it. “There are three that bear witness”—that is, to you and to me—“the Spirit, the water, and the blood.” The blood which washes you, and by which God established the communication: because as long as there was sin, there was no communication. Secondly, the water whereby the life from a pierced Christ flowed into your soul; and thirdly, the Holy Ghost, which God has given to them that believe. There is the threefold testimony, and they all agree in one witness, or record, or testimony, namely, that our old nature is not a whit better; that our old Adam is not at all improved; but that it is a new life, and a new nature, and that you have been grafted into a new stock, and that the life from that new stock is flowing into you continually. These are the three testimonies, or witnesses. I have turned them the other way, from the order in the text; because there they are considered from God’s point of view, and it is well to look at them from our point of view. They all agree that our nature is too bad to be mended. God never mends that which is bad, never repairs that which is hopeless; but He begins a new work, a new thing; He makes a living union with a living Christ. Thus the three witnesses agree in one. I do not know whether you will see any coincidence in a type that I will just refer to from the Old Testament; it is a singular corroboration of the epistle under examination, and may help some to comprehend the epistle better; for one scripture, when there is a reference to it, always throws light upon the other. It is a singular fact, that God’s priests were anointed with three things—they were anointed with blood, water, and oil, as you will find, if you refer to the consecration of Aaron and his sons. The antitype of Aaron is Christ; the antitype of Aaron’s sons is His church. If you want to see your proper position in the Old Testament, you must look at Aaron’s sons, who were anointed with blood, with water, and with oil. That is a similar sentiment to that conveyed in our chapter, that there are three that bear record. I must here remind you of one fact. When they were anointed, do you remember which part was anointed first—which part of the body of Aaron’s sons—the ear, the hand, or the foot? It was their ear which was anointed first. Oh! it seems to me to convey such a lesson. That is the way to drink in God’s love, to have the hearing ear; that is the way to be a holy child—to do just what God says. They were anointed first on the ear; but they were anointed with those three things—the blood, the water, and the oil.

Well, there is the record. I have tried to show you what the witnesses are, and how they agree. You must not be at all downcast, if twenty times a day you feel as bad as can be; you must still gaze on Christ, and the love of Christ; and the more you look, the more will you enjoy that life which is in Him.

Well then the next sentiment in this section shows us what the position of the unbeliever is. “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 believeth not the record that God gave of His Son.” When a man is an unbeliever, he is not blamed for not having life, but for his unbelief, he is blamed for making God a liar. An unbeliever says, “I have not life; “but God says, “I have given it in My Son, and if you believe in My Son you have it.” The fault is in making God a liar. God has given His Son; God has revealed Himself in His Son; and the man who hardens himself in his sin, and shuts up in himself all the iniquity, and corruption, and death that is in him, and refuses to have connection with the light and purity that is in Christ, he is making God a liar. He prefers to keep his death to himself—rather than to live out of himself, and to live upon this risen Christ.

I do not know that there is anything else calling for remark in this passage. It is plain the life was in Christ, or else it could not have flowed out; and that it was meant by God to be communicated to us is plain from the fact that it did not stay in Christ. When the soldier’s spear pierced Him, it flowed out. If you say it flowed out for the good,—no, says God, it flowed out for the bad. It was opened by the soldier’s spear. Oh! I have sometimes been melted by that fact, that what brought out the love of God was the extreme depravity of my heart—that what drew out the manifestation of the love of God was my hatred of Him. It was my hatred of God that occasioned that exhibition of the love of God. You and I, you and I, you and I, each had a hand in that spear; we all, as it were, held that spear that went into Christ’s side; we all had a hand in it; we all helped to do it; we all helped to hold it. And how did God treat you when you took the spear and said, “Kill Him, kill Him,” as I did and you did? Did the heavens become dark, and lightnings flash, and thunders roll, and did God say, “Let that wretch go to hell?” No, God spoke, and the blood and the water came out. There was forgiveness of sin and everlasting life for that hard-hearted wretch that said, “Kill Him, kill Him.” The blood that touched that spear said, “See, I put away your sin; and there is life for you, and union with My Son.”

Well, having spoken of where this life is, the apostle closes the statement by saying, “He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life; these things have I written unto you that believe on the Name of the Son of God.” These things have I written unto you, “That ye may know that ye have eternal life;” that is how it should read—“that ye may know that ye have eternal life who believe.” The fact is that since our translation was written, many old manuscripts have been discovered; so that now many passages of the New Testament are better understood than they were even fifty years ago. The words which John wrote were these,—“These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, who believe on the name of the Son of God.”

I will now ask your attention to another little fact—an expression occurs seven times in the epistle of John—that which is translated we know; it occurs altogether fifteen times; but the original word for eight of the expressions is a different one from that of the other seven. These seven are very peculiar and emphatic—words used by the Holy Ghost for we know. Of those seven expressions, five or six congregate round the close of the epistle, as if the believer’s confidence were growing. See how confidence in God seems to be growing towards the end of the chapter. First, with reference to its acting God-wards, and then the confidence we have in Him, is that “if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” There is the confidence of the saint, of the believer in Christ, growing towards God. If you remember, it has already been said similarly in the 3rd chapter, and the 21st and 22nd verses. “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God, and whatsoever we ask we receive of Him.” In our present chapter the sentiment is stated again, but in a much stronger form. In the 3rd chapter the statement was, “We have;” but in the 5th chapter it is, “We know we have;” confidence is growing. In the 3rd chapter, “Whatsoever we ask we get;” but in the 5th chapter, “We know we have what we ask for.” Oh! what a grand thing it seems to be, to know that the sin has gone by the blood; to know that there is the life communicated symbolized by the water; to know that one is united to the Holy Ghost—a child of God—one with Christ—and to walk in that simple confidence, asking God about anything that comes across us! What a position it puts the Christian into. What a grand thing to be a Christian! How different from the religion of many who are fond of talking of their dark days, and of God’s waves and billows going over them! What a difference between that and life! The darkness is past! And though in the Old Testament we read, “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light,” (Isaiah 1:10;) yet that was before the Son of God had come, and the Lord Jesus Christ had brought light and immortality to light by the gospel. Oh! we are not to walk in darkness now; for the Sun is shining brightly. God’s Son has come, and the Lord Jesus has brought light and immortality to light by the gospel. Oh! we are not to walk in darkness now; for the sun, is shining brightly. God’s Son has come, and has lived, and died, and risen again,—and we see Jesus! The Lord deliver you who are here, and all His people, from that which makes men the centre—to that which places Christ in resurrection glory as the centre. Live upon Christ, and you will not be quoting that passage in Isaiah, which does not refer to you at all. This epistle says, “The darkness is past.”

“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” These words, respecting the sin unto death need a little explanation. Some people at once jump to the conclusion, that what is meant here is the unpardonable sin. That is not what is meant by the apostle. What is here meant is bodily death. The idea is of a professing believer, who having grieved God, God in discipline smites him with sickness, or with death. I will cite a case or two from the New Testament. Ananias and Sapphira were professed believers—whether they were sincere or not, I will not say; they sinned grievously, and were struck with death. That was a sin unto death—bodily death—they died. Some persons come to the Lord’s table, “not discerning the Lord’s body, for this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep;” that is, in plain terms, they died. They behaved at that table as if they were partaking of a common meal. I think I have seen it myself, and perhaps have myself acted as I should not. We forget that the bread of which we partake is the communion of the body of Christ. I perhaps, on entering the room, begin talking about the weather, forgetting I am where God the Holy Ghost is present. It may be I want to show my self off, and make my voice heard, forgetting the Lord is there, and that it is His table, and that the bread represents His body; I treat it as a common meal, and the Lord says distinctly, “Many for this cause are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep,” Sleep means in that case—death. Having shown you what is meant by sin unto death, you will understand that it is not the unpardonable sin which is alluded to. “We will now look at the passage more closely. If you see a brother sin, you must pray for him. Do not become a censorious critic, and say, “What do you think,” and go babbling about that man’s sin all over the neighbourhood. If we see a brother sin, we must pray to God about it. Oh! how little of this is there, compared with what there ought to be. Pray to God about it, and say, “I saw a child of Thine doing wrong; do forgive him, heavenly Father.” How seldom is that done! We say, “What do you think so and so has done? “and we go and tell it, and rejoice about it. What we should do is speak to God about it, and say, “Father, he is Thy child. Oh, forgive him, and put away his sin.” And then God says, “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death.” But if God deal with that man in discipline, it has passed beyond our judgment, and we must leave it to God. You can imagine a case like this, a man who is guilty of such fearful sin, that instead of feeling a love for him, the feeling in your mind is horror; he may in consequence of his fearful sin give occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme, and you have a feeling of horror that he could be guilty of such sin. Well, as long as he has life, pray for him; but when God deals with him in discipline unto death, you must leave him to God.

The next remark I would make is, that the word “ask” in the 16th verse, is not the same in the original as the word “pray,” a few words further on. A little reflection will serve to show you that if we use the word ask, we may use it in one of two different senses, either as asking a favour; or as asking a question. Thus compare our use of “pray” and “pry.” Hence, verse 16 teaches us that if we behold a reputed brother sin; but who has not died for his sin,—who has not been dealt with thus judicially by God, we are to pray for him. But on the other hand, if he has died for his sin, as in the case of some of those who discerned not the Lord’s body, then we must leave the matter to God, and not “pry” further. Judgment has passed out of our hands. The illustration in the text is designed to show how thoroughly we may feel at home with God. Even when we are not conscious of sin ourselves we may plead with God in behalf of others. And in my opinion, this sin unto death it is still possible to commit: some may commit it now. No Christian can be lost who has eternal life; but the Lord may deal with him in discipline. I remember a man who was living about twenty years ago, and was a bishop of the church of England, a true child of God, I believe. He appointed a son-in-law of his to a high post in his diocese. Soon after appointing the man to that post, he (the bishop) was smitten with death. That was always a case to my mind when I read that passage—the Lord dealt with him in discipline. Let me be understood; I do not say that a child of God can be lost; but the Lord may lay him on a sick bed, in consequence of what he has done, and may even cause him to “sleep.” “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” It is the sleep of death, and then the matter must be left with God. The dear man I speak of looked as if the Lord received him in full favour; for I believe his last words were, “Hush, heaven!” That appeared to me to be a sin unto death, although the Lord could take him up to His bosom. That is the meaning of the passage.

Now we come to a few closing words. You will find that there are three “we knows.” These last verses are, I think, very searching ones. The Lord in these closing verses is telling you, not merely what in the world is bad, and what in the world is good; He is telling you that what is good in you is divine, and that what is of the world is from the devil. These last verses remind you that you are in a world of utter apostacy, utterly opposed to God; and that what good you have in you is divine, and that what is in the world that is not quite divine, is quite devilish. That is the sentiment in these last closing words. If you are a believer, you are living in the world with a divine nature; the Lord leaves you here to live amid that which is in utter contrariety to Him. That is the sentiment in those words, “We know that whosoever is born of God”— there is a divine nature—“sinneth not,” but “he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” The devil never can make that which is divine anything else but divine. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The Spirit never becomes flesh, nor the flesh spirit. That is the first of the three “we knows.” Please to observe that there the sentiment is stated abstractedly, that whatever is from God here is absolutely divine. Then comes the second “we know,”— “We know we are of God.” That makes it very solemn—putting the two together. If I have a new nature, the devil can never get it down in sin. “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness,” or, the wicked one. As we are said to dwell in God, and God to dwell in us, all the world that is not in Christ is said to be in the devil. By the expression “lieth in” is understood—warmed by his hellish heat; as we receive our life from God, so the wicked receive diabolical impetus from the evil one.

Then follows the third “we know,” after which the apostle indicates that everything outside of Christ is idolatry. “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ.” Take heed, for the world has many ways of alluring the children of God. To attempt to benefit the world by philanthropic measures—for instance, if I as a Christian, go and join a committee of worldly men, intending to benefit my neighbours—all that is blessing the world from a philanthropic, worldly point of view. If I do that, the world may thank me; they may say, “That, is a good man;” but that is taking the world’s crown, and blessing the world from the worldly point of view. A Christian, if he understands divine things, has no business with those philanthropic movements; he sees the whole world drifting to perdition—sunk in idolatry; he dare not have anything to do with all those philanthropic movements—those penny readings, concerts, oratorios, and the thousand other ways of improving men. If he wants to bless the world in truth, really, he should point them to Jesus as the Saviour of the world—begin by bringing them to the living Christ. “This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

1 Thus the grammars express this: Praesens rem durantem, vel saepius repetitam significat. Aoristus, rem semel faetam. That is, “The force of the present tense is to signify what is continued in, or often repeated. But the past tense signifies what is done once.