Chapters One to Ten
PRELIMINARY CHAPTERS-GENERAL AIM OF THE BOOK.
THE DOCTRINE AND FELLOWSHIP OF THE APOSTLES.
"That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." 1: 3. "They continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship."ACTS 2: 42.
Evidently the desire and aim of the writer of this Epistle
is to place all to whom it comes in the same advantageous position which he
himself and his fellow-apostles enjoyed, as regards the knowledge of God in
Christ, and the full enjoyment of the holy and divine fellowship which that
knowledge implies. That is his great design throughout; and this is his
announcement of it at the very beginning of his treatise.
Some think that he is here pointing to his Gospel, and that, in fact, this Epistle was meant to accompany that previously-published narrative, either as a sort of supplement and appendix, or as an introductory letter, explaining and enforcing the lessons of his great biography of his Master. It may be so, although I incline, after some vacillation, to my early formed opinion as to that biography being the loved disciple's last work. And here, at any rate, I rather understand him as referring, not to that particular book at all, but to his ordinary manner of teaching, and its ordinary scope; and as including in the reference all his brethren in the apostleship. When he says, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you," I cannot doubt that he means to indicate generally the "apostles' doctrine" (Acts 2: 42) - the common doctrine of all of them alike. "That which we have seen and heard" - all of us alike - "declare we" - all of us alike - in order that we may have you, our disciples and scholars, our hearers and readers, to be sharers with us in our knowledge and in our fellowship. We would have all the privileges of both attainments common between you and us.
In regard, indeed, to knowledge, we cannot make you as well off as we ourselves have been; not at least so far as knowledge comes through the direct information of the senses, and is verified by their testimony. We have "heard and seen, and looked, and handled" (ver. 1). We have had a personal acquaintance with Jesus in the flesh, and have come into personal contact in the flesh with whatever of God was manifested in him, by him, through him. We have gazed into his face; we have hung upon his lips ; - I, John, have leaned on his breast. We cannot make you partakers with us in that way of "knowing Christ after the flesh" (2 Cor. 5: 16); nor consequently in the sort of fellowship, so satisfying and soothing, "after the flesh," for which it furnished the occasion and the means.
Even if we could, we would not consider that enough for you - enough for the expression of our good will to you - enough to meet and satisfy the necessity of your case. For we have ourselves experienced a great change since the sensible means and opportunities of knowledge and fellowship have been withdrawn. That former knowledge of Christ, with the fellowship that accompanied and grew out of it, ranks with us among the "old things that have passed away." We have all learned to say with our brother Paul, "Yea, though I have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know I him no more" (2 Cor. 5: 16). It is not of course that we forget, or ever can forget, all the intercourse we have had in the flesh with our loved and loving Master when he was with us on the earth. Never can we cease to cherish in our hearts the holy and blessed memories of these precious historical years. But the Holy Spirit has come to teach us all things, and bring all things to our remembrance, whatever Christ then said unto us" (John 14: 26). That former knowledge does not depart; it is not obliterated or annihilated. But it has become new - altogether new, invested with a new spiritual meaning and power; presenting to the spiritual eye a new aspect of light and love.
It is true that what, under this new spiritual illumination, "we have heard, and seen, and looked at, and handled, of the Word of life," is simply what, after the flesh," we had "heard, and seen, and looked at, and handled" before. It is nothing else, nothing more. But it is all new; radiant in new light, instinct with new life and love. With new ears, new eyes, new hands, we have listened, and gazed, and felt. It is a new knowledge that we have got, and consequently also a new fellowship. And it is into that new knowledge and that new fellowship, not into the old, that we would have you to enter as joint Participators with us.
I. As to the knowledge, ,, That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you;" that which we have seen and heard of the "Word of life;" " the Life .;" which ,, was manifested;,, "that Eternal Life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us" (vers. 1, 2). These names and descriptions of the Son undoubtedly refer, in the first instance, to his eternal relation to the Father; of whose nature he is the image, of whose will he is the expression, of whose life he is the partner and the communicator. But this eternal relation - what he is to the Father from everlasting - must be viewed now in connection with what he is as he dwells among us on the earth. It is "the man Christ Jesus" who is the "manifested life." He is so from first to last, during all the days of his flesh; from his being "made of a woman, made under the law," to his being "made sin and made a curse" for us, and thereafter, "for his obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, highly exalted;" from the Baptist's introduction of him to John and others of the apostles as "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world," to the hour when, as John so emphatically testifies, his side was pierced, and "there came out blood and water." Every intervening incident, every miracle, every discourse, every act of grace, every word of wisdom and of love, is a part of this manifestation. In every one of them "the eternal life which was with the Father is manifested to us." He who liveth with the Father evermore, dwelling in his bosom, is manifesting to us in himself - in his manhood, in his feelings, sayings, doings, sufferings, as a man dwelling among us - what that life is, - not liable to time's accidents and passions, but unchanging, eternal, imperturbable, - which he shares with the Everlasting Father, and which now he shares also with us, and we with him.
In the midst of all the conditions of our death this life is thus manifested. For he who is the life takes our death. Not otherwise could "that eternal life which was with the Father be manifested unto us." For we are dead. If it were not so, what need would there be of a new manifestation of life to us? Originally the divine life was imparted to man, the divine manner of dying; for he was made in the image of God. But now that image being lost or broken and marred by sin, death is our portion, our very nature; death, a manner of being the reverse and opposite of God's; having in it no element of changeless repose, but tumultuous tossings of guilt, fear, wrath, and hatred. Such are we to whom the eternal life which was with the Father is to be manifested. We are thus dead; sentenced by a righteous doom, as transgressors, to this death; already and, hopelessly involved in its uneasy, restless darkness. How then can life, the life which is with the Father, be manifested to us, if it be not life that overcomes this dark death, - that is itself the death of it, - that completely disposes of it, and puts it finally and for ever out of the way?
So he who is "the eternal life which was with the Father" is manifested to us" as "destroying this death." He destroys it in the only way in which it can be destroyed righteously, and therefore thoroughly; by taking it upon himself, bearing it for us in our stead, dying the very death which we have most justly deserved and incurred. So he gives clear and certain assurance that this death of ours need not stand in the way of our having the life of God manifested to us, - and that too in even a higher sense and to higher ends than it was or could be manifested to man at first.
For now that life of God is manifested personally, in one who is himself "the life," being "the Son dwelling in the bosom of the Father." He who so wondrously and so effectually takes our death from us is himself the life - "that eternal life which was with the Father and is manifested to us ;" - so manifested that as he takes our death he gives us his life; he being one with us and we one with him. So, in him who is "the life" we enter into life ; - into that eternal life with the Father wherein there can be no more any element of unquiet guilt or stormy passion, but only trust and love and peace evermore.
"The life was thus manifested" while the Word of life, "made flesh, dwelt among us full of grace and truth; and we beheld his glory " - we, his apostles - "the glory as of the only begotten of the Father" (John 1: 14). What we beheld of his glory, as on the mount of transfiguration, we could not indeed then understand, any more than we could understand what we heard Moses and Elijah talking with him about, "the decease to be accomplished at Jerusalem" or what we witnessed of his agony in the garden, in the near prospect of that decease. What our bodily senses then perceived was all dark to our minds, our souls, our hearts; insomuch that when he was taken away we accounted him lost, and ourselves lost with him, and could but cry woefully - " We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel" (Luke xxiv. 21). But new senses of spiritual insight, hearing, touch, have been imparted to us, or opened up in us. And the whole meaning of that exchange of our doomed accursed death for his blessed divine life, - which all the while he was among us he was working out - has flashed upon us; placing in a new light, and investing with new grace and glory, all that presence of our Lord and Master with us, which otherwise must have been to us as a tale that is told.
To have declared to you what we saw and heard, as we saw and heard it at the time, would have been of little avail. The most life-like photographic painting, the most word-for-word shorthand reporting, could only have placed you in the position of our brother Philip, to whom, as representing us all, the Lord had occasion so pathetically to put the question, "Have I been so long with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?" He added, however, then, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." And now we can say that we have seen him. All that we witnessed of the grace and truth of which he was full, when as the Word made flesh he dwelt among us, we can now say that we have seen. It is all now before us in its true significance, as the revelation of "the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us."
What that "eternal life" is; how he is that life with the Father - righteous, holy, loving; how he is that life to us, miserably dead in sin; this is what is manifested in him as he was on earth, and in all that he taught, and did, and suffered. And it is as manifesting this that we, his apostles, "declare unto you that which we have seen and heard." Taught by the Spirit, we would have you to know, taught also by the Spirit, what that eternal life is of which the Lord himself testifies in his farewell prayer for his people, when he says: "This is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (John 17: 3). II. So much for the communicated knowledge. The communicated fellowship comes next - -" that ye may have fellowship with us." The meaning plainly is, that you may share our fellowship, which truly "is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (ver. 3). The object and the nature of this fellowship - " the apostles' fellowship" (Acts 2: 42) - fall now to be considered.
I. The object of this fellowship is the Father and the Son. I say the object, for there is but one. No doubt the Father and the Son may be considered separately, as two distinct persons with whom you may have fellowship. And in some views and for some ends it may be quite warrantable, and even necessary, to distinguish the fellowship which you have with the Father from that which you have with his Son Jesus Christ. As Christ is the way, the true and living way, to the Father, so fellowship with him as such must evidently be preparatory to fellowship with the Father. But it is not thus that Christ is here represented. He is not put before the Father as the way to the Father, fellowship with whom is the means, leading to fellowship with the Father as the end. He is associated with the Father. Together, in their mutual relation to one another and their mutual mind or heart to one another, they constitute the one object of this fellowship.
The Father and his Son Jesus Christ; not each apart, but the two - both of them - together; with whatever the Spirit of the Father and the Son may be commissioned to show, and your spirits may be enabled to take in, of the counsel of peace that is between them both; that is what is presented to you as the object of your fellowship. It is a great idea. Who can grasp it?
A father and a son among men; both of them wise, upright, holy, loving; of one mind and heart; perfectly understanding one another; perfectly open to one another; perfectly confiding in one another; together bent upon some one great and good undertaking; engrossed thoroughly in some one grand pursuit, characterised by consummate genius and rare benevolence ; - that might be an impressive, an attractive picture. To be allowed to make acquaintance with them in their own dwelling where they are at home together; to be admitted into their study where they consult together; to watch the father's face when the son goes out on any errand or for any work agreed upon between them; to witness the embrace awaiting him on his return; to go with the son, as, through ignominy, and suffering, and toil, and blood, and loathsome contact with filth and crime, he makes his way to yonder outcast, and see how it is his father's pity for that outcast that is ever uppermost in his thoughts, how it is his father that he would have to get the praise of every kind word spoken and every sore wound healed; to sit beside the father and observe with what thrilling interest his whole soul is thrown into what his son is doing; and when they come to talk it all over together, when their glistening eyes meet, and their bosoms bound to one another, to be there to see ; - that were a privilege worth living for, worth dying for. Such as that, only in an infinitely enhanced measure of grace and glory, is the object presented to you for your fellowship.
For the illustration so fails as to be almost indecorous. The Eternal Father and the Eternal Son; what the Father is to the Son and the Son to the Father from everlasting; the Father's purpose in eternity to glorify the Son as heir of all things; the Son's consent in eternity to be the Lamb slain; the covenant of electing love securing the fulfilment of the Father's decree and the Son's satisfaction in the seeing of his seed ; - then, the amazing concert of that creation-week when the Son, as the Eternal Wisdom, was with the Father, being "daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth, his delights being with the children of men;" - theft, the Son's manifold ministrations as the angel of the covenant on the Father's behalf among these children of men from age to age till his coming in the flesh ; - and then, stir further - more signal sight still - what the Father and his Son Jesus Christ are to one another, how they feel toward one another, what is the amazing unity between them, all through the deep humiliation of the manger, the wilderness, the synagogues and sea of Galilee, the streets and temple of Jerusalem, the garden and the cross ; - what, finally, is that sitting of the Son at the Father's right hand which is now, and that coming of the Son in his own glory and the Father's which is to be shortly ; - such is the object of "the apostles' fellowship" and yours. It is fellowship "with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ."
2. The nature of the fellowship can be truly known only by experience. In so far as it can be described, in its conditions, its practical working, and its effects, it is brought out in the whole teaching of this epistle, of which it may be said to be the theme. But a few particulars may here be indicated : -
(1.) That it implies intelligence and insight I need scarcely repeat; such intelligence and insight as the' Spirit alone can give. No man naturally has it; no man naturally cares to have it. You may tell me, in my natural state, of tangible benefits of some sort coming to me, through some arrangement between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, of which somehow I get the good. I can understand that, and take some interest in that. The notion of my being let off from suffering the pains of hell, and of indulgence being extended to my faults and failings, in consequence of something that Christ has done and suffered for me, which he pleads on my behalf, and which God is pleased so far to accept as to listen favourably to his pleading, - is a notion intelligible enough, congenial and welcome enough, to my natural mind. But this is very different from my having fellowship in that matter, even as thus put and thus understood, with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Even while reckoning with reckless confidence on impunity coming to me in virtue of some transaction between the Father and the Son, I may be profoundly and most stupidly indifferent as to what that transaction really is, and what the Father and the Son are to one another in it. In such a state of mind there can be no "fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." (2.) There must be faith: personal, appropriating, and assured faith; in order that the intelligence, the insight, may be quickened by a vivid sense of real personal interest and concern. There must be faith: not a vague and doubtful reliance on the chance, one might say, of some sort of deliverance turning up at last, through the mediation of the Son with the Father; but faith identifying me with the Son, and shutting me up into the Son, in that itself. There can be no fellowship without the ground and means of the fellowship; it fellowship itself in essence ; - in germ, em-For if I grasp Christ, or rather if he grasps me, in a close indissoluble union, I am to the Father, in a manner, what he is; and the Father is to me what he is to him. What passes between the Father and the Son is now to me as if it passed - nay, as really passing - between the Father and me. It has all a personal bearing upon myself; I am personally involved in it.
Is it then a kind of selfishness after all? - selfishness refined and spiritualised, the care of my soul rather than my body, my eternal rather than my temporal wellbeing, - but still the care of myself? Nay, it is the death of self. For, first, even in the urgency of its first almost instinctive and inarticulate cry for safety - " What must I do? " - it springs from such a sight and sense of sin and ruin as carries in it an apprehension of the holy and awful name of God and the just claims of God being paramount over all. Then, secondly, in its saving efficacy, it is a going out of self to God in Christ; an acceptance of God in Christ; an embracing of God in Christ; having in it as little of what is self-regarding and self-seeking as that little child's nestling in its mother's bosom has. And thirdly, as the preparation for the fellowship, or as being itself the fellowship, it is the casting of myself, with ever-increasing cordiality of acquiescence very mediation this faith; it is , in fact, the embryo, or seed. and consent, into that glorious plan of everlasting love, in which I am nothing and Christ is all in all ; - of which, when I join the company of all the saved, it will be my joy and theirs to ascribe all the praise "unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever."
(3) This fellowship is of a transforming, conforming, assimilating character. In it you become actually partakers with the Father and the Son in nature and in counsel. For fellowship is participation; it is partnership. The Father and the Son take you into partnership with them. Plainly this cannot be, unless you are made "partakers of the divine nature;" unless your nature is getting to be moulded into conformity with the nature of the Father and the Son. For this end in part, or chiefly, that "eternal life which was with the Father has been manifested to you" in your human nature, that through his dwelling in you by his Spirit, - and so being "revealed in you," - that human nature may become in you what it was when he made it his. Not otherwise can there be community or identity of interest between him and you; not otherwise than by there being community or identity of nature.
(4.) It is a fellowship of sympathy. Being of one mind, in this partnership, with the Father and the Son, you are of one heart too. Seeing all things, all persons, and all events, in the light in which the Father and the Son see them, you are affected by them and towards them, as the Father and the Son are. Judging as they judge, you feel as they feel. You do so with reference to all that you come in contact with; all that concerns, or may concern, that great business in which you are partners or fellows, fellow-wishers and fellow-workers, with the Father and the Son. What the business is you know. It is that of which the child of twelve years spoke to his mother and Joseph, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" In what spirit, and after what manner, the Father and the Son are "about that business," you also know. You know how, on the Father's behalf, and as having the Father always going along with him, the Son went about it all his life-long on earth. The Father and the Son welcome - nay, they solicit - your fellowship, partnership, co-operation, sympathy, in that business. The Spirit is manifesting in you that "eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us," for this very end, that you may enter with us into that business which is the Father's and the Son's, with full sympathy and with all your hearts. It is the business of glorifying the Father. It is the business of feeding the hungry, healing the sick, comforting the sorrowful, speaking a word in season to the weary. It is the business of going about to do good. It is the business of seeking and saving the lost. It is the business of laying down life for the brethren."
(5.) The fellowship is one of joy. Intelligence, faith, conformity of mind, sympathy of heart, all culminate in joy; joy in God; entering into the joy of the Lord. For there is joy in heaven. And if you, receiving what the apostles declare to you of what they have seen and heard, - receiving that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to them, - have fellowship with them in their fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ; the end of all their writing to you is fulfilled, "that your joy may be full" (ver. 4). Fullness of joy it well may be, if you share the joy of the Father and the Son: truly a joy that is "unspeakable and full of glory." Into that joy, as the joy of ineffable complacency between the Father and the Son from everlasting to everlasting, - in the counsels of a past eternity, in the present triumphs of grace, in the consummated glory of the eternity that is to come, - you are called to enter; you are to have fellowship in it with the Father and the Son.
Is the thought too vast, indistinct, infinite .? Nay then, in that "eternal life which was with the Father being manifested to you," - in the Son coming forth from the Father, - you have the joy in which you are to have fellowship with him and with the Father brought home to you with more of definiteness.
When the earth was prepared for man, and for the acting out of all heaven's purpose of grace to man, "I was," says the Son, "by him, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him." When he came in the flesh to execute that purpose, once at least in his humiliation it is testified of him, that he "rejoiced in spirit; " - it was when he said, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight" (Luke x. 21). Into that joy of holy acquiescence in the wise and holy sovereignty of the Father you can enter. And you can hear him and obey him, when bringing home one and another of the poor wandering sheep he came to seek, he makes his appeal to you as knowing his mind and entering into his heart ; - " Rejoice with me, for I have found that which was lost." Rejoice with me. Yes! Rejoice with me, as my Father calls me to rejoice with him! "It is meet that we should make merry and be glad, for this our brother was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found."
II. THE JOY OF THE LORD, AND ITS FULLNESS.
"These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." - 1 JOHN l: 4.
The apostle could not write these words without having full in his memory, and in his heart, the Lord's own thrice-repeated intimation of a similar sentiment in his farewell discourses and farewell prayer: "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15: 11); "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (16: 24); "These things I speak in the world, that they " - " those whom thou hast given me" - " might have my joy fulfilled in themselves" (17: 13).
It is surely very wonderful that the occasion on which Jesus manifests so intense an anxiety about his disciples having enough of joy, and of his own joy, should be the eve of his last agony. Is it really with him a time of joy? Are the bloody sweat and the cry as of one forsaken by his God the signs of joy? Is that the joy, his joy, which he prays they may have fulfilled in themselves? At all events, his joy, whatever it may be, must be of such a nature that it can be compatible with experience as dark as that. For his joy must be, like himself, "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." It cannot be fluctuating and intermittent. It cannot be merely one of many emotions, alternating or taking its turn with others, fitfully swaying the mind at intervals, according to the shifting breezes of the outer atmosphere. His joy must partake of his own unchangeableness, as the eternal Son of the Father. It is true that in his human nature and in his earthly history he is subjected to the impulses and influences of this chequered human and earthly scene. He meets with what may move, at one time to tears, at another time to gladness. Nor is he unsusceptible of such impressions. But beneath all these his real joy must be deeper far; a fathomless, infinite ocean, whose calm repose the wildest agitations of the upper sea cannot reach or ruffle. "My joy," he says to the Father, my joy in and with thee, I would have to be theirs, through their fellowship with thee and me. Such, in substance, is the Lord's own desire, as expressed to his disciples and to his Father. And such is his beloved apostle's aim in his teaching - " that your joy may be full." The nature of this joy, as primarily Christ's; the reality and fullness of it, as Christ's joy becoming ours; these are the topics suggested by this text.
I. Joy, as it is commonly understood and exemplified among men, is a tumultuous feeling; a quick and lively passion or emotion, blazing up for the most part upon some sudden prosperous surprise, and apt to subside into cold indifference, if not something worse, when fortune threatens change or custom breeds familiarity. "As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of fools" (Eccles. 7: 6). It is indeed vanity; an outburst or outbreak of exuberant hilarity, subsiding soon into weariness and vacancy, the dull cold ashes of a brilliant but passing flame. All the joy of earth partakes, more or less, of that character; for it is dependent upon outward circumstances, and has no deep root in the soul itself. Even what must in a sense be called spiritual joy may be of that sort. There may be joyous excitement when the glad jubilee-trumpet fills the air with its ringing echoes, and an enthusiastic multitude are hastening to keep holiday. There may be a real elevation of spirit when some affecting scene of spiritual awakening is witnessed, or some gracious ordinance is celebrated, or some stirring voice is heard. Such joy is like the goodness which, as a morning cloud and as the early dew, goeth away. There may be the joy also of complacency in one's own success in a good and holy work; such joy as the Baptist's disciples feared that their tidings would mar in their master's breast, when they came to tell him, "Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come unto him" (John 3: 26). His answer is very memorable, and very much to the purpose of our present inquiry : - " He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice; this my joy therefore is fulfilled" (ver. 29).
It is Christ's joy that is fulfilled in him who is so truly and heartily the bridegroom's friend; Christ's twofold joy; first, his joy as the bridegroom possessing the bride; "as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee" (Isa. lxii. 9); - and, secondly, his joy as the Son possessing the Father; as the Baptist goes on to testify so affectionately; "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand" (ver. 35). Now, upon the subject of this "joy of the Lord," this joy of Christ, this double joy of Christ; his joy as the bridegroom having the bride; his joy as the Father's beloved Son and trusted servant, into whose hand he giveth all things ; - -I would beware of "exercising myself in things too high for me." I would not venture so much as to imagine the ineffable joy of the Son dwelling from everlasting in the bosom of the Father, and with the Father and the Holy Spirit ordering the eternal counsels of the Godhead ; - the whole vast ideal of creative and providential goodness, .all holy and all wise: - and especially the covenanted plan of electing love, for "gathering into one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are in earth" (Ephes. 1: 10). Neither dare I do more than touch on what, as the eternal wisdom, he himself says about the Father "possessing him in the beginning of his ways, before his works of old;" - " Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men" (Prov. 8: 22-31).
I come at once to his earthly course, his human experience.
And, first, I see him in the temple, when he was twelve years old. I hear his answer to his mother and Joseph, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?." How intense his consciousness even already, at an age so tender, of the trust committed to him; his Father's business, the business on which his Father's heart is set, for glorifying that name of his which is light and love, and saving a people to bask in that light and love evermore! "I must be about it." There is deep joy in such a consciousness as that (Luke 2: 49).
Then, secondly, I see him as the disciples' left him, faint and wayworn at Jacob's well. On their return they find him fresh and bright. Is it an outward cordial, or is it inward joy, of which he speaks as having revived him? "I have meat to eat that ye know not of: my meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" (John 4: 32-34).
And, thirdly, I find it once, and once only, said in express terms that "Jesus rejoiced in spirit" (Luke x. 21). The statement is a very strong one; it implies inward leaping for joy. And the occasion is remarkable. It is connected with the mission of the seventy. In sending them forth, the Lord has been much exercised with thoughts of the failure, to a large extent, of their ministry and of his own, and the aggravated guilt thus entailed on the. highly-favoured objects of that ministry. In receiving them back, he sympathises so far with their delight at finding even "the devils subject to them;" but he adds, "Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." "In that hour," and in the view of the names of these his little ones being written in heaven, "Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hadst hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight" (ver. 21). There is here the joy of full, filial acquiescence, for himself, in the gracious and holy will of his Father. And there is added to that the crowning joy of so making known the Father to these babes that they too may acquiesce as he does; "All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him" (ver. 22).
Thus "the joy of the Lord is his strength ;" prevailing ever the diffidence of extreme youth, the exhaustion of nature, and "the contradiction of sinners against himself." Nothing - either in his being a mere child, as when Jeremiah complained, "Ah, Lord God, behold I cannot speak, for I am a child" (Jerem. 1: 6); or in his being overcome by distress, hunger, and fatigue, as when Elijah sat down in the wilderness and requested for himself that he might die (I Kings xix. 4); - or in his being forced to utter triple woes against the cities of his own habitation, as when Isaiah, sent on an errand of judgment to his people, was fain to cry, "Lord, how long?" (Isa. vi. i.i); - -nothing, I say, in any such trials of his flesh and heart, causes either flesh or heart to faint. At least, when flesh and heart faint, his spirit is refreshed with joy. To be about his Father's business; to be doing the will of him that sent him, and finishing his work; to say, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight; " - such joy is his always. Throughout the whole of his painful toil and solitary suffering there may be traced an undercurrent of real joy, without which, I am persuaded, that countenance "so marred with grief" could not have worn, as it did, the aspect of one "fairer than the children of men, into whose lips grace was poured."
Nay, even of his last agony is it not said that "for the joy set before him he endured the cross?" (Heb. 12: 2). There was joy set before him, lying full in his view, in his very endurance of the cross. But what! one says - joy in that dark hour! Over the most excruciating torture of body the brave soul may rise triumphant. But when his soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death; when his Father was hiding his face from him; when the wrath of a holy God and the curse of a broken law were upon him; when literally the pains of hell gat hold of him; how could there be joy then? Nay, I cannot tell how. But I bid you ask yourselves if, when he cried, "Father, glorify thy name ;" if, when he said, "The cup which my Father giveth me shall I not drink it?." if, when in his bloody sweat these words came forth, "Father, thy will be done," - there was no joy in his spirit. More than that, I ask if you can conceive of him, in his utmost extremity of peril, endurance, and expiatory woe, ever for a moment losing the consciousness that he was doing his Father's will and finishing his Father's work? Could that consciousness be ever interrupted? Could it ever cease to be a source of inward joy? There is joy lying before him, beside him, as he hangs on the accursed tree; not the joy of hopeful anticipation merely, in the near prospect of victory, but the stern joy of battle in the midst of the hot and heady fight, as - true to the trust committed to him by his Father and loving to the last his own whom he came to save - -he bares his bosom to the sword awaking in its righteousness to smite the willing victim. That joy no man, no devil, taketh from him; the joy with which he meets the Father's just demand of a great propitiation : - " Lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O God ;" - the joy with which he sees already of the travail of his soul when he says to the dying penitent, "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise."
Not in heaven only, among the angels of God, but on earth also, in one holy bosom at least, there is in that hour joy "over one sinner that repenteth."
II. This joy, "his joy," is to become ours; it is to "remain in us." "Our joy is to be full" by "his joy being fulfilled in us." Let us notice first the reality, and then the fullness, of this fellowship or partnership of joy between Christ and us.
(I.) Christ would have his joy to be really ours. The bridegroom's friend, standing and hearing him, is to rejoice greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. But that is not all. Something more than the Baptist's official joy, as the bridegroom's friend, waiting upon him as his minister, is to be ours. For the Lord says that "to be least in the kingdom of heaven is to be greater than John the Baptist." In all that constitutes the essence of his own joy the Lord associates us in intimate union with himself.
Thus, first, in his standing with the Father, and before the Father, he calls us to share. The position which he occupies in the Father's house and in the Father's heart is ours as well as his. It is that which opens the way to his joy being ours. And what opens the way to that? His making our standing and our position his. There is an exchange of places between him and us. Our state of guilt as criminals and prodigals, with all its misery, he takes to be his, that his state of acceptance as the Father's righteous servant, and exaltation as the Father's acknowledged Son, with all its joy, may be ours. Hence our sharing his joy begins with our sharing his cross. It begins with our mourning for our sin as piercing him. The very mourning itself has in it an element of joy; a certain feeling of calm and chastened satisfaction that the strife with God is ended, through our being moved by his Spirit to give in to him. And soon clearer, fuller joy comes. Looking still on that pierced one, pierced for us as well as by us, we see how thoroughly, by putting himself in our place, he has so met and discharged all our liabilities, that we, "being redeemed from the curse of the law," may, by his putting us in his own place, "receive the adoption of sons."
Then, secondly, he makes us partakers of the very same inward evidence of acceptance and sonship which he himself had when he was on earth. The Baptist testified, "God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." How much the presence of the Holy Spirit, ever consciously realised, contributed to keep alive in the holy human soul of Jesus, amid all his toil and pain, a joyful sense of his being still the Father's chosen servant and beloved Son - who can tell?
Thirdly, we have the same commission with Christ; the same trust reposed in us; the same work assigned to us. Accepted and adopted in him; sealed as he was sealed by the Spirit; we are sent as he was sent into the world. This capital ingredient, this great element of his joy, is ours. It was a deep, secret wellspring of joy in his heart; the feeling, never for a moment lost or interrupted, of his being the Father's fellow, the Father's agent, in carrying out that wondrous plan that bad been concerted between them, in the council-chamber of the Godhead, from everlasting. There could be nothing, in all his experience, so mean but that this thought must ennoble it; nothing so dark but that this thought must enlighten it; nothing so toilsome or so tearful but that this thought must gladden it. And now, he takes us into his counsels, as the Father has him in his. "All that he has heard of the Father he makes known to us." He does not keep us, as mere servants, in the dark, about what he is doing; prescribing us our tasks, without information or explanation, to be blindly executed by us in ignorance of what it may all mean, We are "his friends;" the men of his secret; with us he has no reserve; from us he keeps back nothing (John 15: 14, 15). He admits us to his fullest confidence. Some matters, indeed, pertaining to "the times and seasons which the Father hath put in his own power," it may not be for us to know. They are such as he himself, in the days of his manhood, did not care to know. But as to all that is essential, we have the same intelligence that he had, and the same insight. He sends us, as the Father sent him. Have you, let me ask, duly considered what community of mind and heart between Christ and you all this implies And what community of joy.
Ah! when you wearily pace the beaten round of certain devout observances; or when you painfully deny yourselves this or that gratification on which your inclinations remain as much set as ever; or when, with half-opened hand, you dole out your measured mite, as you call it, in a good cause, or a cause you cannot venture to put away as bad; or when you labour hard at your cheerless daily toil, or drag your lazy limbs along in some self-prescribed walk of beneficence, as if you were doing the dullest piece-work for the scantiest wages; and when you count such sort of service religion, as if that were the new obedience to which you are called ; - can you wonder that you have no joy in the Lord? May not God say to you, as he said once to another, who, however grudgingly, must yet do his pleasure, - "Have you considered my servant Jesus?." Get something of his acquaintance with me, and with my plans and my ways. Get something of his spirit as he rejoiced to feel always the greatness of the trust committed to him. Get it from himself. Get it in himself. "Take his yoke upon you, and learn of him."
For, fourthly, here is the chiefest element of his joy. He is "meek and lowly in heart;" and therefore "his yoke is easy, and his burden is light;" so easy, so light, that he may count it joy to bear them. It is not au easy yoke in itself that is his; nor a light burden. But his meekness and lowliness in heart makes the yoke easy, and the burden light. The yoke that was laid on his neck when he took the form of a servant was hard indeed; the yoke of subjection to the law, as broken by us and demanding satisfaction from him. The burden that was lying on his shoulders all the time he was doing the work of a servant was heavy indeed; the burden of bringing in an everlasting righteousness, with full expiation of guilt on behalf of us, miserable sinners. But as the seven years of service seemed to Jacob but one day for the love he bore to Rachel, so the meek and lowly heart of Jesus makes the hard yoke easy and the heavy burden light. In his case, as in Jacob's, the charm is love; love, rejoicing in his Father, whose will he is doing; love, rejoicing over us, whom he is purchasing to be his spouse. For, in a word, it is his self-renunciation, so absolute and entire; his self-forgetting, self-sacrificing affection; his so completely losing himself, merging himself, in the Father whom he serves and the people whom he saves; this is that meekness and lowliness of heart which, making his yoke easy to him and his burden light, moves him, "rejoicing in spirit," to cry, "I thank thee, O Father." We must share that meekness of his; that lowliness of heart. We, like him, must be emptied of self.
For no true joy is or can be selfish. I may hug myself, and applaud myself, and pamper myself, and think to laugh all thought of others, and all care about their thoughts of me, away. I do but kick against the pricks. The task of vindicating my self-sufficiency and asserting my self-will, to my own contentment, against all and sundry, I soon find to be no child's play; but a hard yoke indeed, and a heavy burden. Let me get out of my own narrow self into Christ, and the large heart of Christ. Let me, like him, be meek and lowly in heart; accepting the conditions of my earthly lot; discharging the duty of my earthly calling; meeting the trials of my earthly pilgrimage; not as if I were entitled selfishly to take credit for what I do, or take amiss anything I have to suffer; but simply in loving obedience to my heavenly Father, and loving sympathy with him in his truth and holiness and wide and pure benevolence. That was Christ's way; that was Christ's joy. Then may I have freedom, enlargement, joy, as Christ had, in walking with my Father in heaven always; going about in my Father's name doing good; drinking whatever cup my Father giveth me; and on whatever cross he may see fit to nail me, saying still, as I give up the ghost, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." (II.) The reality of this joy, - Christ's own joy remaining in us, - may now be partly apparent. But who shall venture to describe its fullness? "That my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full;" so he speaks to his apostles. "That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves ;" so he speaks to the Father concerning them. "That your joy may be full;" such is the beloved apostle's longing on behalf of his disciples, as it was his master's on behalf of his chosen ones.
Surely, one would say, it is to the future state, the life to come, the world beyond the grave, that these expressions point. And that is doubtless true. In its utmost and ultimate perfection, this full joy belongs to heaven. So it is with Christ's own personal joy. In heaven he fully rejoices with the Father and the eternal Spirit over his fulfilled work of glorious righteousness and grace, and the fulfilled fruits of it, in the fulfilled salvation of all the multitude of his redeemed.
Was it something of that joy that Paul caught a glimpse of in that strange ecstasy of his, when he was caught up into the third heaven, - into paradise, - and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for man to utter? (2 Cor. 12: 1-4). Was it Moses and Elias that he overheard, as on a higher mount of transfiguration, talking with Jesus about the decease now accomplished at Jerusalem? Or was it Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the everlasting Father, communing with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, now in his bosom evermore, and the blessed Spirit plying evermore his ministry between God and men? But "something sealed the lips" of Paul. Let me, therefore, be silent, and wait. Let me rather see if there is not some sense,- some humbler and more practicable point of view, - in which I have to do with that fullness of joy.
In the 45th Psalm the Messiah, rejoicing over his church as a bridegroom over his bride, is thus saluted:
'Thou lovest righteousness and hatest wickedness; therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad." This gladness of the anointing oil and the sweet-smelling spices is all associated with his loving righteousness and hating wickedness. The secret of his full joy lies in his being, as his Father is, the holy one and the just.
Hence there can be no discrepancy of thought, or taste, or feeling, between him and the Father who has sent him. All things about his mission appear to him as they appear to the Father; they are to him what they are to the Father. :No painful effort is ever needed to bring his judgment into subjection to the Father's; or his will into harmony with the Father's. No lurking tendency of his own nature toward evil; no insidious suggestion of the tempter; no impatience of subordination; no secret longing to taste the liberty of self-will ; - can ever interfere with his walking in the light as God is in the light. And that is the perfection of blessedness. To one who is at once a servant and a son that is "fullness of joy." Is it attainable by us here? Yes, in measure, and in growing measure. Let our nature be assimilated to that of God; our mind to his; our heart to his. Let our souls learn the lesson of seeing as he sees and feeling as he feels. Let sin be to us what it is to him; and righteousness and truth as well. Let there be a clear understanding between him and us upon all questions; a thorough identity of interest and inclination in all points; an entire agreement of opinion and choice in the great strife of good and evil going on in the world. That was Christ's own joy. And it was fullness of joy, even when his personal share in that strife cost him the tears of Gethsemane and the bitter cry of Calvary. Let it be ours, more and more, through our growth in grace and in holiness. All misery lies in our judgment not being in subjection to God's; our will not being in harmony with his. Misery ends, and fullness of joy comes, when we think and feel and wish as God does. Therefore fullness of joy may be ours; ours more and more; when "beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord," - this glory of his being the Father's willing servant and loyal Son, - "we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
And now, perhaps, we may see more clearly than we have been accustomed to see the propriety of this "joy of the Lord," - this "joy in the Lord," - being represented as not merely a privilege, but a duty. "Rejoice in the Lord; and again I say unto you rejoice." For this joy is not anything like that sort of mysterious incomprehensible rapture into which the spirits may be occasionally thrown under some sudden and irresistible impulse from without or from within. It is not mere excitement. It is not what many call enthusiasm, proper to high festivals. It is a calm and sober frame of mind, suited for everyday wear and everyday work Neither is its nature recondite, abstruse, and mystical; nor does it come and go in flashes, like the winged fire of heaven. It can be explained and accounted for; analysed and described. Its elements and causes can be specified. Its rise and progress can be traced. It is not therefore an attainment with which we can dispense; it is "our strength." Nor is it a grace for which we may idly wait until it drop upon us unawares from above. We have it in us, the germ of it, the essence of it, if we have Christ in us; if we have the Spirit of Christ. "And if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Stir up then the gift that is in you. Do you ask how?
Observe the different connections in which your sharing the Lord's joy stands in the farewell discourses and the farewell prayer ; - as first, with your keeping his commandments and abiding in his love, as he kept the Father's commandments, and abode in the Father's love (John 15: 10, 11); secondly, with your asking in his name as you have never asked before (16: 24); and, thirdly, with your being kept in the Father's name, in ever-brightening disclosures of the Father's glorious perfections (17: 11, 13). And observe, in the fourth place, the beloved apostle's warm appreciation of this joy as realised in the communion of saints: "Having many things to write unto you, I would net write with paper and ink; but I trust to come unto you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full" (2 John: 12). Surely this joy of the Lord, as it is thus intimately associated ; - first with obedience, - secondly with prayer, - thirdly with the study of the divine character, - and fourthly with the cultivation of Christian communion ;-is no rare rapture, to be snatched at intervals of excited devotion. It is, on the contrary, a calm and chastened frame of mind; such as may be realised in every common duty, in every humble supplication, in every devout exercise of soul upon the divine word, in every greeting exchanged lovingly with any of the Lord's people. Well therefore may the apostolic precept run thus" Rejoice evermore." For this joy is independent of events and circumstances. The labours you are engaged in may be the hardest drudgery; the people to whom you are seeking to be useful may be the most perverse of all men. Your temper, patience, love, faith, hope, may be tried to the very utmost; all may seem dark; friends may change, and enemies may be round about you. But Christ is the same, and his joy is the same; the joy of doing and suffering his Father's will. "Rejoice ye if ye are counted worthy to suffer for his sake." "Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience," and that if "patience has her perfect work" ye shall be "perfect and entire, lacking nothing." Let nothing mar or damp your joy. What can mar or damp it if it is Christ's joy remaining in you; Christ's joy fulfilled in you; Christ's joy and yours together in his Father and your Father, his God and your God "Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation (Habak. 3: 17, 18).
That was the prophet's joy, because he apprehended it as Christ's joy, seeing his day afar off, and being glad as he saw it. Let it be your joy also, your joy in him, "whom having not seen you love, and in whom, though now you see him not, you rejoice;" with his own joy fulfilled in you; and therefore "with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
THE FIRST CONDITION OF THE DIVINE FELLOWSHIP - LIGHT (1: 5 - 2: 17).
III. THE GROUND OR REASON OF THIS FIRST CONDITION; LIGHT BEING AT ONCE THE NATURE AND THE DWELLING-PLACE OF GOD.
"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." - 1 JOHN 1: 5-7.
Having explained the general aim of his book - to make his readers, as disciples, partakers of the same fellowship which he and his fellow-apostles had with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, and of the fullness of joy in the Lord which that implies, - the writer proceeds to open up the nature and character of this fellowship of joy. He beans by laying down the first and primary condition of it, the fundamentally necessary qualification for its possession, that without which it cannot be. It is light; the fellowship must be a fellowship in light. He enlarges on that requirement, and sets it out in various points of view. First, he shows how it rests, not on any merely arbitrary or sovereign divine appointment, but on a holy necessity of the divine nature, admitting of no compromise or evasion (1: 5-7)- Thereafter, with a tenderness and faithfulness all his own, he brings the man of simple, guileless spirit into the light, through the door of honest confession and righteous forgiveness (1: 8.-2: 2). And then, leading him on in the line of intelligent and loving obedience, under the unction and illumination of the Holy Spirit, making him one with the Holy Anointed One, and in him one with all the holy brethren (2: 3-14); - as well as also in the line of a clear and sharp discrimination between the passing darkness and its passing world on the one hand, and the abiding of the light and of its godliness on the other (2: 15-I 7) ; - he lands the man of guileless spirit in that indwelling in the Son and in the Father which ensures first, steadfastness amid all anti-Christian defections and apostasies; secondly, the receiving of the promise of eternal life, and thirdly, full confidence in the expectation of the Lord's coming (2: 18-28). Such I take to be the topic of this first part of the Epistle; and such the successive aspects in which it is presented.
In the verses now before us (1: 5-7), John gives the ground or reason of his primary and fundamental condition, - that the fellowship must be a fellowship in light; and shows how it rests, not on any merely arbitrary or sovereign ordinance of God, but on his very nature and essential perfection. Accordingly, in that view, we have first a solemn message, next a faithful warning, and lastly a gracious assurance. These are the three steps in this high argument; a solemn message in the fifth verse; a faithful warning in the sixth; and a gracious assurance m the seventh.
I. The form of the announcement in the fifth verse is very peculiar: "This, then, is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you." It is not a discovery which we make concerning God, an inference or deduction which we draw for ourselves from observation of his works and ways, and which we publish in that character, and with that weight of influence, to our fellow-men. It is an authentic and authoritative communication to us, from himself. And it is to be accepted as such. It is a message which John and his fellow apostles have heard of him, expressly in order that they may declare it, as a message, to us. It is substantially Jehovah himself telling us, through the apostles, about himself, what in his own person he told the church of old about himself when he said, "I am holy." For the light is holiness ; "I am holy;" "God is light.
The message is twofold. First, positively, "God is light;" next, negatively, "In him is no darkness at all.
I. Positively, "God is light." This is a metaphor, a figure of speech. And in that view, it might suggest a world of varied analogies between the nature of God and the nature of the material element of light. Light is diffusive, penetrating, searching; spreading itself over all space, and entering into every hole and corner. It is quickening and enlivening; a minister of healthy vigour and growth to all living creatures, plants and animals alike, including man himself. It is pleasant also; a source of relief and gladness to those who bask in its bright and joyous rays.
But there are two of its properties that may be singled out as specially relevant to this great comparison. In the first place, light is clear, transparent, translucent; patent and open, always and everywhere, as far as its free influence extends. The entrance of light, which itself is real, spreads reality all around. Clouds and shadows are unreal; they breed and foster unrealities. Light is the naked truth. Its very invisibility is, in this view, its power. It is not seen because it is so pure.
For, secondly, a certain character of inviolability belongs to it, in respect of which, while it comes in contact with all things, it is itself affected by nothing. It kisses carrion; it embraces foul pollution; it enters into the innermost recesses of the rottenness in which worms uncleanly revel. It is the same clear element of light still; taking no soil; contracting no stain ; - its brightness not dimmed, nor its viewless beauty marred. It endureth for ever, clean and clear.
Now, when it is said, "God is light;" when he says it of himself; when he makes it his own personal and special message to us, which his apostles and ministers are to be always receiving of him and declaring to us ; - the one heavenly telegram, or express telegraphic despatch, which they are to be reading to us and we are to be reading to our neighbours, that we may have fellowship, all of us together, with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ ;-let not our imaginations wander in a wilderness of fanciful resemblances. Let these two thoughts be fixed in our minds; first, the thought of perfect openness; and secondly, the thought of perfect inviolability. Let these be our thoughts of God, and of his essential character, as being, and declaring himself to be, "light." Thus "God is light."
2. Negatively, "In him is no darkness at all." I connect this part of the statement with that saying of John in his Gospel; "The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not" (1: 5). In the light itself, in him who is the light, - even when shining in darkness, .the darkness that comprehendeth it not, - there is still no darkness at all.
It must be to some very intimate actual contact of the light - of him who is the light - with darkness; some close encounter and conflict between them, that this second clause of the message refers. Otherwise it is but a repetition of the first; serving only to weaken its force. "The light shineth in darkness." He who is the light comes, in the person of his Son, to seek and to save us, who are in darkness; who, as to our character, and state, and prospects, are darkness itself. For there is not now in us and around us the element of clearness, brightness, openness, in which we were created at first. Sin has entered; and with sin, shame. There can be pure and simple nakedness no longer. The clear, open sunshine of the presence and countenance of him who is light is no longer tolerable. The covering of fig-leaves, and the hiding-place of the trees of the garden, are preferred. Light henceforth is offensive. The unquiet and unclean soul is like that old chaos, "without form and void;" and "darkness is upon the face of the deep." With that darkness, the darkness of death, he who is light, the light of life, is brought into fellowship.
And the fellowship is no mere form or name; it is real, actual, personal. The darkness is laid hold of by the light. He who is light enters into the darkness; sounding its utmost depths; searching its inmost recesses. Where guilty fear crouches; where foul corruption festers; he Penetrates. He even makes the darkness his own. He takes it upon himself. Its power, "the power of darkness," is upon him; its power to wrap the sin-laden spirit ia a horror of thickest night, in the gloom of hell. Yes!
For our sakes, in our stead, in our nature, he who is light is identified with our darkness. And yet "in him is no darkness at all." In the very heat and crisis of this death-struggle, there is no surrender of the light to the darkness; no concession, no compromise; no malting of terms; no allowance of some partial shading of the light on which the darkness presses so terribly. No! "He is light, and in him is no darkness at all." All still is clear, open, transparent, between the Son and the Father. Even when the Father hides his face, and "his sword awakes against the man that is his fellow," and the Son cries as one forsaken; even in that dark hour there is no evasion of heaven's light; no trafficking with the darkness of earth or hell. There is no hiding then; no shrinking; no feeling as if truth might become a little less true, and holiness a little less holy, to meet the appalling emergency. The worst is unflinchingly faced. In the interest of light triumphing over darkness, not by any plausible terms of accommodation, but before the open the cup and the Son drains it to the dregs. In that great transaction, thus consummated, before all intelligences, between the Father and the Son, it is clearly seen and conclusively proved that "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." II. Such being the message in the fifth verse, the warning in the sixth verse becomes simply a self-evident inference: "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." For if it is really into the fellowship of him who testifies of himself that he is light that we enter; and if it is in and through that wondrous way of dealing with our darkness; the incompatibility between our claiming fellowship with him and our walking in darkness is so gross that it may well warrant the strong language, "we lie, and do not the truth." The thing indeed is in itself impossible. We cannot, if we walk in darkness, have fellowship with him; "for what fellowship hath light with darkness? or what communion hath Christ with Belial? "The profession of such a thing is a lie. And it is a practical lie. He who makes it is not speaking, but acting, an untruth. His life is a practical falsehood. The apostle's words are very plain and energetic; but they are not more so than the case requires: "we lie, and do not the truth.
For what is this walking in darkness? What does it imply?
One answer, in the first instance, must be given, plain and simple enough. All unholy walking is walking in darkness. So far there can be no mistake. The works of darkness are the works of the flesh (Ephes. 5: 3-11; Gal. 5: 19-21). But the matter must be pressed a little more closely home.
The characteristics of light, as has been seen, are, on the one hand, clearness, openness, transparency; and on the other hand, inviolability, its taking no impression from anything it comes in contact with, but retaining and preserving its own pure nature, unmodified, unmingled, unsoiled, unsullied by external influences, everywhere and evermore the same. Now darkness is the opposite of this light, and is characterised by opposite features. Instead of openness, there is concealment and disguise; instead of inviolability, there is facile impressibility. Any object, every object, flings its shadow across the benighted path; shapes of all sorts haunt the gloom.
Now, without making too much of the figure, let the one thought of darkness being that which hides, dwell in our minds; and by the test of that thought let us try ourselves. Are we living, practically, in a moral and spiritual atmosphere, such as may cause distorted or disturbed vision, and so admit of things appearing different from what they really are? Is the room we sit in so shaded that what we care not to look for may escape our observation, and the somewhat coarse or crazy furniture may be skilfully arranged; its blemishes varnished over; its doubtful beauties magnified and made the most of.?
Ah! this walking in darkness! Is it not after all just walking deceitfully?. Is it not simple insincerity, the want of perfect openness and transparent honesty in our dealings with God and with ourselves as to the real state of our hearts towards God, and the bent and bias of our affections away from God towards selfishness and worldliness! Is it not that we have in us and about us something to conceal or to disguise; something that does not quite satisfy us; something about which we have at least occasional misgivings; something that, when we think seriously, and confess, and pray, we slur over and do not like to dwell upon; something that we try to represent to ourselves as not so bad as it seems - as indeed, in the circumstances, excusable and unavoidable?.
Alas, for this "deceitfulness of the heart!" It is indeed, its "desperate wickedness." It is not that I seek to shroud myself in a thick cloak, under cloud of night, that, unseen by my fellows, I may wield the assassin's knife, - or hatch with an accomplice some plot against the just, - or with some frail companion do the deed of shame. It is not that I lock myself up alone in my secret and solitary chamber, to gloat over the cruel gains of griping avarice, or nurse in imagination some unhallowed passion. That, doubtless, is walking in darkness. But it is not perhaps the most insidious, or seductive, or subtle sort of such walking. It is when I would have the darkness, more or less thick, to hide me, or some part of me, from myself, and, if it were possible, from my God, that my walking in darkness becomes most perilous; when the secret consciousness that all is not right in me with reference to my Father in heaven - or that my brother on earth may have cause of complaint against me - moves me to get something interposed between me and the pure, clear light of a quickened conscience, and the purer, clearer light of omniscient holiness. It matters not what that something may be. It may be the screen of some better quality on which I flatter myself I am unassailable. Or it may be some good deeds and devout observances which I am almost unawares setting up for a shelter. Or it may be some well-adjusted scheme of self-excuse and self-justification. It is something that casts a shadow. And walking in the darkness of that shadow, however I may say, and even think, that I have fellowship with God, I "lie and do not the truth." I do not act truly, there is guile in my spirit.
It is not merely that my walking thus in darkness is so irreconcilable with my having fellowship with him who "is light and in whom is no darkness at all," that to claim such fellowship is to lie. That is implied in this statement; but it is not all that is implied in it. The walking in darkness is itself the lie; the acted, not spoken, untruth. It is aggravated, no doubt, by my saying that I have fellowship with him. But my saying so is a mere aggravation; it is not that which constitutes or makes the lie; if it were, the lie charged would be a spoken, and not an acted untruth. It would consist in my false profession. The charge would be a charge of conscious hypocrisy; saying that I have fellowship with him while my deliberate walking in darkness proves even to myself the contrary. That charge is not here; at least not necessarily. It is the hypocrisy of practice rather than of profession that is denounced.
I say that I have fellowship with him, not meaning to profess an untruth. But I walk in darkness; and in so walking I necessarily lie. Apart from anything I may say, my walking in darkness is in itself practical lying. "I do not the truth." I am not acting truly. I am not willing to have all that I do, and all that I am, brought fairly out and placed fully in the broad clear light of truth. I would wish it to be excused, or explained, or somehow obscured or coloured; huddled up or hurried over. I am not for having it exposed in the glaring sunshine. There is something in or about it that to some extent needs and courts the shade. "I lie and do not the truth." And therefore I cannot have fellowship with him who is True, him who is Holy, him who is Light. For it is only "if we walk in the light, as he is in the light," that we can have fellowship one with another; the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleansing us from all sin.
III. From the solemn message in the fifth verse, and the faithful warning in the sixth, the gracious assurance in the seventh fitly follows: "We have fellowship one with another ;" God with us and we with God. For it is not our mutual fellowship as believers among ourselves that is meant; the introduction of that idea is irrelevant, and breaks the sense. It is our joint fellowship with God, and his with us, that alone is to the purpose here.
The expression indeed is peculiar; it may seem to savour of familiarity; putting the two parties almost, as it were, on a level; "We have fellowship one with another;" we with God and God with us.
The explanation may be found in the conditional clause - "if we walk in the light, as he is in the light." For that clause associates God and us very intimately together. Observe a certain change of phraseology. It is not "as he is light," but "as he is in the light." It is a significant change. It brings out this great thought, that the same clear and lucid atmosphere surrounds us both. We walk in the light in which God is. It is the light of his own pure truth, his own holy nature. The light in which he is, in which he dwells, is his own light; the light which he is himself. In that light he sits enthroned. In that light he sees and knows, he surveys and judges, all things. And now the supposition is, that we walk, - as he is, - in that light. To us, the light in which we walk is identically the same as the light in which he is. The same lustrous glory of holiness shines on our walk and on his throne. The very same pure medium of vision is common to us both. "We see light in his light." Of old, it was written, respecting the scene at Sinai, "The people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was" (Exod. xx. 21). But now it is all light! For it is indeed a marvellous community of light that is here indicated as subsisting between God and us; between the Holy One and his redeemed and regenerate people!
To have the same medium of vision with God himself; the same translucent, transparent atmosphere of holiness and truth and love surrounding us; penetrating our inner man and purging our mind's eye, our soul's eye, our heart's eye, that it may see as God's eye sees; illuminating all space to us, - before, behind, above, below, - with the very illumination with which it is illuminated to him; causing all objects, actions, and events, all men and things, all thoughts, words, and deeds, - our own as well as those of others, - to appear to us exactly what they appear to him; thus to "walk in the light, as he is in the light " - who may stand that? Ah me! How shall I ever venture to walk out into that light in which God is? How can I face its terrible disclosures? I can see how this "walking in the light as he is in the light," does indeed open the way to fellowship of the closest sort between him and me.
Literally we see all things in the same light. We therefore cannot but understand one another; and agree with one another; and sympathise with one another; and co-operate with one another; "we have fellowship one with another." But is it possible that, with respect to all things whatsoever, I can bear to have the same light, the same medium of open vision, that God has? Sin, for instance; my sin; every sin of mine; every secret sin; so exceeding sinful! Oh! with such sin, and so much, about me, upon me, in me, - how dare I go forth into that very light, so pure and piercing, in which God is? And yet where else now am I to look for him and find him in peace?
I thank thee, O my God, O my Father, for that most precious word in season: "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Yes! it is "a word in season to the weary." For I am weary; weary of the darkness in which I have been trying to hide or paint deformity, and get up some specious semblance of decency and beauty; weary of all impostures and all lies; the poor and paltry lies especially of my self-deluding, or scarcely even self-deluding, self-righteousness; weary of all attempts to take advantage of the darkness for making evil seem a little less evil, and some show of good look a little more like reality. I would fain step forth from the darkness into light; into thy light, O God!
Thou mayest, do I hear thee say? - For, be thy guilt ever so deep and thy heart ever so black, the blood of Jesus Christ my Son cleanseth from all sin. He has answered for all thy guilt. He has purchased for thee a new heart. The fountain filled with his atoning blood is ever freely open and full to overflowing. Wash in that fountain and be clean. Enter into the victory of light over darkness which that blood secures. Let all compromise take end; compromise is a work of darkness. I invite thee to have fellowship with me; fellowship real, and not merely nominal, with me and with my Son Jesus Christ ;-fellowship with us in our plan and purpose of saving mercy, - in all its grace and all its glory ; - a fellowship in it with us, of insight, confidence, partnership, sympathy, joy. If it is to be real fellowship, it must be a fellowship of light. I cannot modify, I cannot alter, that condition of the fellowship, any more than I can cease to be what I am - "light." But I do what is far better. I make provision for the removal of every obstacle which your' guilt and corruption might interpose in the way of your walking in the light as I am in the light. I give you the assurance that the blood of Jesus Christ my Son cleanseth from all sin.
IV. THE PRIMARY CONDITION OF THE DIVINE FELLOWSHIP FULFILLED IN THE BELIEVING CONFESSION OF A GUILELESS SPIRIT. (PSALM XXXII.)
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." - 1 JOHN 1: 8-10.
The gracious assurance that "the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanseth us from all sin," suggests the supposition of our "saying that we have no sin." For if we, "walking in the light as God is in the light," could say that truly, we might dispense with the relief which the assurance is fitted to give. But, alas! we can say it only under the influence of self-deception, and such self-deception as implies the absence of that "truth in the inward parts" which God "desires" (Psalm li. 6). Better far to "confess our sins," believing that God "forgiveth our sins," and that he does so in such a way of "faithfulness and justice" as insures our being "cleansed from all unrighteousness" with regard to them, - all unfair and partial dealing with conscience or with God about them. In this full faith let us "confess our sins." For if, after all, even in our confession, there is reserve and guile, trying to make out that in this or that instance "we have not sinned," or not sinned so much as might appear, we are guilty still of an unbelieving distrust of God ; "we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." Such is the line of the Apostle's argument, in three successive steps or stages. I. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (ver. 8). It is not deliberate hypocrisy that we are here warned against; but a far more subtle form of falsehood, and one apt more easily to beset us, as believers, even when most seriously and earnestly bent on "walking in the light as God is in the light."
And yet our venturing to say that we have no sin might seem to be a height of presumption scarcely reconcilable with any measure of sincerity. Any such claim put forward by a child of God the world laughs to scorn. For the world itself makes no such profession. The children of the world are wonderfully ready to chime in with the general acknowledgment implied in the prayer: "Have mercy upon us miserable sinners." Others may set up for saints. We are contented to be, and to be accounted, sinners. We do not deny that we have faults, plenty of faults, some of them perhaps rather serious at times; although none of them such as we may not hope that a merciful God and Father will overlook and pardon. They too deceive themselves, these children of the world. But their self-deception is not of the same sort as that which John denounces. This last is not, like the former, a vague reliance on indulgence and impunity. It may be the error of a soul working its way, through intense mortification of lust and crucifixion of self, to an ideal of perfection all but divine. In its subtlest form, it is a kind of mysticism more akin to the visionary cast of ancient and oriental musing than to the more practical turn of thought and feeling that commonly prevails among us. Look at yonder attenuated sad etherealised recluse, who has been grasping in successful philosophic systems, or schools of varied theosophical discipline, the means of extricating himself out of the dark bondage of carnal and worldly pollution, and soaring aloft into the light of pure spiritual freedom and repose. After many trials of other schemes, Christianity is embraced by him; not, however, as a discovery of the way in which God proposes to deal with him, but rather as an instrument by which he may deal with himself; a medicine to be self-ad-ministered; a remedy to be self-applied. By the laboured imitation of' Christ, or by a kind of forced absorption into Christ, considered simply as the perfect model or ideal, his soul, emancipated from its bodily shackles and its earthly entanglements, is to reach a height of serene illumination which no bodily or earthly stain can dim. From such aspirations, the next step, and it is a short and ready one, is into the monstrous fanaticism which would make spiritual illumination compatible with carnal indulgence and worldly lust, and represent it as quite a possible thing for a man wallowing in outward debauchery to be still inwardly pure and sinless; his inward and sinless purity being so enshrined in a certain divine sublimity and transcendentalism of devotion that outward defilement cannot touch it. Church history, beginning even with the apostle's own day, furnishes more than one instance of men thus deplorably "deceiving themselves, saying they have no sin."
Such instances may not be applicable now. But they indicate the direction in which the danger lies. It lies in the line of our sanctification; our purpose and endeavour to "walk in the light, as God is in the light."
When first we come forth out of our darkness into the broad light in which God dwells; when there is no more any guile in our spirits, no more any keeping of silence; when the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ so shines in us and around us, as to make all clouds and shadows break and fly away, and leave only the bright pellucid atmosphere of God's own nature, which is light, as the medium of vision through which, in and with God, we see ourselves and all things; ah! with such discoveries of indwelling sin as then burst upon our quickened and enlightened consciences, how thankful are we for the assurance that "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin." There is nothing then like "saying that we have no sin." On the contrary, we are where Paul was in that deep experience of his, when the law, now loved and delighted in as "holy and just and good," so came home to him by the power of the Spirit as to bring out in terrible conflict its own spirituality and his inherent carnality ;-extorting from him the groan - " O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?." Like him, we "thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord," for the encouragement we have to believe, and to believe just as we are, - with the mind serving the law of God, but with the flesh still, in spite of the mind, serving the law of sin, - that "there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." Believing this, and apprehending all the relief that there is in believing it, we "walk now not after the flesh but after the Spirit" (Rom. 7: 8:). With enlargement of heart we "walk in the light as God is in the light," and so "we have fellowship one with another," - he with us and we with him, - the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleansing us from all sin. Our appropriation of that atoning blood, in all its cleansing efficacy, gives us courage to continue still walking in the light, instead of shrinking hack, as otherwise we must be tempted to do, into the old darkness in which we used to shroud ourselves. Such walking with God, in such a fellowship of light, is as safe as it is joyous. : But the risk lies here. It is a sort of walking with God, which, if we persevere in it faithfully, may become irksome, and be felt to be humiliating. For the old uneasy nature in us; with the rankling suspicions of our old relationship to God, is apt to come in again to mar the childlike simplicity of our faith. For a time the new insight we have got, under that light in which we walk, into the spiritual law of God and into our own carnal selves, keeps us shut up into Christ; and into that continual sprinkling of his blood upon us, without which we cannot have a moment's peace, or a moment's sense of being cleansed from sin. But gradually we come to be more at ease. We cannot be altogether insensible to the growing satisfaction of our new standing with God and our new feelings towards him. Before the fervour of our first fresh love, inward struggles are hushed. The evil that but yesterday seemed to be so unconquerable ceases to make itself so acutely felt. The crisis is past; the war, as a war to the knife, is ended; grace prevails; iniquity, as ashamed, hides its face.
Ah! then begins the secret lurking inclination to cherish within myself some thought equivalent to "saying that I have no sin." It may not so express itself. It may not be self-acknowledged, or even self-conscious. It comes insidiously as a thief to steal away my integrity before I am aware of it. Remaining corruption in me ceases gradually to give trouble or distress. A certain lethargic proneness to acquiesce in things as they are creeps over me. I am not conscious of anything very far amiss in my spiritual experience or in my practical behaviour. I begin to "say that I have no sin."
But "I deceive myself, and the truth is not in me." I am fast sinking into my old natural habit of evasion and equivocation, of self-excuse and self-justification. "Guile" is taking the place of "truth," the truth of God, "in my spirit," "in my inward parts." I cease to be as sensitively alive as I once was to whatever in me or about me cannot stand the light. I am thus incurring a serious hazard; the hazard of being again found walking in darkness, and so disqualifying myself for fellowship with him who is light. And I am apt to lose a very precious privilege: the privilege of continual and constant confession, in order to continual and constant forgiveness. For -
II. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (ver. 9). This, I say, is a privilege. It will appear to be so if we consider the sort of confession meant, as well as the sort of forgiveness connected with it. As to the confession, it is the confession of men "walking in the light, as God is in the light;" having the same medium of vision that God has; it is the continual confession of men continually so walking, and so seeing. Such confession is very different from the sort of confession in which the natural conscience seeks at intervals a lightening of its guilty burden, and a lessening of its guilty fears. That is the mere emptying of the foul stomach, that it may be filled anew with the vile stuff for which its diseased appetite and corrupt taste continue as keen as ever. This, again, is the laying bare always of the whole inner man to the kind and wise physician who can always thoroughly heal it all.
For the forgiveness, on the faith of which and with a view to which we are thus always to be confessing our sins, will always be found to be a very complete treatment of our case. What is the treatment?
The sins we confess are so forgiven, that we are cleansed from all unrighteousness with regard to them. This means much more than that we are let off from the punishment which they deserve, and have to answer for them no longer. That is all the absolution for which the church-penitent, at whatever confessional, naturally cares. But that is not what is here held out to us. Our sins are so forgiven as to ensure that in the very forgiveness of them we are cleansed from all unrighteousness, - all unfair, deceitful, and dishonest dealing about them; all such unrighteous dealing about them, either with our own conscience or with our God. The forgiveness is so free, so frank, so full, so unreserved, that it purges our bosom of all reserve, all reticence, all guile; in a word, "of all unrighteousness." And it is so because it is dispensed in faithfulness and righteousness; "he is faithful and just in forgiving our sins." He to whom, as always thus dealing with us, we always thus submit ourselves, is true and righteous in all his ways, and specially in his way of meeting the confidence we place in him when we confess our sins.
We open our heart to him; we are always opening it. We spread out our case before him; concealing nothing; palliating nothing. We tell him of all that is sad and distressing in our conflict with indwelling corruption, as well as of all our failures and shortcomings in our strivings after conformity to his law. We speak to him of sloth and selfishness, of worldliness and carnality, damping our zeal, quenching our love, making us miserably indifferent to the good work going on around us, and shamefully tolerant of abounding evil. On the subject of such experiences as these we are coming always to confer with our God, in the light in which he is, and in which it is our aim to walk. We find him always "faithful and just ; " - not indulgent merely, kind and complaisant, bidding us take good heart and not be so much cast down ; - but "faithful and just." God is true; true to himself, and true to us; so true to himself and to us that all untruth in us becomes impossible.
Ah, brother! you may well trust him with all the secrets of your soul, for well does he requite your trust. He is "faithful;" keeping covenant and mercy; never saying to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye my face in vain. He is "just." He will not, in seeming pity, do you a real injustice. He will not heal your hurt slightly. He will not prophesy smooth things. "He will set your iniquities before him, your secret sins in the light of his countenance." He will keep you in his hand, and under his hand, until all partial dealing - "all unrighteousness" as to any of your sins, - is cleansed out of you. With the charm of true love he will work truth and uprightness in you; so that, as to your whole walk, inner and outer alike, all. shall be clear light - light, clear as crystal - between him and you.
That is the sort of intercourse which it is my Father's good pleasure that I should keep up with him continually. It is very different from a mere endless alternation on my part of sin and confession; of confession and sin. It is not on his part a mere capricious oscillation between passion and pity, - between violent wrath and facile fondness - like what is felt or fancied when I, a slave, offend and ask pardon, and offend again, reckoning on the placability of a weak master, who, however he may be moved to sudden rage, is sure to relent when he sees me prostrate at his feet. In such dealing with me there is neither faithfulness nor justice. Nor is it such dealing with me that will work faithfulness and justice in me. If that is the footing on which I am living with my God and Father, it may be consistent with my saying, in a sense, that "I have no sin;" no sin that need disturb my quiet or distress my conscience. But "I deceive myself, and the truth is not in me." I cast myself off from all that is real and genuine, all that is clear and open, in the fellowship of light that there must ever be between a trusting child and a loving father; especially when that loving father has made such full provision, in so marvellous a way, for the removal of whatever element of dark estrangement my contracted guilt or his violated law might interpose. I refuse to submit myself continually anew to that faithful and just searching of my heart and reins which, if I would but suffer it, must issue continually anew in my being forgiven all my sins, and so forgiven as to be cleansed from all unrighteousness with regard to any of them. Surely such clear, bright, open, confidential fellowship between him who is light and his little child trying to walk in his light, far transcends any poor measure of accommodation which a hollow truce between us might purpose to effect. Let us have that fellowship evermore. All the rather because -
III. If, in the face of
such a faithful manner of forgiveness on the part of God, we continue to shrink
from that open dealing and guileless confession which our walking in the light
as God is in the light implies - we not only wrong ourselves, and do violence
to our own consciousness and our own conscience; but, "saying that we have not
sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (ver. 10).
This is a stronger statement than that in the eighth verse. It is not "we deceive ourselves," but "we make God a liar ;" not generally, "the truth is not in us," but very pointedly and particularly, "his word is not in us." The difference is explained by the assurance given in the intermediate verse - "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
For that assurance, as has been shown, opens the way to a very confidential intercourse of confession on the one hand, and just and faithful treatment of our ease on the other, between us and our Father in heaven. If we think at any moment that we do not need this sort of intercourse, that we can dispense with it and do without it, we labour under a grievous delusion; we deceive ourselves; some self-excusing or self-justifying lie is expelling from within our souls the bright clear light of the truth. If again, after all the encouragement which he himself gives, we still at any moment hang back and hesitate, as if we could not venture on the sort of intercourse to which he invites us, surely that is inexcusable unbelief; refusing to trust God; giving the lie, not merely to his promises, but to his very character and nature; not suffering his word to have entrance into our hearts. To prefer now, even for a single instant, or with reference to a single sin, the miserable comfort of wrapping ourselves in fig-leaves and hiding among the trees of the garden, to the unspeakable joy of coming forth naked into the light in which God is, casting ourselves into his open arms and asking him to deal with us according to his own loving faithfulness and righteousness and truth ; - that surely is a high affront to him and to his word, as well as a fond and foolish mistake for ourselves. There can be no fellowship of light between us and him if such unworthy sentiments of dark suspicion and reserve as this implies are again, at any time and in any measure, insinuating themselves into our bosoms.
For, as one indispensable condition of that fellowship,-and indeed the primary and fundamental condition of it,-is that "we walk in the light as he is in the light;" so another condition of it, arising out of the first, is that "we confess our sins." The two indeed are one; the last is only a particular application of the former. Walking in the light as God is in the light, we must be continually learning t, see more clearly as he sees. Our medium of vision being the same as his, our vision itself must be growing more and more nearly the same, Insight and sympathy are ever brightening and deepening. Things come to be more and more in our eyes exactly what they are in his. We ourselves, and our works and ways, are more and more seen by us as they are seen by God.
Can this go on, honestly and really, without ever fresh discoveries and ever new experiences of such a sort as must always make confession, to the earnest and believing soul, a most welcome privilege indeed?. It is not merely that I come to perceive in old sins a heinousness and an amount of aggravation that makes me feel as if I had never adequately acknowledged them in time past, but must be ever repenting of them anew, and getting them anew disposed of by their being laid anew on him who is the sin-bearer and the cross-bearer. Nor is it merely that new forms and phases of the ungodliness and selfishness and carnality of my heart,-new shifts and windings of its deceitfulness and desperate wickedness, - must be ever coming up and coming out to vex my quickened spiritual sensibility and damp the ardour of my faith and love. Both these sources of disquietude are, alas, too common. But above and beyond all that - in my very walking, as God's fellow; being the fellow of his Son Jesus Christ; his fellow-servant, fellow-worker, fellow-sufferer, fellow-heir in his kingdom; as the Holy Spirit gives me an increasing sense and taste of what it is to walk with God in his own light; as I seek to carry that light, and him with whom I walk in fellowship in that light, into all the scenes and circumstances of my outer walk of faith, and all the fluctuations of my inner life of faith; how is my heart troubled! How many fountains of bitterness are ever freshly flowing! And then in the world, with its manifold calls that cannot be put aside, and its troublesome questions of lawfulness and expediency, I am too often at a loss and almost at a stand.
I may try to set aside all such annoyances, as not entering properly into my spiritual experience, and to keep that, as it were, isolated and pure. I may think that when I go to commune with my God and Father; when I enter into my closet and shut the door; when I seek his face and wait for his salvation ; - I am to leave all my cares and troubles behind me on the threshold, and meet him in some lofty realm of spiritual peace, where sorrow and sin are to find no place. But I am deceiving myself. And I am refusing to trust my God and Father, and so I am giving him the lie. From such sin as that may he himself evermore deliver me!
Let me rather, taking him at his word, try the more excellent way of carrying with me always, in the full confidence of loving fellowship, into the secret place of my God, all that is upon my mind, my conscience, my heart; all that is harassing, or burdening, or tempting me; my present matter of care or subject of thought, whatever that may be. Let me unbosom all my grief. Let me freely and unreservedly speak to him of what is uppermost in my thoughts. There may be sin in it, or about it. There may be something wrong; some wound to be probed; some root of bitterness to be searched out; some offending right hand or right eye. Be it so. Still, let me open up all; let me confess all. Let me spread out my whole case. Let me empty and lay bare my whole soul. Let me put myself, and be ever putting myself, thoroughly, nakedly, unreservedly, into his hands. Surely I may rely on his dealing faithfully and righteously with me. Nor would I wish him to deal with me otherwise. He may "chasten me sore, but he will not give me over to death." He may rebuke and convince; he may even smite and slay. But "though he slay me, I will trust in him." I know that he requireth truth in the inward parts. I ask him therefore to lead me into all truth; into all the truth concerning myself as well as concerning Him; however painful the knowledge of it may be to my self-righteous feelings, and however deadly to my self-righteous hopes. I am for no half-measures now, no compromise, no concealment. I would keep back nothing from my God. I will not deceive myself by keeping silence about my sin. I will not make my God a liar, - I will not do my God and Father so great a wrong as to give him the lie, - by refusing entrance into my soul to that word of his which gives light, even the light of life. I will confess my sins, knowing and believing that as "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin," so "he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me; and lead me in the way everlasting."
V. SINLESS AIM OF THE GUILELESS SPIRIT - PROVISION FOR ITS CONTINUED SENSE OF SIN.
"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father." - 1 John 2: 1 To obviate, as it might seem, an objection against his doctrine of confession, that it was liable to be turned into an allowance of sin, the Apostle first makes a most emphatic protest as to his real design in setting forth that doctrine; and secondly, puts the manner of restoration, through the advocacy of Christ, on a footing that effectually shuts out all licentious and latitudinarian abuse of it, in the line of practical antinomianism. His first desire is to make clear the sinless aim of the guileless spirit, about the production of which he has been so much concerned.
And here his appeal is very affectionate: "My little children?" It is the appeal of a loving master to the good faith and good feeling of loving pupils; beseeching them not to misunderstand him, as if he meant to indulge or excuse them in sin. Nay, it is more than that. It is an appeal to their highest and holiest Christian ambition. Far from tolerating sin, I would have you to aim at being sinless. "These things write I unto you, that ye sin not ;" that you may make it your express design and determination: not to sin.
That is the full force of the Apostle's language, when he says, "I write these things unto you that ye sin not."
I. Let that be your aim, to "sin not." Let it be deliberately set before you as your fixed and settled purpose that you are not to sin; not merely that you are to sin as little as you can; but that you are not to sin at all.
For there is a wide difference between these two ways of putting the matter. That in the business of your sanctification absolute holiness is to be your standard, you may admit. A sinless model or ideal is presented to you; and you acknowledge your obligation to be conformed to it. But is not the acknowledgment often accompanied with some sort of reserve or qualification? The measure of conformity that may be fairly expected must be limited by what your infirmity may hope to reach; nay, you even venture to add, by what God may be pleased to give you strength to reach. This is scarcely honest. It is not equivalent to an out and out determination not to sin. You do not really mean to be altogether without sin; but only so far as your own poor ability, aided by the Divine Spirit, may enable you to be so. Or, with reference to some specific work or trial that you have on hand, you do not really mean not to sin in it, but only not to sin in it more than you can help. Is it not so, both generally as regards your cultivation of a holy character, and particularly as regards your discharge of holy duties in detail?. And what is that at bottom, but secret, perhaps unconscious, antinomianism? You are not in love with sin; you do not choose sin; you would rather, if it were possible, avoid it, and be wholly free from it. But that, you say, is impossible. You make up your minds therefore to its being impossible, and reckon beforehand on its being impossible. You wish and hope and pray, that the evil element may be reduced to a minimum. Still it is to be there; you are quite sure it will be there; and you must accommodate yourself to what is unavoidable. However you may try, you cannot expect to be without sin, or "not to sin."
This is a very subtle snare. And it is not easily met. For it is founded on fact. It is but too true that in all that we do we come short of the sinless aim. That, however, is no reason for our not only anticipating fault or failure, but acquiescing in the anticipation. Above all, it is no reason why we should take it for granted by anticipation that some particular fault or failure, foreseen and foreknown by ourselves, must be acquiesced in. For the special danger lies there. It is not merely that in entering on any course of holy living, or engaging in any branch of holy labour, I feel certain that I shall sin in it. I have a shrewd suspicion as to how I shall sin in it. I can guess where the breakdown is to take place. I have tried already to keep this law as I see it should be kept, and to keep it perfectly. I will try again, asking God to incline my heart to keep it. I know well enough indeed that I shall fail and fall short. And I know well enough how I shall fail and fall short. Nevertheless, I can but try, and I will try, to do my best.
Is that, however, a really honest determination on my part not to sin?. Am I not reconciling myself prospectively to some known besetting infirmity?. Let us not deceive ourselves. Let us consider how inconsistent all such guileful dealing is with that "walking in the light, as God is in the light," which is the indispensable condition of our fellowship with God and his with us. The very object of all that the apostle writes on that subject is that, at the very least, we rise to the high and holy attitude of determining not to sin. All that he tells us of "the word of life," the life "which was with the Father and was manifested unto us;" all that he tells us of the divine fellowship for which the way is thus opened up; all that he tells us of the nature of him with whom our fellowship is to be, and of the provision made through the blood of Jesus Christ his Son which cleanseth from all sin, for our coming forth out of our natural darkness into his light; all is designed to bring us up to this point, that we sin not; that in purpose and determination we are bent on not sinning.
II. But not only would I have you to make this your aim; I would have your aim accomplished and realised. And therefore "I write these things unto you, that ye sin not." We are to proceed upon the anticipation, not of failure but of success, in all holy walking and in every holy duty; not of our sinning, but of our not sinning. And we are to do so, because the things which John "writes unto us" make the anticipation no wild dream, but a possible attainment.
We must assume it to be possible not to sin, when we walk in the open fellowship of God, and in his pure translucent light; especially not to sin in this or that particular way in which we have sinned before, and in which we are apt to be afraid of sinning again. For practical purposes this is really all that is needed. But this is needed.
I do not care much for any general assurance, even if I could get it, that I am not to sin at all. But, if I am in earnest, how deeply do I care for even a faint, hope that, in the particular matter that lies heavy on my conscience, it may sometime and somehow become possible for me not to sin. That is what is pressing. In some hour of calm meditation or divine contemplative speculation, the idea of a serene and stainless perfection of holiness and peace wrapping my spirit in ineffable bliss may have a certain fascinating charm, and may awaken undefined longings and aspirations. They are far too vague, however, to be practically influential And they do not meet my case. For why am I troubled? What is it that distresses and me? Alas, it is no mere vague consciousness of imperfection. It is some specific "thorn in the flesh" that, as a "messenger of Satan, is buffeting me." "When I would do good, evil is present with me." When I would pray, my soul cleaves to the dust. When I am in my closet, with my door shut against all the world, all sorts of worldly thoughts intrude. When I read and study, I find my mind unfixed. When God speaks to me, my attention wanders. When I should be hearing the voice of his servant, my eyes are drowsy. I take up some branch of God's service, - how soon do I grow weary, or stumble, or offend! I seek to control my temper, and some slight provocation oversets me. Try as I may, I am sure to fail. And then, when, going down to the depths of my inner nature, I seek to have my whole soul purged from lust and filled with love, alas! is there never to be an end of this weary, heartless, fruitless struggle? Is it to be always thus, - sinning and repenting; repenting and going back to sin?
Nay, let me hear John's loving words; "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not." Believe these things; realise them; act upon them; act them out. They are such things as, if believed, realised, acted upon, and acted out, will make it possible for you "not to sin." For they are such things as, if thus apprehended, change the character of the whole struggle. They transfer it to a new and higher platform. We are brought into a position, in relation to God, in which holiness is no longer a desperate negative strife, but a blessed positive achievement. Evil is overcome with good. The heavenly walk in light with him who is light carries us upwards and onwards, above and beyond there, on of dark guilt and fear, in which sin is strong; and places us in the region of peace and joy, in which grace is stronger. Sanctification is not now a mere painful process of extirpation and extermination of weeds. It will no doubt be that still; but it is not that merely. It is the gracious implanting of good seed, and the cultivating of it gladly as it grows. And as we enter more and more, with larger intelligence and deeper sympathy, into the spirit of John's opening words concerning the end and means of our "fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ," we come better to know experimentally what is in his heart when he says: "These things write I unto you, that ye sin not." That is what you are to aim at; and you are to aim at it as now possible.
III. Why then, it may be asked, is provision made for our sinning still after all? - "If any man" - any of us - "sin, we have an advocate with the Father." Let me in reply again appeal to any who are really exercised in resisting sin and following after holiness; "walking truly in the light, as God is in the light."
For I do not address those who take this whole matter easily; being quite contented with a very moderate measure of decent abstinence from gross vice and the perfunctory performance of some pious and charitable offices. The present theme scarcely concerns them in their present mood. John assumes that we are in earnest; that sin is to us exceeding sinful, and holiness above all things desirable. We have purposed in good faith that we will not offend. We rejoice to think that we may now form that purpose with good heart; not desperately, as if we were upon a forlorn hope; but rather as grasping the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is with us. He cheers us on. He assures us of success. And when, at any time, he sees some lurking apprehension of failure or defeat stealing into our souls again to discourage us; when he sees that we are getting nervous about the risk of our making some mistake, or meeting with some check or reverse, and that this very nervousness is unhinging and unmanning us; he tells us not to think too much of it, but to press on; for he is beside us, to help us if we should stumble, to lift us if we should fall - -"If any of us sin, we have an advocate with the Father."
Shall I then be emboldened to walk heedlessly, presuming on his advocacy? Perish the ungenerous, the ungrateful thought [ What ] shall I make a mere convenience of that Divine Saviour, and turn his ministry of holy love into a mere pleading for indulgence and purchase of impunity?
Lying priests, false mediators; priests and mediators false to both the parties between whom they mediate, to God's high honour and man's pure peace; false, as not reconciling but alienating, not bringing together but keeping asunder, the yearning Father and his poor prodigal child - they and their offices may be so used, or abused. But Jesus is an advocate of a very different stamp. He is not content to negotiate, as a third party, between God dwelling in light and us suffered still to continue in darkness. He is one with both the parties whom he makes one in himself. By his one offering of himself, once for all, he brings us, when the Spirit unites us by faith to him, into the very light of God, his Father and ours. But the light is such as, when our eyes are opened to its brightness, makes our walking in it an affair of extreme delicacy. In good faith, with full purpose, right honestly and heartily to "walk in the light," is to face an ordeal from which a man with renovated principles and sensibilities may well sensitively shrink. True, the tendency of all this marvellous arrangement for placing us on such a footing of light with God, - admitting us into such a fellowship of light and setting us to such a walk of light, - that we "sin not." And we are assured that if we make full proof of this light, we shall find it no such impossible thing as we might imagine not to sin. But with a growing clearness of vision, becoming more and more alive to the inexpressible lustre and loveliness of the light, and the offensiveness of whatever partakes of the least soil or stain of the darkness which the light exposes ; - how should our advance along the ascending path of heavenliness and spirituality be anything else than one continued discipline of anxious fear?
Jesus knows our frame in its worst and in its best state. He knows what to us, with such a frame as ours at the best is, our really "walking in the light as God is in the light" must be. He knows how at every step - in spite of all the encouragement given us beforehand to hope that we need not, that we may not, that we shall not sin, - we still may shrink and hang back; fearing with too good ground that even if, in the form we used to dread, our sin shall seem to give way, it may, in some new manifestation of our deep inward corruption, tie in wait to trouble us. Well does our sympathising friend and brother know all this And therefore he assures us that he is always beside us; "our advocate with the Father." We need not therefore be afraid to walk with the Father in the light. We may walk, alas! too often unsteadfastly. We may give new offence. We may incur new blame. But see! There is the intercessor ever pleading for us. "If any of us sin, we have an advocate with the Father."
VI. NATURE AND GROUND OF CHRIST'S ADVOCACY AS MEETING THE NEED OF THE GUILELESS SPIRIT.
"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man, in, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world." - 1 John 2: 1, 2. The manner of our restoration, if we fall short of the sinless aim, not less than the sinless aim itself, is fitted to guard against any abuse of John's doctrine of forgiveness. It is through an advocacy altogether incompatible with anything like the toleration of evil. This will appear if we consider the three things here mentioned as qualifying our advocate for his advocacy : -
I. He is "Jesus Christ the righteous; "
II. He is "the propitiation for our sins; "
III. He is the propitiation "not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
I. He is "Jesus Christ the righteous."
Jesus! The name is as ointment poured forth; fragrant, precious. He is called Jesus because he saves his people from their sins. Jesus, my Saviour! My Jesus! Saving me from my sins, from myself! Art thou indeed my advocate with the Father - standing by me, pleading for me - by thy Spirit pleading in me - when, in spite of my firmest purpose not to sin, and my closest clinging to thee that I may not sin, I must still, under the pressure of sin besetting me, cry, Unclean, undone! Then indeed may I hold on walking in the light, and with a sinless aim, if thou art with me. Jesus, save me from my sins! Christ! the Anointed! whom the Father anoints through the Spirit; whom I also, through the Spirit, in sympathy with the Father, humbly venture to anoint! his Christ and mine! - with thee, O Christ, as my advocate with the Father ; - with thee, True Mediator, - Revealer, Reconciler, Ruler, - Prophet, Priest, and King ; - I will not, amid all that is discouraging in the experience of ray remaining darkness, despair of yet becoming all that he who is light and who dwelleth in light would have me to be; all that thou art, O Christ!
But the emphatic word here is not the proper name Jesus, nor the official name Christ, but the adjective "righteous."
This term may possibly be understood as referring to the righteousness which he has wrought out on our behalf, as our substitute and surety, and which he brings in and presents before the Father as the ground of all his pleading with him as our advocate. For his advocacy is not a mere ministry of persuasion; working as it were on the placibility and fond facility of an angry but weak potentate, an offended but infirm and indulgent parent. It is his submitting to God the Father, as the righteous governor, such a service and satisfaction as may warrant, in terms of strictest law and justice, the exercise of mercy towards his guilty but penitent children. All that is true. But it is not, I think, what John principally has in his mind. For, in the first place, the efficacious and meritorious condition of our Lord's advocacy is sufficiently brought out in the clause which follows, "he is the propitiation for our sins." And secondly, it is awkward to understand the word "righteous" in two distinct senses, as it is used in the same passage, and within the compass of a few verses, first of the Father (1: 9), and now of the Son (2: 1). I take it therefore as pointing, not to the legal righteousness which Christ has - or rather which Christ is - but to the righteousness of his character, and of his manner of advocacy with the Father for us. That other meaning need not be excluded, for the two are by no means inconsistent. But when John commends our advocate with the Father as "Jesus Christ the righteous," it is surely upon his benignant equity that he would have us to fix our eyes. Such an advocate becomes us; and such alone. If we rightly consider the relation to God into which the gospel message, as John has been putting it, is designed to bring us; the footing on which it places us with God.; the sort of divine insight, sympathy, and fellowship for which it opens up the way; and the sort of walk on which it sets us; we may well feel that none other than such an advocate could meet our case.
In any court in which I had a cause to maintain I would wish to have a righteous advocate. Not less than I would desire a righteous judge would I welcome a righteous advocate. I do not want an advocate who will flatter and cajole me. I do not want one to tell me smooth things and lead me on the ice; disguising or evading the weak points of my plea; putting a fair face on what will not stand close scrutiny, and touching tenderly what will not bear rough handling; getting up untenable lines of defence, and keeping me in good humour till disaster or ruin comes. Give me an advocate who will tell me the truth, and tell the truth on my behalf; one who will deal truly with me and for me, and fairly represent my case. Give me an advocate who, much as he may care for me, cares for honesty and honour, for law and justice, still more. Give late an advocate not afraid to vex or wound me for my safety, for my good. Whatever his name, let him be the honest, the upright, "the righteous."
Such an advocate is Jesus Christ for us in the high court of heaven; for he is "Jesus Christ the righteous." In the presence of the righteous judge, and at his righteous bar, he thus appears for us; not to bring us off as by some cunning sleight-of-hand manoeuvre; not to get the better of strict justice by some dexterous and adroit management, or some plausible and pathetic appeal to pity; but to have the whole controversy sifted to the bottom, and all hidden causes of offence laid bare, and every just demand and outstanding claim met, and all relating to our right standing adjusted, - without any compromise or subterfuge, upon the terms and according to the principles of perfect righteousness.
Such an advocate is Jesus Christ for us in the high court of heaven. Such an advocate is he also when, in the capacity, as it were, of chamber-counsel, he is with us in our closet, to listen to all that we have to say; to all our confessions and complaints; our enumeration of grievances; our unbosoming ourselves of all our anxieties and all our griefs. He is still "Jesus Christ the righteous;" patient and pitiful, as he bends his ear to our wildest cry or our' faintest whisper; yet still righteous; not dallying delicately with our sin or our sorrow; not sparing us; probing us to the quick; giving us no relief till the whole matter is searched into, and spread out, and fairly and justly met. He is "Jesus Christ the righteous."
But it is not only with God as Judge that he is our advocate. He is our advocate with "the Father." His advocacy has respect not only to the Judge's court but to the Father's house. It is the advocacy of the elder brother, who has brought us home to his Father and our Father. It is a home of love and of light; a home of love because it is a home of light. Perfect peace should reign in it, as the fruit of perfect purity. It is not a home in which we can allow ourselves to sin. There is no darkness to hide our sin; no room for any lie to excuse it. We are brought home, in the marvellous way in which we have been brought home, for the express purpose that we may not sin. Our elder brother, in bringing us home, has suffered enough for our sin to make it very loathsome in our esteem. He has, moreover, so suffered for it that we need have nothing to do with it, nor it with us, any more. And that our connection with the old haunts and associations of our sin may be cut clean away for ever, and we may be placed at once in the best and likeliest position for sinning no more, he concurs with the Father in our being at once embraced as children, invested as children with the robe and ring of honour, and welcomed as children to the children's table. There is to be no reproach; no upbraiding; no word or look of reference to the past any more. Our eider brother has answered for all, and all is cancelled. There is to be no more any dark servile doubt or suspicion or fear. All is to be holy light and love. There is to be no more sin. Ah! but more sin, in spite of all this, there is; and there is the apprehension of sin evermore. The Father indeed is light, always light. And we walk in his light; the light of his reconciled countenance; the light of his pure and loving eye. But how sensitively, on that very account, is our conscience, our heart, alive to all - alas! too much - that is in us and about us still savouring of the dark tastes of our old estrangement.
Where - we are at every moment constrained to ask, - where is that elder brother who brought us hither, and who alone can keep us here? We know that he would have us, not to put him in between the Father and us, but to be ourselves, in him, at home with the Father (John 16: 26, 27). It should be so; and we seek to have it so. But the home is so holy, and the light is so holy, and he who is in the light is so holy; and we are so sinful, so fain to shrink from the light and court the darkness again, that we cannot stand upright. We cannot keep our ground; we cannot move on; we cannot meet the Father's eye; we stumble; we fall. Ah! we need that elder brother still. We need him to be our advocate with the Father. He must not quit our side. He must not let go our hand. He must be ever leading us in to the Father, and presenting us to the Father, and speaking for us to the Father, and putting us anew right with the Father. And so he is. He is never far off. "We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." "The righteous!" For now what sort of advocate with the Father would we have?. And what would we have his advocacy to be? The time has been when, if we cared to live at home in the Father's house at all, we would have been glad of the good offices, say of some upper servant, not very scrupulous and not over strict, who might be disposed to take our part when any breach occurred. It might be convenient to have a friend at court, an advocate with the head and master of the family, ready always to intercede for us; to hide our faults or apologise for them; to come in between us and the angry glance or the uplifted arm; to put a specious colouring on the cause of offence, and get us off, no matter how, from dreaded vengeance. But no such advocacy will be welcome now. No such advocate will our elder brother be. For he is our advocate with the Father, as "Jesus Christ the righteous." Yes! in dealing with us, as well as in dealing with the Father for us, he will deal righteously, truly, justly. He will so ply his office, and travail in his work, of advocacy between the Father and us, as to preserve the right understanding which he has himself brought about, and obviate the risk of renewed separation. He will make it all subservient to our more thorough cleansing from sin, and our closer walk with God ; - our being "holy as he is holy." For - II. "He is the propitiation for our sins." He is so now. He is present with us now as our advocate with the Father; and it is as being the propitiation for our sins that he is present with us.
It is not needful to settle in what precise aspect of the sacrificial service Jesus is here spoken of as the propitiation; whether with reference to the sacrificial victim slain, or the altar on which it was burned, or the mercy-seat on which its blood was sprinkled. Jesus is all three in one; the lamb slain, the altar of atonement, the blood-baptized mercy-seat. The important lesson is this, that it is as the propitiation for our sins that Jesus Christ is oar advocate with the Father. Whenever he acts as our advocate, whether to satisfy the Father anew or to pacify our consciences anew, he acts in virtue of his being - -not having been but being - the propitiation for our sins. The two, in fact, are one; his advocacy with the Father is his being the propitiation for our sins. In every instance in which it is exercised, it is simply a new and fresh application to our case of the virtue of his being the propitiation for our sins. For what does he do when, in some dark hour, he ministers to me and in me as my advocate with the Father? He draws near; the Spirit so taking of what is his and showing it to me as to bring him near. He is beside me, with me, at my right hand. He is here with me now, the propitiation for my sins now, precisely as he was on Calvary. I see him, invisible as he is, now and here, exactly as he was then and there; thorn-crowned, bleeding, in agony; bowing his head; giving up the ghost; pouring out his soul an offering for sin. Yes that is my advocate with the Father; and that is the manner of his advocacy! Can it be other than a righteous advocacy? Can he be other than a righteous advocate? When my sin, grieving the Father's heart and vexing his Holy Spirit, has pierced his Son Jesus Christ anew, and he hastens, with blood and water freshly flowing from the re-opened wound, to wash me anew, and anew present me to the Father; is that a sort of ministry that can lead to sin? Can I touch these hands which I have been nailing again to the accursed tree, or feel them touching me again to bless me, without my whole frame thrilling as the voice runs through my inmost soul - "Sin no more;" "Thou art dead to sin"?
III. There is a supplement added which still further explains the sort of advocacy which Jesus Christ the righteous carries on. He is "the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." This is added, as it would seem, for this very end, to preclude the possibility of a believer thinking that, if he lapses, it is under some method of recovery different from that which is available for all mankind. Otherwise, it comes in awkwardly and irrelevantly.
For it is out of place here to introduce the subject of the bearing of the propitiation on mankind at large; for the purpose of considering that subject for its own sake, or settling any doubtful question regarding it. It is very much in point, however, and very much to the purpose, to make a passing reference to the world-wide scope and aspect of the propitiation which Christ is; and so to guard against the notion of there being anything like favouritism in what he does on behalf of his true followers and friends.
There is no new specific for meeting our case when we who walk in the light fall into sin, no specific different from what is provided for meeting the case of all sinners - of the whole world. We have no special fountain opened for our cleansing, but only the fountain opened in the house of David for all the inhabitants of Jerusalem indiscriminately; for all the world, and all its sin, and all its uncleanness. There is no way in which we can get rid of that sin of ours- its guilt and curse, its deadly blight and canker, eating out the very life of our soul - except that way, patent and open to all, in which all the world, if it will, may get rid of all its sins. Doubtless when we sin we have an advocate with the Father to stand by us, and lift us up, and plead our cause, and place us again on a right footing with the Father. But he can do all this only by interposing himself as "the propitiation for our sins," in the very same sense and manner in which he interposes himself as the propitiation "for the sins of the whole world." Where, then, ye children of the light and of the day,-ye fellows of the Father and of his Son Jesus Christ, - where is your peculiar privilege of sinning lightly and being easily restored? What is there in that sin of yours that should make it lie less heavily on your conscience, and afflict your souls less grievously; than the sins which, when you were of the world, you committed; of which you repented; and for which you sought and obtained forgiveness, when you came out of the world's weary wilderness, and were brought home to your Father's house. Is your sin now less heinous than were your sins then? Are there no aggravations to enhance its guilt, and to stamp with a deeper dye its exceeding sinfullness? Does it demand fewer tears and less poignant searchings of heart, less of godly sorrow, less of bitter weeping?
What! when that eye which looked on Peter - that eye not of reproach so much as of silent unutterable woe - the eye that smote him with a mortal stab, - when that eye catches mine - yes! as he is in the very act of hastening to the rescue lest my faith fail, coming quickly to be my advocate with the Father - when, fallen as I am, I feel his touch, and that open calm look of his arrests and rivets me, - Jesus! I cry, my Lord, my God, dost thou yet care for me? Wilt thou yet comfort me; me, a sinner; a sinner worse than ever; sinning more inexcusably than ever in all the days of my ignorance I sinned; more inexcusably than all the world in its ignorance can sin? Can such a one as I yet live? I ask no special favour; I plead for no partial exemption. Let me only anew - not as a saint - not as a child of God, - but only as a sinner - of sinners the chief - betake myself to thee, the propitiation for my sin?
Yes! I may, I do. And I find thee still the propitiation for my sin, because thou art the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Not otherwise could I take the benefit of thine advocacy. It is not as a propitiation peculiar to me that I grasp thee in great distress; as if I had any peculiar claim to thee; as if others were sinners more than I, or I less than they. Alas! no. My only hope is in grasping thee as "the propitiation for the sins of the whole world." That wide charter will take me in when nothing else can. "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." This, and this alone, is thy refuge and revival, O poor soul! Thou sinnest ; - as a child of God, walking in the light, thou sinnest. And in the light in which thou walkest thy sin finds thee out. Thou art overwhelmed. Can such sin as thine be forgiven? Yes, brother. But not otherwise than through the advocacy of Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the propitiation for thy sins. Thou must have recourse to him in that character. But not as if thy case were peculiar, and demanded or could receive peculiar treatment. No. Thou must be content to take thy place among the whole body of the sinners of mankind, for the very worst of whom the propitiation is available precisely as it is for thee; for them as fully as for thee; for thee as fully as for them. That indeed is the very consideration which revives thee. He is the propitiation for all sinners and for all sins. No sin, no sinner, is at any time beyond the reach of that great atonement. It meets the case of all mankind, of all the world; and therefore it meets thy case, be thy backsliding ever so grievous, thy guilt ever so aggravated. Thou couldst not venture to appropriate Christ as the propitiation for thy sins, otherwise than as he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. It is only because thou believest and art sure that no sin, no sinner, in all the world, is debarred from that wondrous fountain filled with blood, that thou canst summon courage to plunge in it thyself afresh. Even to the last, it is not as isolating thyself from sinners of mankind, but as associating thyself with them, - feeling thyself to be the chief of them, - that thou lookest, when thou hast sinned, to "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world."
The worst enemies of Calvinism are those who challenge such statements. So far as their views are at all intelligent and logical, they make faith impossible; faith, that is, resting on a free Gospel, and without the warrant of an express personal sign, inward or outward. Whether as a sinner called, or as a Backslider recalled, I can build no hope on any propitiation presented to me as peculiar to a class, and not open to the race at large. I am thankful therefore for the assurance that, "if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, But also for the sins of the whole world."
This is my answer to certain critics who have founded on garbled extracts from this passage the charge of an unguarded and objectionable mode of expression as to the nature and extent of the atonement.
VII. THE GUILELESS SPIRIT REALISING THROUGH OBEDIENCE THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD ASTHE MEANS OF BEING AND ABIDING IN GOD.
"And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." - 1 JOHN 2: 3-5.
This is a more literal explanation of the divine fellowship, considered as a fellowship of light, than has been given before. The light which is the atmosphere of the fellowship, or the medium of vision and sympathy through which it is a doubt may be suggested as to what Divine Person is meant here when the third personal pronoun is used. Is it the Son or the Father? One might at first be inclined to say it is the Son; for it is he who is spoken of in the immediately preceding verses (r, 2). But throughout this whole passage John is speaking of God the Father as the object of knowledge and fellowship. It is with God in Christ that he summons us to have communion. The Son is brought in separately (1: 7, 2: 2), only to show how his ministry of sacrifice, intercession, and propitiation, by providing for our not sinning, or not sinning beyond the hope of repentance and revival, makes such communion possible. That end being served, the discourse returns to its original channel. On this account, as well as on grammatical grounds, I lean to the opinion of those who think that God the Father is the Divine Person referred to. And I do so the rather because in the verse that follows (6), - " He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked," - there is a remarkable distinction of pronouns. It does not appear in our translation; and indeed the English tongue scarcely admits of its appearing. But it is clear in the finer idiom of the original Greek. The "he" in the last clause is different from the "him" in the first; which again agrees with, is the light of knowledge, the light of the knowledge of God. For the fellowship is intelligent as well as holy - intelligent that it may be holy.
But of what sort is that knowledge? And how is it to be got hold of and made sure of? These are the questions with which John now proceeds to deal. And in the verses that form our text he introduces them very emphatically, as questions personally and practically affecting us, with reference to our claim and calling to be walkers in the light.
For, first, he would have us to "know that we know God" (ver. 3). He raises the question of the trustworthiness of our knowledge of God. It is as if you asked me about one of my familiars, whose name I am fond of using, whose opinions I am apt to quote, whose patronage I rather boast of ; - " But do you know that you know him? Are you sure that you understand him?" The abrupt question takes me somewhat aback. I think I know him. But your doubt startles me. I must inquire and see. Again, secondly, John would have us to "know that we are in God" (ver. 5). This suggests still more hesitancy. I have had the idea that I am in him, in the sense of being united to him in the bonds of faith, fellowship, and friendship. But you raise misgivings. Do I indeed know that I am in him.
The two inquiries may be treated as one; requiring the same examination and admitting of the same proof.
There comes in, however, thirdly, an intermediate thought: "whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the with the "him" and the "his" in the verses now before us (3-5). Surely this marks a change. The person indicated in the end of the sixth verse is not the same as the person indicated in the beginning of that verse, and in those that precede it. But the person indicated in the end of the sixth verse is clearly the Lord Jesus. It must therefore be God the Father who is indicated in the verses of our text. "In him is the love of God perfected" (ver. 5). This expression denotes a fact accomplished. The word "is perfected" points to something done; and the word "verily" or "truly" marks the reality and thoroughness of what has been done and of the doing of it.
Now it is love that is said to be thus perfected; the love of God. This can scarcely mean here the grace or affection of love; as the love of God to us, or our love to God; but rather the fellowship of love between him and us. "In the keeping of his word" that fellowship of love, so far as we are concerned, finds its completion, or "is perfected." Most fitly does this thought come in between the other two.
I. To know God;
II. To have his love verily and indeed perfected in us;
III. To be ourselves in him; that is our thrice holy standing, our thrice blessed privilege, in his Son Jesus Christ. If we would make sure of it, in our experience, it must be by keeping his commandments, keeping his word.
I. There were those in John's day who affected to know God very deeply and intimately, in a very subtle and transcendental way. They laid great stress on thus knowing God; so much so that they took or got the name of knowing ones, or Gnostics. All about the essence of God, or his mysterious manner of being, they knew. All his attributes, and inward actings, and outward emanations, they knew. The forthgoings from everlasting of all his thoughts and volitions they knew so familiarly, and by so sublime an insight, that they could give to every one of them a local habitation and a name. They knew how heaven swarmed with these divine effluences or outgoings, as it were, of God sterner nature; to which they ascribed a sort of dreamy personality; associating them into a spiritual or ghostly hierarchy, in whose ranks they dared to place the very Son of the Highest himself. So they, after their own fashion, knew God. And through this knowledge of him, they professed to aspire to a participation of his godhead; their souls or spiritual essences being themselves effluences and emanations of his essence; and being therefore, along with all other such effluences or emanations, ultimately embraced in the Deity of which they formed part. So they "knew God."
But how did they know that they knew him? Was it because they kept his commandments? Nay, their very boast was that they knew God so well as to be raised far above that commonplace keeping of the commandments which might do for the uninitiated, but for which they had neither time nor taste. Their knowledge of God was too mystical and ethereal - too much of a rhapsody or a rapture - to admit of its being tested in so plain and practical a way. It was a small affair for them to keep the commandments, and a small affair also to break them. They were occupied with higher matters. Their real life was in a higher sphere. They cared for nothing but "knowing God."
John denounces strongly their impious pretence - "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." The language is more forcible than ever. He not merely "lies" (1: 6); but "is a liar." Not merely does he "not do the truth," but in that man "the truth is not." To affect any knowledge of God that is not to be itself known and ascertained by the keeping of his commandments, - to dream of knowing God otherwise than in the way of keeping his commandments - is to be false to the heart's core.
For, in fact, the question comes to be, Do I know God as a mere abstraction, about whose nature I may speculate? Or do I know him personally, as a man knows his friend? This last is the only kind of knowledge of God which John can recognise and own. It is what he starts with; his fundamental position; his postulate or axiom. God is known through or in the incarnate Word of life, as he was heard, looked upon, handled, by those who lived familiarly with Jesus. Whosoever hath seen him hath seen the Father. "No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." God is known in Christ. And he is known in Christ as personally interested in me, and personally dealing with me; kind to me; compassionate to me; waiting to be gracious to me; opening his arms to embrace me; seeing me afar off; meeting me; falling upon my neck and kissing me. When the Spirit opens my eyes, it is thus that I know God. And how may I know that I do really know him thus? How otherwise than by my keeping his commandments? For this knowledge is intensely practical; not theoretic and speculative at all; but only practical. I know God in the giving of his Son to me and for me; in his giving him to be my friend and brother; my surety and redeemer; giving him to die for me on the accursed tree. With the new mind and the new heart created in me by his own Spirit, I know God now in Christ, as washing me from all my guilt; taking me home; making me his child and heir. I know him by the fatherly benignity of the look he bends on me, and the fatherly warmth of the grasp in which he holds me. And I may assure myself that in any tolerable measure I thus know him, only if I keep his commandments.
Let me bless his name for that simple practical test. I am not sent to any Gnostic school to seek a certificate of scholarship from any of these knowing ones. I have not to graduate in any of their colleges. I need not aspire to any mystic insight, or visionary rapture, or sublime beatific ecstasy. A lowlier path by far is mine. I am ignorant of many things; ignorant of much even that it concerns me to learn of God and of his wondrous love to me; far, very far, from knowing him as I ought. But do I so know him as to make conscience of keeping his commandments - keeping them as I did not care to keep them once? Is my proud will subdued and my independent spirit broken? Moved and melted by what I know of God, do I, as if instinctively, cry, "Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do .? ,' Then, to me, this word is indeed a precious word in season; "hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments" (ver. 3).
II. For while "he that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (ver. 4); "whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected" (ver. 5).
The change of expression here is surely meant to be significant. "His commandments," which may be many and various, are reduced to what is one and simple - " his word." The meaning is doubtless in substance the same; but there is a shade of difference. This keeping of his word. is, as it were, the concentrated and condensed spirit and essence of the keeping of his commandments. The thought suggested is not so much that of the things commanded, as of the command itself. It is not commandments, but God commanding; not speech, but God speaking; his word. The knowing ones stigmatised as liars pretended to know God, not as speaking, but simply as being; not by communication from him, but by insight into him; not by his word, but by their own wisdom. But you know him by his word. And that word of his, when you keep it, perfects the good understanding, the covenant of love, between him and you.
For indeed it must always be by word that love is truly perfected between intelligent parties; by the plighting of troth; by the interchange of pledge or promise expressed or understood; by word given and kept. How is it, when I know a friend, that his love is truly perfected in me? He gives me his word, and I keep it. I have nothing else for it but his word; his bare and naked word. I need nothing else; I desire nothing else. I keep that word of his; I keep it firm and fast. And as he is true to me, and I am true to him, I find that mere word of his, so kept by me, a sufficient warrant and assurance of all being right, and there being nothing now between us but true and perfect love, a true and perfect state of amity and peace. When God is the party concerned, the keeping of his word on my part may well suffice for his love being thus truly perfected in me. For that word of his, the sum now to me of all his commandments, is his one simple assurance of good will in his Son. It is his word of reconciliation in Christ. It is, one might say, Christ himself, the reconciler. It is "God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing unto them their trespasses." It is a word of very complete and comprehensive sweep: embracing all on God's part that is sovereign, efficacious, and authoritative, in the gift of his grace and in the obligation of his law; and all on our part that is humble, submissive, and obedient, in our trusting acceptance of the gift and cordial compliance with the obligation. It is a word making over to us freely from God all that is his; for "he that spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" It is a word winning over to God freely from us, ourselves, and all that is ours; for "we are not our own, but bought with a price," and so bound to "glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits, which are his." So full, complete, perfect, is this word on both sides. Only let it be kept. Kept on God's side it cannot fail to be. Let it be kept on ours. God is faithful to keep it to us. Let us be faithful to keep it to God. Kept by us, as it is sure to be kept by him, it does indeed ratify a perfect treaty of love. III. And thus "we know that we are in him" (ver. 5). This, as it would seem, is the crown and consummation of all; first, to be in him; and, secondly, to know that we are in him. First, to be in him; in a God whom we know, and between whom and us there is a real and perfect covenant of peace and love ; - that must be an attainment worth while for us to realise; worth while for us to know or be sure that we realise.
To be in him! This cannot mean to be in God in any mystical sense of absorption; as if we were to lose our distinct personality, and be swallowed up in the ocean of the divine essence. All such ideas are precluded by the clear and unequivocal recognition of personal dealings, as between one intelligent being and another, implied in our knowing God, and in his love being truly perfected in us. But short of that wild and impious dream, it is not easy to urge too far the almost literal significance of the expression, - " we are in him." Certainly it is something very different from merely being in what is his; as in his church, his house, his family, his kingdom. It is being in himself. What, on his part, that implies is among "the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived, but which God hath prepared for them that love him." Even to them it cannot be described beforehand. It transcends all that in imagination they could previously grasp. It is so prepared for them that love him that only in loving him can they apprehend and prove it. To be in him! What a covering of them with his wings - what a wrapping of them round with his own divine perfections - what an identifying of them with himself, of their interests with his, their triumph with his, their joy with his; what an identifying of himself with them, his grace with their guilt, his strength with their weakness, his glory with their salvation! To be in him! What a surrounding of them on all sides as with eyes innumerable and arms invincible; clothing them, as it were, with his own omniscience, his own omnipotence! Truly "as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people." They are in him. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
But it is rather what on our part this phrase implies that we are led to consider. What insight! What sympathy! What entering into his rest! What entering into his working too! What a fellowship of light!
We are in him! We are in his mind. He lets us into his mind. If I have a friend whom I know, and between whom and me there is a truly perfected love, I long to enter into his mind; to be partaker with him in all his mental movements and exercises, as he reads, and meditates, and studies; as he lays his plans and carries them into effect. I would be so in him that there should be, as it were, but one mind between us. Oh to be thus in God, of one mind with God!
We are in his heart. He lets us into his heart, - that great heart of the everlasting Father so warmly and widely opened in his Son Jesus Christ. To be in him, so that that heart of his shall draw to itself my heart, and the beating of the two shall, as it were, be in unison, and the throbbing of the two shall be blended in one ; - and the Father's deep earnestness shall be mine ;and the Father's holy wrath shall be mine; and the Father's pity shall be mine; and the Father's persuasive voice shall be mine; as I plead with my fellows ; - " Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die?" - what a thought! To be thus in God through our knowing him, and through his love being perfected in us! Surely that is about the highest reach of our fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
And therefore, secondly, to know that we are thus in God cannot but be a matter of much concern. Who, on such a point, would run the risk of self-deception - nay, of being found "a liar, not having the truth in him"? To have some tolerable confidence, tolerably well grounded, that my being in God is a reality; that surely is desirable if it can be attained. And how am I to seek it? /tow am I at once to aim at being in him, more and more thoroughly and unequivocally, and also to aim at verifying more and more satisfactorily and surely my being in him?. For these two aims must go together; they are one. Keep his word, is the reply. Is that then all? I may be tempted to ask. Am I to look for no clearer token, no more decisive mark and proof of my being in him? Is there to be no tangible evidence in my experience, no sign from heaven, no voice, no vision, no illapse or sliding into my soul, I know not how, of some sensible assurance, I know not what, to attest my being in him?. Nay, to have such confirmation might only mislead me. I might content myself with the sign, instead of striving to realise more and more what it signifies. Better, safer, is it, that I should be directed, to a humbler method, the keeping of his word. But is that enough? Yes; for in the keeping of his word his love is truly perfected in us who thereby know him.
Let us keep his word in that view of its power and virtue; as the seal and bond of a perfect understanding and a perfect state of peace between him and us. Let us cultivate what is the vital element of all intelligent and loving fellowship between him and us, the spirit which prompts the cry, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." In that spirit let us keep his commandments; the commandments in which his word is broken up in detail; the commandments which assure us of his love to us; the commandments which exercise our love to him. Let us keep the commandments of his word; which, in our keeping of them, assure us of his love to us. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters," "come now and let us reason together," "this is my beloved Son, hear him." Let us keep also the commandments of his word, which, in our keeping of them, exercise our love to him; - "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God," "risen with Christ, seek the things which are above," "come out and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters." So keeping his word and his commandments, we more and more completely apprehend his love as truly perfected in us. We more and more clearly, brightly, hopefully, ascertain that we do know God and are in God, in some measure as he knows God and is in God, who while on earth could truly say, "The Father knoweth me, and I know the Father;" "Thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee."
VIII. THE CHRISTLIKE WALK OF ONE WITH GUILELESS SPIRIT ABIDING IN GOD.
"He that saith he abideth in him [God], ought himself also so to walk even as he [Christ] walked." - 1 John 2: 6.
To "walk as Christ" walked is essential to our "abiding in God;" not merely "being in God," as it is put in the previous verse, but being in him permanently; continuing or abiding in him. It is therefore the test of our truth when we "say that we abide in God;" it is the very means by which we abide in him. Jesus tells us (John 16: l0, 11) that he continued or abode in the Father's love by keeping the Father's commandments. That was his walk, by which he abode in God. If we would abide in God as he did, we must walk as he walked, keeping the Father's commandments as he kept them. Thus this verse fits into those that go before, and completes, so far, the apostle's description of the divine fellowship, viewed as a fellowship of holy light, and transforming, obedient knowledge.
The walk of Christ, abiding in God, is therefore to be considered as our study and our model.
I. It is sometimes said of Christ simply that he walked, without anything to define or qualify the expression. After these thing Jesus walked in Galilee; for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him" (John 7: 1. He says it of himself; "Nevertheless I must walk to-day, and to-morrow, and the third day, for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem" (Luke 13: 33). Again he says, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night he stumbleth, because there is no light in him" (John 12: 9, 10). Jesus then walked. His life was a walk. The idea of earnestness, of definiteness of purpose, of decision and progress, is thus suggested. Many men live as if they were not really walking, but lounging and sauntering; or running fitfully and by starts, with intervals of aimless, listless sloth; or musing, or dreaming, or sleep-walking. Some are said to be fastlivers; their life being not a walk, but a brief tumultuous rush of excitement, ending soon in vacancy, or something worse. Others again live as if life were to be all, instead of a walk, a gay and giddy dance; alas! they may find it the dance of death. It is something to apprehend and feel that life is a walk; not a game, or pastime, or outburst of passion; not a random flight, or a groping, creeping, grovelling crawl, or a mazy labyrinthine puzzle; but a walk; a steady walk; an onward march and movement; a business-like, purpose-like, step-by-step advance in front; such a walk as a man girds himself for, and shoes himself for, and sets out upon with staff in hand, and firm-set face, and cap well fixed on the head, and holds on in, amid stormy wind and drifting snow; resolute to have it finished and to reach the goal. Such a walk is real life; life in earnest. Such a walk pre-eminently was the life of Jesus. No dilettante trifler was he; nor a visionary; nor a loiterer; nor a runner to and fro; nor a climber of cloud-capped heights; but a walker; a plain pedestrian walker; a determined walker, whom nothing could turn aside or turn back. It is said of him, on one occasion, that he "stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem." That was his way, his manner always. He walked. He stedfastly set his face to walk. On, still on, he walked, unflagging, unflinching; he walked right on. It is a sublime spectacle to gaze on; this Jesus, Son of God, Son of man, thus walking; in Galilee; in Jewry; his face stedfastly set to go to Jerusalem.
Now, "he that saith he abideth in God, ought himself also so to walk even as Jesus walked." It was as always "abiding in God" that he "walked." It was his abiding always in God that constrained him to walk; to be always walking. It was that which would not suffer him either to stand still or to make haste; either to pause and fall behind, or to run too fast before. He abode in God. He walked as one who was abiding in God all the while he walked. While his feet were busy walking, his soul was resting in God. Outward movement, inward repose ; - the whole man Christ Jesus bent upon the road, - mind, spirit, heart, all bent upon the road ; - and yet ever, at the same time, the whole man Christ Jesus dwelling in the Father's bosom, - mind, spirit, heart, all dwelling in the Father's bosom; as calmly, tranquilly, quietly, as in that unbroken eternity, ere he became man, he had been wont to dwell there ; - so he walked, abiding in God.
So you also ought to walk even as he walked ; - " abiding in God." Ah! this blessed combination! Outward movement, inward repose; the feet busy, active, alert - the soul resting in God; incessant marching up through the wilderness, amid fightings and fears, but always peace within, peace with God, peace in God; noise and uproar often to be encountered on the open way, but silence evermore in the hidden part, the deep holy silence of God's own secret place!
Oh! to walk as one abiding in God; abiding in him all the while we walk! Who can look at Jesus walking with-out feeling that it is the walk of one abiding in God? He speaks of himself as "the Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3: 13); - not which was, but which is, in heaven. It is as the Son of man who is in heaven even when he is on earth that he tells of heavenly things. It is as the Son of man who is in heaven that he walks on earth. Hence his life is indeed a walk. His being, all the while he is walking on earth, himself in heaven; abiding in God; imparts that clear outlook and that calm confidence, without which there may be wandering up and down, but not real steady walking. Therefore he is neither as one blindly feeling his way, nor as one in doubt or in despair trying every or any path. He walks, "not as uncertainly," - even as he fights, "not as one that beateth the air." He walks as one who has "the mastery." For he walks, abiding in God.
But some one may say, Is not this too high an ideal Is it not the setting up of an inimitable model? Jesus, the Son of man, while walking on earth, is still in heaven, in a sense in which that cannot be said of any of us. His being still the eternal Son of the Highest as well as the son of Mary, may well be supposed to give him such divine insight and assurance as to make his life more like what life should be, a real walk, than ours can be expected to be. Not so. For, first, he fully shares with us whatever disadvantage, as regards his walking, may be implied in his being a son of man. And, secondly, he would have us fully to share with him whatever advantage there is in his being the Son of God. For both reasons, our life may be as much and as truly a walk as his was.
First, it is a man whom we see walking; one who is true and very man. His being God also gives him no exemption or immunity from any of those annoyances, or difficulties, or dangers, which might be apt to turn the walk into some sort of movement more irregular and less becoming. On the contrary, what he saw, and knew, and felt, as the Son of God, made these trials of his walk all the more formidable. He, in his walk, met with far more that was fitted to make his feet stumble and his courage fail, than any of us can ever meet with in ours. And as his divine knowledge gave him a clearer sight, so his divine holiness gave him a keener sense, of it all. If ever this great walker's firm step might totter, and his gait grow staggering, and his eye irresolute, it might well be when, with the full and vivid apprehension he had of their real meaning and awful horror, he found his walk lying through the wilderness of satanic temptation, the garden of overwhelming agony, the shame and curse of Calvary. Truly he was no privileged walker amid earth's dark scenes of misery and sin; having for his own share to endure the contradiction of sinners against himself, and, before all was over, to taste the bitterness of death, with its cruellest sting, for the very men who cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Think you not that it might have been easier for him to walk calmly and with composure if, when he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, it had been possible for him to be led blindfold? No. There was no royal road for him to walk in. His walk was on the billows of the angry sea.
Then, secondly, if there is any advantage in the way of imparting firmness and fixedness to his walk in his being the Son of God, is he not sharing that advantage with us Is it his being in God, and abiding in God, as the Son in the Father's bosom, all the time he is walking here below, that makes his walk so admirable for its serene and settled heavenliness? Does he keep that position to himself? Does he not make it freely ours? Is it not as abiding in God, even as he abides in God, that we are exhorted and expected to "walk even as he walked?"
II. Let some particulars about this walk be noticed. I. If we say that "we abide in God," we ought to walk as seeing God in all things and all things in God; for so Christ walked. Nothing is more conspicuous in the general bearing of his conduct, and in every detail, than his constant reference to God. "All things" to him "were of God" (2 Con. 5: 18). It was not that he so identified the world around him with God as to reckon devotion to the world equivalent to devotion to God; making the world's business God's worship. It was rather that, abiding in God, he so identified himself with God, that every object, every event, presented itself to him in its relation to God. What is it in God's point of view?-what does it mean as regards him? - what are its aspects towards him? - what is his estimate of it and his mind concerning it? - that is always the uppermost, the only question. And it is the same with persons as with things and circumstances. No man is known after the flesh (2 Cor. 5: 16). The young man, with all his natural amiability and attractiveness, of whom it is said that "Jesus beholding him, loved him" (Mark 10: 21), is yet not known after the flesh; Jesus will know him only in God, in whom he himself abideth. Even though he has to let him go away sorrowful, - himself more sorrowful still for having to let one so lovable go away, - he will walk towards him as himself "abiding in God." Neither the youth's great possessions, nor his all but resistless winning qualities, will counterbalance in Christ's mind what is due to the paramount claims of God and his kingdom. His walk is still not manward at all, however strong the temptation to decline a little, a very little, in that direction, but Godward alone, Godward altogether. It is still always God and not man who is in all his thoughts. Is a woman who has been a sinner behind him, washing his feet with her tears? - or before him alone, abashed, all her accusers having gone out?. Not a thought of what men may think or say is in his mind; but only how his Father will feel, and what his Father will have him to do. So he walked, abiding in God. And "he that saith he abideth in God ought himself also so to walk." 2. He ought to walk as one subordinating himself always in all things to God; submitting himself to God; committing himself to God. Abiding in God, he ought to walk as being himself nothing; God, in whom he abides, being all in all. So Christ walked. He did not seek his own glory, or do his own will, or find his own meat, or save his own life, or plead his own cause, or avenge his own wrong. Self is never a consideration with him, but always God his Father, in whom he abides.
It is not that he is either a mad fanatic, prodigally reckless of God's gift of life and of life's loving comforts; or a mad enthusiast, dreaming of one knows not what absorption of individual personality in some vast and vague idea of the Godhead. He shared the joy of the marriage-feast and the hospitality of the common meal. In the home of Bethany he loved to be with Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. He was ever, as the Son, distinct from the Father; and as the servant, subject to the Father.
But abiding in God, he walked as having no mind of his own, but only to know the mind of God, and to have it done at whatever cost. It was not self-denial merely, and self-sacrifice. It was the self-denying and self-sacrificing surrender of himself to God. It was, "Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me; I delight to do thy will, O God" (Ps. xl. 7, 8; Heb. x. 7-10).
To walk in this respect as Christ walked, abiding in God as he did, is indeed to be emptied of self. But it is not that only. It is to be filled with God. It is to walk humbly, meekly, patiently, cheerfully - "seeking not our own, not easily provoked, bearing all things, enduring all things" - not as being insensible to pain and grief, or as if we affected the stoical pride of indifference to such things; but simply as "learning obedience," where Jesus learned it, in the school of suffering and submission.
He that saith he abideth in God" .ought to walk in love. If we abide in God, we abide in the great source and fountain of love: in the infinite ocean of pure and per-feet benevolence.
It was thus that Jesus, "abiding in God," walked abroad among men; the very impersonation of benevolence; "a man approved of God, who went about doing good." His whole walk was one continuous manifestation of good will to men. And it was of the Father's good will to men that his walk was the manifestation; for he was ever abiding in God. No good will to men's principles and practices, while at enmity with God, did his walk manifest: no such good will as would have their principles and practices tolerated and indulged at the expense of the honour and the law of that God and Father in whom he was continually abiding. But good will to their persons, to themselves, - ah! how intense, how unwearied, how inexhaustible, - was that walk of his incessantly exemplifying!
Can we say that we "abide in God" as Jesus did, if our walk is not what his was; a walk of active benevolence, practically proclaiming our Father's good will to men as our brethren?. Ah! let us not forget to do good, to distribute, to be kind, to carry food to the hungry, healing to the sick, comfort to the sorrowful, hope to the sinful; to speak a word in season to the weary; to visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction, while we keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
"He that saith he abideth in God ought," in a word, to walk in unity with God, as being of one mind with God, and of one heart. So Jesus walked. For with reference to his human walk on earth quite as much as to his divine nature, or his being in heaven, he could say "I and my Father are one." He had no separate interest from his Father; no separate occupation; no separate joy. Whatever touched the Father, equally and in the same way affected him. "The zeal of thine house," he cried, "hath eaten me up." He pleased not himself; but, "as it is written: The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me." This harmony of sentiment, this conscious unity of desire and aim between him and the Father who appointed his lot, - the result of his "abiding always in God," - made his life a walk indeed. It was not a walk through pleasant places. It was no holiday excursion; no easy ramble. And yet the sense of a high and intimate community of motive, means, and end between him and the Father, which his abiding ever in God must have inspired, could scarcely fail to invest the scenery through which he passed, at its very wildest and darkest points, with a certain charm of divine majesty and awe; as well as also to impart to his soul, in passing through it, I say not equanimity only, but a measure also of deep and chastened joy.
For in fact, with all its trials and terrors, its agonies and griefs, I cannot imagine that even to the man of sorrows his walk through life was what could fairly be called unhappy. When the road led through Bethany's peaceful shades, and allowed a night's tarrying in the home he loved so well, the hallowed repose of that familiar friendly circle must have been very sweet to his taste; all the sweeter for the thought that, abiding in him who put so welcome an entertainment, so congenial a solace, in his way, he was not solitary in the enjoyment of it; the relish of it being common to the Father and to him. And even when in his walk he had to "tread the winepress alone;" yet not alone, for the Father was with him; when flesh and heart fainting would have moved him almost to put the cup away from him ; - is it conceivable that, abiding in God, he could ever lose the apprehension of the unity of counsel between them in the great design for which he came into the world? It could not be with any other feeling than that of relief, of acquiescence, I will say of intensest satisfaction, that, overcoming in the Spirit the weakness of the flesh, he gave himself up to him in whom, in that dread hour, he was abiding, if it were possible, more closely, more intimately, more lovingly than ever; - " Father, thy will be done; " - " Father, glorify thy name ;" - "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.!'
So he walked. And so it is our privilege to walk,-abiding, by the power of the Spirit, in God as he did; saying always, "Not my will but thine be done." "Who then is among you that feareth the Lord, and yet walketh in darkness, seeing no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay himself upon his God" (Isaiah 1: 10, 11). Walk on still, in darkness if it must be so, but abiding still in God. The darkness will not last for ever. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Walk still on, I say, abiding in God as he did, who, when his walk was as of one forsaken, - through the hell which your sins and mine de-served - -cried still: "My God, my God!" My God, I abide in thee! Though thou slay me, I will trust in thee.
Who says now, I abide in God? See that you really walk as he walked, who alone is the perfect pattern and example of abiding in God. Ah! the notion of any other sort of abiding in God, or any other way of abiding in God, than his sort and his way of it, which his walk so fully verified, is wholly false and vain. You cannot hope to abide in God, and in God's love, otherwise than as he did ; - by keeping his commandments.
I charge you, then, all of you, to keep the commandments of God; to walk in the way of his commandments; that you may have fellowship with him and he with you. That is the true apostolic fellowship - fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. I ask you, every one of you, how are you walking? How, and whither.? Are you "walking after the course of this world?" Then I have to tell you, - or rather Paul tells you, - that you are really "walking after the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." That is your fellowship, the fellowship of the devil, if that is your walk, after the course of this world. "And I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils." But walk in the light, as God is in the light, and have fellowship with him and he with you, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleansing you from all sin!
IX - THE COMMANDMENT AT ONCE OLD AND NEW TO ONE WALKING WITH GUILELESS SPIRIT IN THE LIGHT - THE DARKNESS PASSING - THE TRUE LIGHT SHINING. "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." - 1 John 2: 7, 8. What commandment does John mean?. Is it the same commandment throughout .? If so, in what sense is it at once old and new?
Some will have it to be the commandment of brotherly love, introduced at the ninth verse. There is an awkwardness, however, in thus making these two verses describe a commandment not yet mentioned. It is an unnatural mode of writing. And it is unlike the apostle's usual simplicity, to be as it were sounding a trumpet of preparation for the precept which he so commends, with a sort of rhetorical paradox about its being not new but old, and yet again new, and all this before the precept itself is indicated. And the last clause of the seventh verse seems conclusive against that view. The apostle tells what the commandment is. It is "the word which ye have heard from the beginning." Surely this may best be understood as referring back to the word of life (1: 1), which the apostle says he and his fellow-apostles had from the beginning heard and seen and handled, and which, he adds, we declare unto you. Is not that what he means here by "the word which ye have heard "?
It is not new but old, as old as the first preaching of the gospel. I am no setter-forth of novelties or strange doctrines. What I write
(I.) concerning the fellowship of light and joy with the Father and the Son into which your believing knowledge of the word, through the teaching of the Spirit, introduces you;
(2.) concerning the indispensable condition of that fellowship, your walking in the light as he is in the light;
(3.) concerning the sacrifice and advocacy of Jesus Christ, as meeting that sense of sin and shortcoming which otherwise must be ever fatally dimming the light, and marring the joy, of the fellowship; and (4.) concerning the obligation of a sinless aim, an obedient heart, a Christ-like walk, if you would really know God, and have his love perfected in you, and be in him ; - all that, which I am writing to you, is old. It is no new discovery, no new despatch from heaven. It is "an old commandment, which ye had from the beginning."
But what of the intimation that follows; "a new commandment I write unto you"? It is not merely a thrice-told tale that I am writing about. There is something fresh and new about it. And what is that?
It is the realising of this fact, or this thing, as true, first in Christ and then in yourselves, that "the darkness is past," or is passing, "and the true light is now shining." For so this clause really runs. It is not a reason for the thing which is true; it is the very thing itself ; - -" which thing is true, in him and in you; this, namely, that the darkness is past, or is passing, and the true light now shineth."
This is what constitutes the newness of the old commandment. ,It is a new thing to have this fact becoming matter of consciousness ; - the fact of its being true, in Christ and in you, that the darkness is passing and the true light is now shining. The obligation to make this goad is emphatically a new commandment. It commands, or commends, what must ever be felt to be a novelty.
Thus viewed, this new commandment may bring out a singularly close parallelism or identity between Christ and all who, abiding in God, walk as Christ walked.
I. In Christ personally this is true, "that the darkness is passing and the true light is shining." In so far as this is a continuous process, or progressive experience, it is true of Christ only as he walked on earth. Look at him, then, in his human life. A new commandment is given to him, a new charge or commission from above.
Something new is given to him to be learned as a message or lesson. It is the message or lesson of its being true in him that the darkness passeth, and the true light now shineth. He is placed in new circumstances. He is plunged into the very thickest of the fight that is evermore waged here below between the two. On the one hand, darkness - the darkness that is opposed to the light which God is, and in which God is, the light which is at once his nature and his dwelling-place, - that darkness is no stranger to him; he no stranger to it. Neither outwardly in his history, nor inwardly in his inmost soul, is he a stranger to it or it to him. Darkness is upon him, around him, in him; the darkness of the sin with which he comes in contact, the sin which, in its criminality and curse, he makes his own. But, on the other hand, the true light is ever shining upon him, around him, in him; the light of the Father's loving eye bent upon his suffering Son; the light of his own single eye ever bent upon the Father's glory. In him this darkness and this light are incessantly meeting; present always, both of them, vividly present to his consciousness; felt to be real, intensely real - the darkness, however, always as passing; the true light always as now shining.
For this is the peculiarity of the position. The darkness is on its way to the oblivion in which all the past lies buried, because there is now true light shining. It is no longer a doubtful struggle, or one that might issue in a drawn battle. The seed of the woman is bruising the head of the serpent. The true light now shining is causing the darkness to pass. So Jesus perseveres. Otherwise he must have given way. In him, even when in his experience and to his agonised consciousness, the darkness is deepest, it is still a darkness which is passing, and is realised as passing. In him, even then, the true light is shining. It is a present shining; it is the true light shining now. It is not merely that there might be in him. amid the darkness, some memory of the true light shining once, of old, from everlasting; or some anticipation of its shining again soon, to everlasting. But the true light is shining in him now; the light of conscious victory over the passing darkness. Therefore "for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross.
II. What is true in him should be true in us, and should be realised by us as true in us as in him. That is the apostle's new commandment. For we enter into the position of him in whom, in the first instance, that is true. The ,commandment to us is to enter into his position. And it :is a new position. It is new to every one with whom the ,commandment finds acceptance, and in whom it takes effect. It is a new thing for me, in compliance with this commandment, to apprehend it to be true, in Christ and in me, - in :me as in Christ, - that the darkness is evanescent, vanishing, passing, and that the true light is now shining. Nay :more, it is a new thing for me every moment, Not once for all, but by a constant series of believing acts and exercises of appropriation, I recognise it as true in him and in me, that the darkness is passing and the true light is now shining.
I. "The darkness is passing." Is it so with me, to me, in me? Then all that pertains to the darkness, all that is allied to it, is passing too. It is all like a term in course of being worked out in an algebraic question; a vanishing quantity; a fading colour. Is it thus that I practically regard the whole kingdom of darkness, and all the works of darkness, and all the terrors of darkness; the power of darkness; the darkness of this world and the rulers of it? Plainly there is here a thoroughly practical test. What is the darkness to me as regards my relation to it and my esteem of it? Or the things of darkness - what are they? I know well enough what the darkness, in this use of the word, means; what it is. It means, it is, the shutting out of God. For darkness is the absence of light. But God is light. This darkness therefore is the absence of God, the shutting out of God. In whatever place or scene or company God is shut out there is darkness. Whatever work or way God is shut out from, that is a work or way of darkness. Whoever shuts out God from his thoughts is a child of darkness. Now I come into contact with this darkness on every hand, at every point. Places, scenes, companies, from which God is shut out; works and ways from which God is shut out; people from whose minds and hearts God is shut out ; - I am in the midst of them all; they press upon me; I cannot get rid of them. Tempting, flattering, cajoling; or trying, threatening, persecuting; they are on me like the Philistines on Samson. Worse than .that, they are in me, as having only too good auxiliaries in my own sinful bosom. How do I regard them? Do I cleave to them, to any of them? Would I have them to abide, at least a little longer? Would it pain me to part with them and let them pass? Or is it this very feature about them all that they are passing, - that the darkness which owns them all is passing, - that I fasten upon for relief and comfort? Is it that which alone reconciles me to my being still obliged for a season to tolerate and have dealings with the darkness?
For dealings with this darkness I cannot but have. I have to go down into its depths to rescue, if it may be, its victims. And I have to resist its solicitations when its ministers come to me disguised as angels of light. My soul, like the righteous soul of Lot, must be vexed with the evil conversation and ungodly deeds that the darkness covers in Sodom. I have to stand its assaults; and when reviled, revile not again. So this darkness, this shutting out of God, with its manifold influences and agencies, besets me. How do I feel towards it?. Have I still some sympathy with it in some of its less offensive aspects? Am I still :inclined to make terms with it, so as to disarm its hostility, and even taste, in some safe manner and degree, its friendship? Would its instant and thorough disappearance from before me, - would my instant and thorough removal from beside it, - be altogether welcome? Would I have it stay with me or pass from me? Is the darkness of this world, with its pursuits and pleasures and amusements, its seductions, its associations, its customs and fellowships, - in which God is not, and therefore light is not, - is it a lingering friend to me, or a departing stranger, a retreating foe? "The darkness is passing." Is that true in me, as in Christ, with reference not merely to the darkness of this world that has such a bold on me, but also and chiefly to the darkness of my own shutting out of God; the darkness of my shutting out of God from my own conscious guilt and cherished sin? That is darkness indeed. Is it passing? Am I glad of its passing? Or am I somehow, and in some measure, loving it still? - so loving-it that I would not have it altogether or all at once pass? Say that my sin is finding me out ; - the sin, generally, of my state and character before God, or some particular sin. Say that 1 am falling away from my first love, or coming again under the dominion of some form of evil ; - that, in some particular matter, my heart is not right with God. So far as that matter is concerned, I would shut out God. I would put in something between him and me; some excuse; some palliating circumstance; some countervailing aspect of goodness; some plea of self-justification of some sort. That is the darkness which, in such a case, I naturally love. And I feel myself drawn to love it, even in spite of ray experience of the more excellent way of guilelessness on my part towards God, and grace on God's part towards me. But is it passing - this darkness? Is it passing with my own consent? Do I make it free and right welcome to pass? Or do I cleave to it as if I would still have a little of it to abide with me? Ah! this darkness, this shutting out of God! How apt am I, if not to ask it, at least to suffer it, to return and remain. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
"The darkness is passing." Is this my stay, my hope, my joy in the hour of its fiercest power? When it gathers thickest and falls heaviest, hiding God's face from me; when all about me and in me is so dark that I cannot see my signs; when a sense of guilt sinks me as in a dark pit, and "the sorrows of death compass me, and the pains of hell get hold upon me, and I find trouble and sorrow; " - -let me fasten on this "thing which is true in Christ and in me, that the darkness is passing." I am suffering with Christ, undergoing a kind of crucifixion with him. To me, as to him, - to me conscious of sin, my own and not another's, - the cup of wrath is presented. On me, as on him, the awful blackness of that day of doom settles down. To me, as to him, sin is indeed exceeding sinful; and the death, which is its wages, terrible. Sold under sin, I am consciously, with a keen and nervous sensitiveness of conscience, dying that death. My faith is failing. Unbelief all but has the mastery. But a new commandment is given me, and a new power, at the critical moment, to realise it as a thing true in Christ, and therefore true in me, that this darkness is passing. In him it is true only through his draining the cup of wrath, dying the accursed death for me. O my soul, bless thou the Lord, that it is already and most graciously true in thee, because so terribly true in him, that, without cost to thee, though with infinite cost to him, this great darkness passes away for ever!
2. "The true light is now shining." This "thing also is true in Christ and in you ;" in you as in Christ; in you because in Christ. And it is to be apprehended and felt as true now. The true light now shineth. It is not said that this true light is to shine hereafter. This is not represented as a benefit to be got, or as a reward to be reached, after the darkness shall have passed. It is a present privilege or possession, - a thing which is true in Christ and in you, - that all the time the darkness is passing the true light is shining. "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." That is the gospel call to the Church and to every member of it. It is true, as a great fact, in you as in Christ, that the true light now shineth. Its present shining is in you, as truly as in him, a blessed reality.
For this true light now shining, which is a true thing in you as in Christ, is simply what Christ found it to be; God's loving eye upon you, and your single eye towards God. That is the true light now shining. And the fact of its now shining while the darkness is passing, is the thing which is to be recognised as true, in you as in Christ.
That is the "new commandment ;" a commandment always new; conveying in its bosom an ever-fresh experience, pregnant with ever-fresh experimental discoveries of him who is light, and who dwells in light. Only act up to this commandment; be ever acting up to it more and more. Enter into the spirit of it, and follow it out to its fair and full issues. The newness of it, its constant novelty, will be more and more apparent, or at least more and more felt and relished. A loving Father's eye ever fixed upon you, and a filial eye in you ever fixed upon him ; - that, I repeat, is the true light now shining in you as in Christ. It is not outward revelation only; it is inward illumination as well. It is the Spirit that dwelt in Christ dwelling also in you; shedding abroad in your hearts the love of God, and calling forth the simple response of obedient love in return. Let no child of God say that this shining of the true light must be reserved for the future. The true light shineth in him as in Christ now. The new commandment concerning it is in force now. It is a great fact, a thing which is true in Christ,- not in Christ considered as glorified, but in Christ humbling himself, in Christ walking, in Christ crucified, - that not only is the darkness passing, but the true light is now shining. It is, it should be, it must be, it shall be, a great fact, a thing that is true, in you also. Is it not so? Why should it not be so? Is not that great, open eye of your Father in heaven continually beholding you? Yes! Even when in a little wrath he hides his face from you, even when he smites you with the rod, are you not under that benignant eye? And on your part, through grace, may not this voice be ever going upwards to the throne of grace? "Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us" (Ps. cxxiii. 2).
Thus it is "true in him and in you, that the darkness is passing, and the true light shineth." And it is ever a new oracle of divine grace. It will always be so to the pilgrim on his way through the dark wilderness to divinely lighted Canaan. It will always be so, at every step, to you who, abiding in God, walk even as Christ also walked. When faint and weary because of the way, tempted almost to give up, and to give in, as if your striving against sin were all in vain, and your endurance of the contradiction of sinners against yourself more than flesh and blood can stand, call to mind this word - " Which thing is true in him and in you, that the darkness is passing, and the true light now shineth." It is a new word to you then, a new assurance, a new appeal. It dissipates the gloom that is enshrouding all things to your view. "Lo! they are all new in the true light that is shining. Whenever the old shadows are flinging themselves again across your path, the old misgivings and questionings, the old doubts and fears, the old partial dealings with God's promises in the word of his gospel, the old hesitancies about the freeness of his grace, and the sufficiency of his great salvation, and your title to believe in the forgiveness of your sins; call to mind this word: "Which thing is true in him and in you, that the darkness is passing, and the true light now shineth." It rings as a new Jubilee trumpet. It breathes new life into you. For "in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and nay song: he also is become my salvation." Are old frames coming back upon me: old ways of thinking and feeling about the service of God, and the troubles of life, and the terrors of death; the old ideas as to God being an hard master, and his commandments being grievous; the old spirit of bondage, the old servile grudging, the old rebelliousness, that makes duty irksome, and self-denial hard, and labour thankless, and the whole doing of God's will a dull routine or dreary task? Let me call to mind this word: "Which thing is true in him and in you, that the darkness is passing, and the true light now shineth." Is it not a new and spirit-stirring summons to me? Is it not a new gospel to me? Is it not a new quickening, a new awakening? Is it not a new prayer that it prompts? - -" Create in me a clean heart, O Lord; and renew a right spirit within me."
And now, connecting the two verses which we have been considering separately, we may see how John, being "a scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven," is "like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasury things new and old." He probably had in his view a class of men, not uncommon in his day, who thirsted for novelties, if not in the doctrines of the gospel themselves, at least in the way of setting them forth; upon whom the primitive simplicity that is in Christ was beginning to pall; by whom the commonplace preaching of the cross was felt almost to have become effete, and to have lost its stimulating power. John will not pander to such a taste. He has been discoursing about high matters; but he is careful to assure his readers that they are not the sort of novelties for which some have a craving. There is nothing really new in his teaching. It is the old word which has been heard from the beginning; the same word that "Paul and Apollos and Cephas" proclaimed; the same word that John has been always reiterating. But if any will have novelty, here is a safe receipt for it. Let them make the old word new in their own experience by the ever-fresh practical application of it, in the ever-fresh practical apprehension of the "thing which is true in Christ and in them, that the darkness is passing, and the true light now shineth." For though doctrinal Christianity is always old, experimental Christianity is always new. The gospel preached to us is old; but the gospel realised in us is always new. Christ set forth before our eyes is always old; but "Christ in us the hope of glory," - " Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith," - Christ becoming more and more, through the Spirit's teaching, part and parcel of our whole inner man - This Christ is always new.
X. BROTHERLY LOVE A TEST AND MEANS OF BEING AND ABIDING, WITH GUILELESS SPIRIT, IN THE LIGHT, INSTEAD OF WALKING IN DARKNESS. "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him: but he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes." - 1 JOHN 2: 9-11.
"He that saith he is in the light" is one who professes to obey the "new commandment;" to realise in himself, personally, the new position or state of things implied in its being "true in Christ and in him," - in him as in Christ, - "that the darkness is passing and the true light is now shining." He says he is in the light which is now shining and chasing the darkness away. But he hateth his brother; one who says the same thing; one in whom, as in Christ and in him, the same thing is true. He refuses to recognise him as a brother, or to regard him with brotherly love. And that is enough to prove that he cannot really be himself one of those in whom, as in Christ, "this thing is true, that the darkness is passing and the true light is now shining."
On the other hand, "he that loveth his brother," - he that loves as his brother one in whom, as in Christ and in himself, "this thing is true, that the darkness is passing and the true light is now shining," - not only shows thereby that he speaks truth when he says he is in the light, but takes, moreover, the most effectual means for securing his continuing in the light; so abiding in the light that there shall be in him nothing to occasion stumbling.
But let him be warned. If he is destitute of this brotherly love, he cannot be in the light, the true light which is now shining. He is in darkness; the darkness which, in all that are Christ's, as in Christ himself, is passing. And according to the darkness in which he is, must his walk be. It cannot be the walk of one in whom there is no occasion of stumbling. It must be the walk of one who is darkly groping his way, not knowing whither he is going. Nor is this his misfortune; it is his fault. There is light enough, but he refuses to see it; he allows the darkness to blind his eyes.
This cursory analysis of these verses may suggest for consideration the following particulars respecting brotherly love : -
I. Its nature as being a brotherhood of light;
II. The reasonableness of its being made a test of being in the light; and
III. The fitness of its continued exercise to ensure continued abiding in the light.
I. Brotherly love consists in this, that they in whom, as in Christ, this thing is true, that the darkness is passing and the true light is shining, recognise one another as, in that character, and on that account, brethren. That is the first aspect of brotherly love suggested in this Epistle.
Look again, in this connection, at "this thing which is true."
See the vast cauldron or wide ocean of darkness; restless, tumultuous, angry. It is the chaos of moral evil; the wild anarchy of ungodliness; in which, God being shut out, spirits made in his image "wander up and down for meat, and grudge if they are not satisfied" (Ps. Iix. 15). Into this darkness, into the thick of it, one plunges himself, who has no affinity with it, and over whom it has no power. But he is in it; acquainting himself with all its terrors and sounding its utmost depths. He ransacks the chambers of the darkness. Its powers and principalities he defies; its works and ways, its poor expedients of relief, its miserable comforters, its refuges of lies, he remorselessly lays bare. But more than that he does. He marches straight up to the fountain-head of the horrid stream that has made so vast a desolation. That shutting out of God, which is the real blackness of this darkness, he deals with. To make reconciliation, to make peace, he takes upon himself my dark death, in order that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of life and light, may quicken and gladden me in him. Yes! the darkness is upon him. Its death is upon him; the death in which there is sin's dark sting and God's dark curse.
But it is passing; and already the true light is shining. The eclipse is over; and lo! a bright cloud! a glorious Shechinah! The righteous God glorified! The loving Father well pleased! The Son himself, - yet not for himself, but as "seeing his seed," - rejoicing and giving thanks! Now it is with us as with Christ, when in us, as in Christ, "this thing is true, that the darkness is passing, and the true light is shining." For, first, in Christ, our position with reference to that darkness is changed from what it naturally is. It is reversed. The terrible flood is not now carrying us away; we stem it holding him - he holding us. We see it passing.
Yesterday it was hurrying me along in its strong deep tide, to what ocean I knew not, and scarcely cared, or did not venture, to ask. Shutting my eyes, I was content to follow the stream. Or if at times some rude shock or some eddying whirl gave me pause, and a momentary alarm seized me as I saw signs of wreck and ruin on every side, I could but catch convulsively some frail stem or slippery rock; or desperately toss and struggle like some "strong swimmer in his agony."
Now all is changed. By grace in Christ, I am in a new way. My head is turned up the stream, and against it. At first it is a fearful struggle. What waves and billows go over me. No breath, no life is in me. I am lost, I perish!
But lo! Christ is with me; HE who "liveth and was dead, and is alive for evermore." He grasps me, and I grasp him. Together we rise, through such a death as I never thought I could survive, to such a life as - -how shall I describe it?. How but in inspired words, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."
"The things which God hath prepared for them that love him?" Yes! For they are prepared in order to their being presently realised. "The true light now shineth." As my head is raised, leaning on his shoulder and his bosom; as my feet begin to touch the rock on which, though fierce floods may still try to drown me, my goings are to be established; as I feebly open my heavy eyes in the upper atmosphere I am now beginning to breathe; what bright warm beam is that which lightens up the face of him in whose arms I am, and lightens up ray heart as I look and gaze on him, and cling and grow to him! It is the Father loving me as he loveth him. It is "the darkness passing and the true light now shining."
Then, as the first confused and rapturous joy of my own narrow escape becomes collected and calm, I look around. And I see him - for he multiplies himself and is everywhere - I see him doing the same kind office to one, and another, and another still, that he is doing to me. Here, close beside me, - there, a little farther off, - is a man like myself, in whom as in me ; - because in his Lord and mine ; - "the darkness is passing and the true light is shining." I look still, and my sight grows clearer as the light grows brighter. Here and there, all over, the surface of the dark ocean-stream is studded with miracles of saving mercy, as stupendous as I am myself; I, the chief of sinners, saved by special and as it were chiefest grace. At first I feel as if all around were still thick impenetrable gloom; and I alone were in the fond embrace of one who "loved me, and gave himself for me." But he tells me that he has others; and I see that he has. I see him embracing them because he loved them, and gave himself for them. Shall I not hail them as my brethren? Can I hate, or refuse to love, one who is my brother on such a footing as that?. Can any cause of coldness or estrangement have more power than the tie that should thus unite?vv
II. Hence it is that the existence of this brotherly love is a fitting test of our being "in the light." At all events, the absence of it is conclusive proof that we are not. For, consider what this hating, or not loving, our brother is; and what it involves. Here is one who but yesterday was, as we once were, carried helplessly on in the darkness that, as it passes, sweeps so many to destruction. But he has been arrested, and has got a footing. In his experience "the darkness is passing," but he is not now himself passing along with it. He stands against it and stems it. His head being raised above it, catches the cheering beams of heaven's light. And yet we who say that this is exactly our case, as we admit it to be his, hate that man; look coldly or cruelly on him; refuse to count him a brother! I do not ask if this is consistent. The question is rather - Is it possible?. The apostle says it is not. But why not?
It does not always follow that experience of a common danger and a common deliverance makes men brothers. Perhaps it should; where it does not, there is probably something wrong. The bitterest enemies, rescued in their strife from Niagara's Falls, will scarcely have the heart or the hardihood instantly to renew the fight. If they do, all around will cry shame on them. But there is really nothing in what they have undergone together that has any power, in its own nature, to alter their relations to one another, or their feelings towards one another. They are the same men that they were before; and no one has made peace between them. Here, however, there is a Peacemaker. First, I find myself individually and personally embraced by him, lifted up by him out of the darkness of my deep estrangement from God, into the light of God reconciled countenance; the light of the love of his Father and my Father, his God and my God. Next, I see him dealing with you, my late companion in the darkness, - my late antagonist, if you will, in some of the darkness's deadly strifes, exactly as he deals with me. I see him embracing you as he embraces me; lifting you up, as he lifts me, out of the same dark dread and dislike of God into the same light of his love. Do I love him who has me in his arms; keeping me so that it continues to be ever "true in him and in me that the darkness is passing, and the true light is shining?" And do I still hate you whom he has in his arms as he has me, and whom he keeps out of the darkness and in the light as he keeps me?. It cannot be. I can no more hate you than I can hate him. I may say that I am in the light; but if I hate you who also are in the light, I am "in darkness even until now."
Light is in itself in its very nature and bare shining - a great extinguisher of hatred; especially of hatred among those who should be brethren. It is in the darkness that mistakes occur, and misunderstandings arise. It is in the darkness that injuries are brooded over, and angry passions nursed. If you, brother, and I, are at variance, it is almost certain to be because there is some darkness about us that hinders us from seeing one another clearly. Hence we imagine evil of one another, and impute evil to one another. Let in the light. Let us see one another clearly. Differences between us may still remain; our views of many things may be wide as the poles asunder. But we see that we are men of like passions and like affections with one another. The light shows us that we are true brethren in spite of all. The light here is the light which God is (1: 5), the light in which God is (1: 7). It is the light which is at once his nature and his dwelling-place.
First, the light is the divine nature; "God is light." If I am in the light, I am a partaker of the divine nature; my moral nature becomes the same with that of God. This identity is very specially realised in the department of the affections, in the region of the heart. I cannot be in the light - meaning by the light the nature of God, or what God is - without my heart being like his. To be in the light is to be in a high sense Godlike in our preferences, as Christ showed himself Godlike in his preferences when he was here. We know what his preferences were; they were the same as his Father's. Could it have been said truly of him that he was in the light, if they had been otherwise?. Can I say truly that I am in the light if mine are otherwise?. What then are my preferences? Whom do I prefer and choose? Is it they whom Christ would have preferred and chosen? Is it they whom his Father and mine prefers and chooses? Are the same persons, and the same qualities in persons, likeable and lovely to me that would have been likeable and lovely to Christ, - that are likeable and lovely to God? If not, let me beware lest, though I say I am in the light, I may be in darkness even until now. Again, secondly, the light is God's dwelling-place; "God is in the light." If therefore I am in the light, then I have the same medium of vision, as well as the same nature, with God. Objects appear to me as they appear to God. And so also do persons. This world's darkness obscures features and confounds distinctions. The "ruler of its darkness," the "prince of the power of its air," makes that air of such a dense thickness and of such an artificial hue, that men and things look different from what they are: softened, shaded, subdued; or else distorted and discoloured. If I am in the light, that darkness is passing. I am as Christ · was, in whom, even when he was in the midst of that darkness, it was passing, and the true light was shining, showing him men and things in the light in which his Father sees them. Is it so with me? Does that poor God-fearing man appear to me as he would have appeared to Christ, as he appears to God? Do I look at the same things in him that Christ and his Father look at? Do I fasten upon the same characteristics of the man that Christ, if he were in my place, would fasten upon, that his Father and mine is fastening upon? Do the same qualities or adjuncts of the man bulk in my eyes that bulk in theirs? His rags, his unwashed limbs, his sores, as I see him lying a beggar at the rich man's door; or his ungainly aspect and uncouth manners, as he, a clownish rustic, meets me in my dainty path; things in him and about him that are repulsive or annoying; causes of irritation and offence, for which, right or wrong, I hold him responsible: these I dwell on, and single out for contemplation, and magnify and exaggerate. Counterbalancing excellencies, redeeming virtues; graces flourishing in circumstances in which mine would languish; exercises of patience, meekness, self-denial, charity, that might put all my easy goodness to shame; escape my notice. They are overlooked, or perhaps disparaged and depreciated. These things ought not so to be. They would not be so with him who is the light of men, if he were in my place. They cannot be so with me, if I am really abiding in the light.
III. The exercise of brotherly love is fitted to be the means of our continuing in the light, so as to avoid the risk of falling (ver. 10). Two benefits are here.
First, positively, by means of brotherly love we abide in the light. The law of action and reaction is here very noticeable. Being in the light begets brotherly love, and brotherly love secures abiding in the light. For this brotherly love is simply love to the true light, as I see it shining in my brother as it shines in Christ. And such love to the true light, wherever and in whomsoever it is seen shining as it shines in Christ, must needs cause me to grow up more and more into the true light myself; to grow up into Christ, and God in Christ. There is a well-known principle in ethics that may furnish an illustration here. It is that of sympathy; according to which it is found that our moral instincts, judgments, and emotions, are largely developed by our putting ourselves in our neighbour's place, so as to see with his eye and feel with his heart. It is a most wholesome corrective of our sentiments on all questions of duty that is thus obtained. But it is more. It is a stimulus and incentive impulse also. If I wrap myself up in myself, becoming a sort of isolated being, bent chiefly or exelusively on the preservation of my own virtue and the cultivation of my own character; my sense of obligation, however sound and alert originally, will be apt to get warped or to grow torpid. Keeping thus aloof from my fellows - self-studious, self-contained, - not only is my conscience towards man dwarfed and dimmed,, but my conscience also towards God. I am by no means so sensitively alive to what he claims and what I owe, as when, even in imagination, I associate with myself a brother, and make his mind and soul, as well as my own, my standing-point.
Within the domain of spiritual light and love, a similar fact is to be noted; a similar law or principle holds good. A selfish religionist is sure to become either morbid or stupid. It is by sympathy and brotherhood that the fire of personal Christianity is fanned. For one thing, it is always refreshing to see how the gospel works in others after it has been working, say for years, in us. To observe the process of fresh conversion or quickening, simply as a spectacle,- to watch it as an experiment, - is both interesting and edifying.
We look on, in a time of general and remarkable awakening. We read or listen to the details of some well marked missionary movements. Here are new and fresh specimens of people born of the Spirit; men and women created anew in Christ Jesus the Lord. Surely it is good for us to have such specimens presented to us; especially if at any time we have been beginning to lapse into a low and languid apprehension of what living Christianity is, and almost to forget the power of a first sense of sin, and a first sight of Christ ; - a first prayer and a first love. And here brotherly love is all in all. Without it, the brightest and most vivid displays of grace, passing before our very eyes, will be all in vain. If we coldly gaze, or curiously inquire, - to criticise, to speculate, to theorise or systematise; we simply become frozen up in our apathy more and more. Let it be assumed, however, that where God's work is hopefully going on, there our heart is; that it is there, as a brother's heart, in full brotherly sympathy with all who are engaged in it, and with all whom they are instrumental in saving ;- that our fraternal fellow-feeling goes along with the evangelist, even in that warmth and enthusiastic zeal which may occasionally transgress the bounds of prudence or of etiquette ; - and that the young converts and newly-enlisted recruits, even in the extremes of their grief and joy, touch a chord within us that awakens the melody of heaven's home. In a word, let brotherly love be in exercise where brethren are seeking brethren, in the Lord, from among the crowd of the ungodly in the world. Let a lively interest be felt. Let reports be earnestly pondered. Let individual cases be made the subjects of special prayer, and let individual souls be embraced as old familiar faces. We catch the contagion of the excitement into the midst of which we throw ourselves. We get a new and-fresh idea of what the Spirit's movement is. The light in which these apostles and disciples of a new Pentecost dwell becomes the light in which we also dwell. Its "clear shining after rain" dispels a world of mists and vapours in our otherwise too still and stagnant firmament. Our abiding in the light is thus more vividly realised, the more our brotherly love is exercised.
It is so, even when from necessity we are listeners and spectators merely. Many a disabled child of God, lying wakeful upon his bed in the night season, feels himself to be all the more sensibly, consciously, rejoicingly, abiding in the light, for the brotherly thought and brotherly prayer he sends far across the ocean ; - to yonder missionary with burning lips, preaching Jesus to some stricken soul, - or to some saved sinner, full of a newly-found Saviour, and shouting aloud for joy.
Much more may this be the effect when we are permitted personally to take part, as fellow-workers and fellow-helpers with the Son, in what he is doing on the earth for the scattering of hell's darkness and the spreading of heaven's light. My own soul prospers as I care for the souls of others. My abiding in the light myself is more and more to me a matter of actual joyous experience and assurance, for every brother into whose being in the light and abiding in the light I, as a brother, enter. It is as if his abiding in the light were added to mine. I appropriate his soul-exercise and make it mine. All different ways of abiding in the light may thus become mine, and I may have the good of them all. How wide and potent is the spell which my brotherly love may thus wield! It lays its hand on the dead; and I have brotherhood with Paul, and John, and Peter; and a whole host of worthies; and a dear cherished friend or two, but :yesterday called home. They all abode in the light; in them all the true light shone, as in Christ. But no one of them was in this exactly as any other. They are all, however, available to enhance and intensify my abiding in the light. The sympathy of brotherly love gives me an insight into all their frames, and a fellowship with them in all their feelings. But "the living, the living, they praise God!" Let my brotherly love carry me out to living Christians, and lay me alongside of them, and win for me entrance into their hearts. Let me share their abiding in the light as they may share mine. Let me be helpful to my brother as regards his abiding in the light. Let me, with a brother's tender hand, remove whatever trouble or sorrow or want may interfere with the bright clearness of the light in which he abides. Let me, with a brother's wise affection, win him more and more into the light's meridian glory. Let me do him all brotherly offices by which his abiding in the light may become less embarrassed and more free and joyous. The whole good is mine as much as his. Thus "he that loveth his brother abideth in the light." This is a positive benefit to himself. And it implies another benefit.
For, secondly, "there is none occasion of stumbling in him." This is a negative advantage; but it is great. Its greatness will appear if we consider the case of him who is described as wanting it. "He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes" (ver. 2).
The case put must be viewed as that of one who is so far in earnest as to be really aiming heavenward. He may be even a most painstaking seeker of the heavenward way, and a plodding walker in whatever way he takes to be it. Such was many a Pharisee, like Paul in his days of elaborate self-righteousness. Such was many a Gnostic, or knowing one, among those whom John, I doubt not, had in his view when he was writing this verse. Take a devotee of that sort, engrossed in some self-purifying and self-perfecting spiritual discipline. "He hateth his brother." That means, in John's phraseology, he is destitute of brotherly love. He has no warm brotherly sympathy with other believers. He may have no positive ill-will to any man; on the contrary, in a sort of vague and general way he may think he wishes all men well. But he has no special affection for godly men as such, for children of the light. He is taken up with the care of his own soul, and his preparation for serving and enjoying God now and afterwards. I purposely state the case in its most favourable aspect. Now how does such a man really walk? One might suppose that, having nothing to do but to mind his own steps, he must walk very wisely and surely. But alas! the dreary, dismal records of ascetic and monastic piety prove that its walk is a terrible groping in the dark. Was ever the path of any of these recluses, even the holiest, "like the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day?" Is it not rather a desperate plunging and floundering through mire and filth, amid stones and pitfalls, in the face of grisly phantoms of sin and hell? The man is bent on righting himself; ridding himself of lust; leaving behind him the world, the devil, and the flesh; working himself up into a state of serene and passionless equanimity, like that transcendental quiescence and repose in which he supposes God to dwell. It is a high though a visionary aim. For the attainment of it what efforts will he not put forth! what sacrifices will he not make! to what self-flagellation, self-laceration, bodily and spiritual, will he not submit! And yet what is it all but wandering as in a starless night?. Incessant failure; disappointment after disappointment; new expedients resorted to in vain; now, for a moment, a supernatural trance, an ecstatic rapture, to be followed instantly by a fierce gust of unhallowed passion, or some horrid St. Anthony's temptation! Truly the man knoweth not whither he goeth. His eyes become so blinded that the very light is to him as darkness. The light of the glorious gospel itself fails to illuminate and enlarge his soul. The absence of sympathy; brotherly sympathy; first with the elder brother, and then with the little ones in him, explains it all.
For now let brotherly love abound. Try the more excellent way, not of working in upon yourselves that you may be perfect, but of going out after Christ the Shepherd, and going forth by "the footsteps of the flock." Leave the cell, the cloister. Quit even the too exclusive use of the study, the closet. Or at least learn to make the study as wide, the closet as capacious, as the great heart of him with whom you commune in the study, to whom you pray in the closet. For that is brotherly love. It is your loving whom your Father loves; and loving as he loves. It is the elevating, sanctifying, expanding of your heart, till it becomes, in a sense, of the same character and compass with the holy, loving heart of your Father in heaven. You are not shut up in self, any more than he is. You are abroad among men as he is. There is no longer in you that painful spirit of bondage which is for ever causing offences and the fear of them; occasioning stumbling-blocks at every turn; making every step nervous and uneasy. Saved yourselves by grace, gratuitous and rich and full; loved with an everlasting love; grasped in the arms, in the bosom, of him in whom and in you, as now one, "the darkness is passing and the true light is now shining," - your spirit is free; your heart enlarged. Being loved, you love. The scales of selfishness fall from off your eyes. Christ sends you to his brethren: "Go tell my brethren." And as you go to them with Christ's message and on Christ's errand, and make them more and more your brethren as they are his, you clearly see your way. He makes it clear. And you walk at liberty when you have respect to all his commandments; "loving your brother, and so abiding in the light."
One thought; may be allowed, in closing, as to the peculiar blessedness of there being no occasion of stumbling in you. Occasions of stumbling there will be, enough and to spare, till the end of your course on earth. "It must needs be that offences come." Even Jesus had his stumbling-blocks, his occasions of stumbling, in his path. Peter was one of these when he withstood his going up to Jerusalem. Even the brother you love may be an offence, an occasion of stumbling, to you by the way. But it is something to have none occasion of stumbling within; to be purged of malice and partial counsel; to have the narrowing and blinding influence of the love of sin and the love of self exchanged for the broad, clear, free vision and action of the love of God, and Christ, and the brethren, and all men; to have "the eye single" and "the whole body" therefore "full of light."
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