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breast at supper, and was designated, “The disciple whom Jesus loved.” With his fellow- Apostles, he was chosen “to be a witness of all that Jesus did and taught;" and in his Gospel he has handed down a record supplementary to the writings of the other Evangelists. At the commencement of this chapter he introduces himself as an eye and ear witness of what he is about to declare :-“That which was from the beginning," (not merely of the Gospel revelation, or even of time, but from eternity,) " which we have heard" (most credibly attested,)“ which we have seen with our eyes,” (before and after the crucifixion) “which we have looked upon," (attentively considered,) " and our hands have handled," (ascertaining his humanity,)“ of the Word of life ;" that is, Jesus Christ, “the Word,” (1 John i. 1,) and “the Life;" (verse 4 ;) the living Word of God, who, with the Father and the Spirit, is the Fountain of life to all creatures, particularly of spiritual and eternal life. “For the life was manifested" in the flesh, “and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal Life which was with the Father” from eternity, “and was manifested unto us.” (1 John i. 2.)
The end and design of the economy of human redemption, to be effected by the manifestation of the living Word, and the purpose for which “we declare unto you what we have seen and heard,” is, that
ye also," being delivered from sin, and made new creatures in Christ, may enjoy the fellowship of saints; "and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write unto you,” to confirm your faith, “ that your joy” through believing “may be full. This then,” he proceeds, “is the message which we have heard of him,” (the living Word,)“ 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."
The subject thus introduced is fellowship or communion with God; and our attention is directed to three points : The character of God; the qualification for our fellowship with him; and the great reason or ground thereof stated,—“ The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
I. The character of God is the first point under consideration. “ This then,” says the Apostle, “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.” Every description of the nature and essence of God not emanating from himself, must necessarily be defective and partial. To say what he is, we must know what he is; and to know what he is, we must comprehend his perfections : these are infinite, and cannot be comprehended by a creature. Nothing certain could have been known of him without a revelation.
When he is styled “God,” “ Lord,” “King,” “King of Kings," “ Judge of all the earth,” and “ Father," these titles are expressive of authority, dominion, and office, and imply a relationship to his creatures. When he is called “ Almighty,” “ All-sufficient,” “holy One," “righteous Lord," and "Love," these are descriptions of his natural or moral attributes or qualities. Here he is said to be “ Light,”—pure, unmixed, simple, and unsullied, without defect or shade; for “in him is no darkness at all.” Light is the purest, most simple, and useful of all the creatures that fall under our observation. Without it, the best-constructed
organs of vision would be useless ; and the most brilliant creations, whether in the heavens above, or on the earth beneath, would present only a blank, the emblem of that state which is described as “the blackness of darkness.” But wherever the rays of light fall, beauties rise around us: their influence banishes gloom, and exhilarates our spirits. We feel that “light is sweet, and that it is a pleasant thing to see the sun.” The figure, therefore, in its application to God, may represent-perfect knowledge, unsullied holiness, and infinite happiness.
1. Perfect knowledge. As light is the medium by which the organs of vision acquire their knowledge of surrounding objects ; so, by a figure of speech, it is frequently put for knowledge itself, as darkness is put for ignorance. This is its meaning in the following scriptures : “ The people that walked in darkness lave seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." Zabulon, Naphtali, and Manasseh, the inhabitants of the country “beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations,” who were sunk in deep moral and spiritual ignorance, were among the first who, by the preaching of Jesus Christ, accompanied by his miracles, were instructed in the knowledge of salvation. The commission given by the lead of the church to the Apostle of the Gentiles was in these terms: “Unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light;" that is, to remove their pagan ignorance, and, by the ministry of the Gospel, to bring them to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. And the same Apostle, writing to the Christian converts at Ephesus, employs similar figures : “ Ye were sometimes darkness," (in pagan ignorance.)“ but now are ye light in the Lord” (instructed in the truth, and made holy and happy). It would be easy to multiply similar examples. “God is light,”—a perfect, absolute, infinite intelligence ; “and in him is no darkness at all,”—no speck, no veil, dims his unbounded vision. “ Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” Yea, “if I ascend up into heaven, thou art there : if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” His knowledge is as unbounded as his essence. " Ilell” (the unseen world) “and destruction” (the lowest depths of
misery)“ are without a covering before thee.” The visible and the invisible world ; the animate and inanimate creation ; time, with its variations ; eternity, with its unfathomable limits,-past, present, and to come; things fixed and absolute; with events future and contingent; are all known to him. His vast mind fills, bounds, penetrates, comprehends, and absolutely knows and understands, whatever was, is, or shall be, in all the endless varieties of things, possibilities, or existences, whether material, immaterial, as natures unknown, comprehended in duration, space, or any other form, throughout his own uni
As he is “light” in himself, its author and absolute possessor, so is he the fountain of light, and the giver of light to all his creatures. His own breath lit up the intellectual ray, when he breathed into the inanimate clay “the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” In making man in his own image, and after his own likeness, he invested him with intellectual powers; and he has spread before him, for his perusal, the page of knowledge in the creation, in his providence, and in his written word. lle himself, however, is the highest and most sublime object of human knowledge. In his knowledge our happiness here and hereafter consists ; for “ this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." (John xvii. 3.)
2. Unsullied holiness. Holiness, the opposite of sin, is also represented by the figure of light. Thus saith the Apostle: “Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness ;” that is, Let us abandon all maliner of wickedness, all evil works which are wont to be practised in a state of ignorance, error, and folly ; "and let us put on the armour of light.” “Let us," says Dr. Doddridge, “be clothed with all the Christian graces, which, like burnished and beautiful armour, will be at once an ornament and a defence to us, and which will reflect the bright beams which are so gloriously rising upon us.” (Rom. xiii. 12.) Again : “ Ye are the children of light, and the children of the day;" being renewed in holiness after the image of God, and possessing an experience and a character which will bear the light, and stand the strictest scrutiny. “He that followeth me," says Christ,—that is, Ile who obeys my precepts, and copies my example,—“shall not walk in darkness ;” (the darkness of error and sin ;) “but shall have the light of life,”—a living light in all in ward and outward holiness. When, therefore, it is said, that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all,” we understand that he is unsullied purity, -eternal, essential, and immutable holiness. The holiness of God is not to be regarded as a separate and distinct attribute, like justice, power, truth, or love, that have each its special object and appropriate act; but holiness is that transcendent excellency of the divine nature which extends itself to every attribute of the Godhead, stamping each with its own character, and filling the whole. It may be described as that infinite love of whatever is just, cquitable, right, true, and good, and of
whatever enters into, or constitutes, the highest possible moral rectitude and goodness; and implies an eternal and unalterable hatred and opposition to whatever is unjust, false, evil, or defective, in moral principle or action. Holiness, in a pre-eminent sense, is attributed to God, “There is none holy as the Lord; for there is none beside thee;" and is assumed by himself under his own designation, “ The holy One of Israel.” Moses sang, “ Who is like unto thee among
the gods, glorious in holiness?" (Exod. xv. 11.) David says, “ Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy.” (Psalm xcix. 3.) The holiness of God is the reason why we are to exalt him, to worship at his footstool, and in his holy hill. “ Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool ; for he is holy. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy." (Verses 5, 9.) And those happy angels who in heaven continually behold his face, contemplate bis perfections, and are overpowered by his splendour, cover their faces with their wings, and cry, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” “ There is,” sang Hannah, “none holy as the Lord ;” and the poet of Methodism has continued the strain in the following beautiful paraphrase :
“ Holy as thou, O Lord, is none !
Thy holiness is all thy own.”
He is at once its author and proprietor. The angels in heaven are holy; so are the spirits of the just made perfect; but these are holy only by a holiness which is derived from God; and in the same proportion as his Spirit is communicated to believers, are they conformed to his image, and made partakers of his holiness.
3. Infinite happiness. Happiness is another idea included in the term "light," and is fitly represented by the figure itself. “ Truly the light is sweet ;" (the natural light of day ;) “and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun.” Light is one principal source of enjoyment; its absence brings gloom and misery. The term "light" is frequently put for happiness, as in the following scriptures :-“Who is among you," saith the Prophet, “that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of bis servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light ?" Here the darkness is that of a child of God, and cannot mean ignorance or sin, but misery; as the light opposed to that darkness means comfort and happiness. “ Light is sown for the rigliteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” (Psalm xcvii. 11.) The latter member of the sentence is explanatory of the former; light is gladness; and the passage expresses the happiness arising from a holy life. When, therefore, it is said, that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all," the words set forth his infinite happiness; a happiness which, being absolute, is possessed by him in the highest possible degree. Our Redeemer, in reference to his Godhead, is said to be
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over all, God blessed for evermore ;" “the blessed and the only Potentate ;” and this designation is given unto God,—“the blessed;" pre-eminently so, “the blessed God.” The holiness and happiness of God are intimately connected. For as his holiness implies absolute perfection of both physical and moral nature, infinite happiness is inseparably connected therewith ; as any want of this would imply a defect in the nature itself, and be an imperfection in the Godhead. As he knows in what the highest excellency of being consists, his rectitude chooses what his knowledge and wisdom approve; and his infinite power effects his pleasure. Self-existent, and as such independent, he cannot be affected by any mutations that mark his creatures. Possessing rule and dominion uncontrolled, he can have nothing to hope, as he has nothing to fear. Satisfied of, from, and in himself only, he remains, and ever will, the blessed, the infinitely happy, God.
Participating in the divine nature, the believer is happy; and, in proportion as his soul rests in God, is this happiness unaffected by the vicissitudes of time. “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee," was the language of the Psalmist. “My flesh and my heart faileth :"
“ Let this feeble body fail,
And let it droop and die:” nothing can deprive me of my happiness; “ for God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” So, also, adds the Prophet: “Though 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 flocks 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.” As communion and fellowship with God constitutes the Christian's happiness on earth, so the happiness of a saint in heaven differs from that of a saint on earth, not in nature or kind, but only in degree,—the one being partial, mixed, and liable to interruption, but the other full, unmixed, perpetual, everlasting. The saint is
“ heir of God," and in heaven is co-partner with Christ. He dwells with God, whose presence diffuses happiness through the various ranks of blessed intelligences ; for “ in thy presence is fulness of joy, and at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore."
II. Such is the character of Him with whom we are called to have fellowship and communion ; a Being of infinite knowledge, unbounded purity, and ineffable happiness. Our qualifications for this fellowship are thus stated by the Apostle : “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 may be considered as twofold, physical, and moral. There must be a physical as well as moral basis on which