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having any part or portion in Him. Christ became incarnate to take away sin. Such as are in Him do not sin. Such as contradict this, have neither seen Christ, nor known Him. Sin is the devil's work. He sinneth from the beginning: he never from that instant ceaseth; no, not for one single moment. The Son of God was manifested to destroy his works. Such therefore as are born of God, can never commit the devil's sin. None of them can ever commit the sin against the Holy Ghost, for which there is no forgiveness, either in this world, or in the world to come. The apostle declares the difference between the children of God, and the children of the devil. He refers to the message, which he and those he writes unto, had heard and received from Christ, concerning loving one another. He shews, Cain was not a lover of his brother. He gives the reason for it-he declares he was of the wicked one. The apostle enters very freely and fully, into the subject of brotherly love. He says, such as do not love for Christ's sake, their brethren in Him, are murderers-That they have not eternal life abiding in them. He expresseth the great love of Christ. He draws his inference from it, to what an extent the love of one another for Christ's sake, should be manifested. He asks a question of professors of the Lord Jesus, who having this world's good, and seeing their brother in Christ in need, could refrain from helping them: How it could be possible the love of God should dwell in them, if they were so unfeeling to the poor and necessitous members of Christ. He exhorts saints to express their love to each other; this would preserve their hearts from condemnation on this point: it would give them confidence towards God, when they prayed before Him, for his favours to be bestowed on such and such: they would hereby have ground for the certain expectation that He would hear, and answer their prayers offered before Him, for His, and their beloved ones: he concludes the chapter, with saying, that the whole of christianity consisted, in believing on the Name of His Son Jesus Christ, and loving one another: and that the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in such, was the fullest evidence of their being in Christ, and of His being in them. And here, I conceive, ends the Second part of this Epistle.
The Third part begins with the fourth chapter; and includes the fifth also. The apostle begins this last part, with warning the brethren against false teachers, and antichrists; who were very
prevalent at the time he wrote this Epistle. He points out who they were, and also how they might be known. He asserts of himself, and true believers, that they are of God-That such also as were of God, would be distinguished, by their hearing and receiving the true apostolic doctrine: and such as were not, by receiving the preachers of those heresies as abounded in that day of profession. He exhorts to brotherly love. He sets forth the love of God. He shews how it was manifested in the Person, gift, mission, and propitiation of Jesus Christ. He draws inferences from it for brotherly love. He declares the indwelling of the Father in the saints: who expressed his love, in sending his Son into the world to be the Saviour, and that we might live through Him. He expresses, that God and saints have a mutual indwelling in each other: this is manifest in mutual acts of love expressed towards each other. We, says he, have known, and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. This is carrying the subject to its very summit and uttermost perfection. He then proceeds to make a very glorious, and most blessed improvement of this. He therefore adds, Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. He proceeds to exhort again to the exercise of spiritual brotherly love, and concludes that this is the sum-total of all which God hath commanded us. He pursues this subject in the following (fifth) chapter: and shews who the true believer is, and by what means he overcomes the world, or antichrist, viz., by believing that Jesus is the Son of God. He brings the Three Witnesses in Heaven, and the three witnesses on earth, to prove this very essential truth-that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that we have eternal life in Him. He gives the reason why he wrote his Epistle. He shews that the Lord Jesus Christ is able to save us; to hear our prayers put up on our own behalf, and for others also, and to answer them to our real satisfaction-That there is a sin unto death, and that such as are guilty of the same, no prayer is to be offered for them. He tells us, those who are born of God cannot commit it. He says of himself, and includes all saints in what he utters, we know that we are of God, and that the whole world lieth in the arms of the wicked one. He, and they, knew the Son of God was come, and were possessed of such a knowledge of the same, as to know Him, and to know they were in
Him, and that the true knowledge of Him was eternal life. He concludes with bidding them to keep themselves from idols. This is the outline of the Third part of this Epistle.
As these outlines of each chapter are sermonized, and the particulars of each of the verses in their true and proper connection are entered on, and properly explained; we shall have most undoubtedly an immense treasury of gospel grace set before us: a great part of which will consist in opening and unfolding Christ in his own glory, as He possessed it, with the Father before the world was. Also the glory in which the apostles had seen Him, during his continuance in his incarnate state. This will most certainly take off our minds from our own natural thoughts of Him, and give us clearly to perceive that all true knowledge of Him, is beyond the utmost conception of the human, natural mind -That we must be possessed with supernatural minds, or we can never receive the true and supernatural knowledge of Christ into them, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. It will also be hereby evidenced, that we cannot have communion with the Son of God, but as we are enlightened into the true knowledge of his Person: and it will also stand most clearly connected with this, that as we have really and truly eternal life in our souls, in the knowledge of the Son of God; so communion with Him, and the Father in Him, is the very essence of all christian perfection and blessedness. It will also most clearly appear, that communion with the Lord, is incompatible with living in sin-That such only as are in a state of grace, and live as such, are the persons who have communion with God. And whilst they are in themselves the subjects of sin, and liable to the assaults of Satan, and have manifold infirmities-this is declared for our comfort, that the blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God, is our present and everlasting purification from all sin. It follows in the course and body of this Epistle, what most blessed fruits and effects, the Holy Ghost is pleased to produce in the minds of such as are one with Christ, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
It may be remarked, this Epistle is not so much a doctrinal one: it does not contain a system of gospel truths: while in fact the whole of Truth is contained in it, yet this is delivered in a very direct and immediate manner. We should learn from hence to acknowledge the manifold gifts and graces which the Holy Ghost is pleased to bestow on his ministering servants. There are many
blessed expressions, and declarations of the love of God, which
I conceive it will be found very profitable to understand the whole of this Epistle, it being one grand design of the writer of it to promote in the spiritual mind, a full and blessed persuasion, of our personal interest in the Lord Jesus. And surely this is a most blessed excitement to our having and holding communion with Him: and this follows upon our real knowledge of Him. Nor can a real believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, be content without a spiritual persuasion of this: neither can this be without the Holy Ghost. He it is, whose office alone hath this as His sole prerogative, to take of the things of Christ, and shew the same unto us: nor do all the evidences of grace, and the genuine fruits of faith, in the lives and conversations of the godly, set aside this. They are so many proofs of the same: for no spiritual affection, and holy frame, can be produced in the spiritual mind, but by the Spirit: which is all the fruit of His most divine and most gracious indwelling Neither can the whole of His work, as to what we see, and feel of it, ever produce a foundation for our faith and hope in Christ. If this were the case, it would take us off from the written word; which the Holy Ghost is pleased to make the alone foundation for our faith and confidence in the Lord Jesus. It is a most undoubted truth, that a spiritual perception of Christ, as He is revealed in the word of grace, is the faith of the operation of God-That we receive Christ into our minds, from the revelation made of Him in the written word. It is by it Christ is formed in us. It is in receiving the record which God hath given us of his Son in it, that we believe on Him for life everlasting. All which is by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. So that His Divine Agency is of the utmost importance to us: as we can receive nothing from Christ but by Him. Hence it becomes very detrimental to our real communion with the most precious Lord Jesus, to be looking at the fruits and effects of grace, produced in us, and manifested by us, even though we ascribe the same to the Spirit of God, and overlook this far greater act of His-the glorifying Christ in us, so as
to carry us out thereby, from ourselves, and off ourselves; and exalting the Person of Christ, the love of Christ, the blood and righteousness of the ever glorious, and blessed Immanuel in our view. It is from hence, Christ becomes precious to us. It is hereby we have an inward knowledge, sense, and experience of His blood and righteousness in our minds. It is hereby we actually receive the Atonement. It is from hence we enjoy the peace of God, and the love of God. It is hereby we have real outgoings after the Lord; and it is by the same, we enjoy the outgoings of Christ's love, in the influences and manifestations of these to our own souls. All which is the sole work of the Holy Ghost within us, and upon us; and it is the fruit of his revealing Christ to our renewed minds, and shedding abroad the Love of God in our hearts; which He doth without leading us to view his own work in our own souls. It is this, therefore, I would guard against: as I absolutely conceive, the present age is in an error in these very important particulars—They laying the whole emphasis of what they call the work of the Spirit, on internal grace, and the fruits and effects of the same; and they seem to lay the whole stress of our knowing our interest in Christ, on these: whereas, we must know Christ, abstracted from our personal interest in Him: which latter is the fruit which follows on our true knowledge of Him. And we cannot act faith towards Him, and upon Him, nor believe in Him for life everlasting, but in proportion to our knowledge of Him, and his most truly complete, finished, and everlastingly efficacious Righteousness and Sacrifice; and the Father's acceptance of Him, and his glorious work, contained in his obedience and sufferings. When the Holy Ghost is pleased to give the regenerate mind a true apprehension of this, he draws out the same, into act and exercise thereon: and hereby we receive Christ, believe on Christ, rest on Jesus, and centre in Him: hereby we are led to see that we are in Christ, and that He is in us. This leads us to say, as the Spouse in the Canticles doth, My Beloved is mine, and I am His. This statement of the subject, makes it an act of faith, which being realized by the Holy Ghost in our mind, makes it an act of knowledge and certainty, drawn from the Divine word, in which Christ is revealed, and the Father's record of His Son, is testified. Our Lord himself says, "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the will of him that sent me, that