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Our apostle in these words gives us the distinguishing character of a good and bad man; those who in their dispositions and actions, in the temper of their minds, and in the actions of their lives, do imitate God, are his children; and those who addict themselves to sin and impiety are of another race and descent, they are the children of the devil; they resemble him and belong unto him. By doing righteousness, is meant the practice of universal goodness, and a thorough conformity to the law of God, in opposition to sin, which is the transgression of the law. Learn hence, 1. That every man may come to the certain knowledge of his own condition, whether he be a good or bad man : By this the children of God are manifested; that is, hereby good and bad men are really distinguished; the scripture has laid down real marks of difference between them. Learn, 2. That the love and practice of universal righteousness, and nothing short of it, will denominate a person a child of God, and evidence to his own conscience that he is brought into a state of grace and favour with him: In this the children of God are manifest: whosoever doeth righteousness is of God.
—Neither he that loveth not his brother.
This discovers a farther difference between the children of God and the children of Satan, namely, brotherly love; he doth not say, he that hateth his brother is a child of the devil, but he that loveth not his brother; intimating, that not only hatred and malice against, but want of brotherly love towards each other, is the mark and sign not of a child of God, but of the devil, He that doth not unfeignedly love men as men, and all christians as christians, is no child of God, no lover of God; for he that loveth not God's image, loveth not God himself.
11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him ? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. 13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
Our apostle comes now to enforce his exhortation unto brotherly love, by many weighty arguments: 1. He assures them,
that his precept concerning brotherly love was given them by Christ and his apostles, from the beginning of the preaching of the gospel: This is the message ye heard from the beginning. Note here, 1. That the word of God is a message sent from God unto us, a message for our information and instruction, a message for our guide and direction. 2. That the duty of brotherly love is an ancient message that God has sent, and has continued to send us, from the beginning; God help us to learn this lesson, so anciently taught us, and so long pressed upon us by God himself! This is the message which ye heard from the beginning. A second argument to excite brotherly love is drawn from the evil of hating our brother, which appears in the person and practice of Cain, whom our apostle describes, 1. By his pedigree, He was of that wicked one, that is, the devil ; of his diabolical disposition, of his envious and malicious inclination, and, as such, was not so much Adam's son as the devil's son. 2. By his
Kractice, he slew his brother; he first hated im, and then slew him. His hatred was causeless and unjust, implacable and deadly, and ended in his brother's death and his own destruction. 3. The reason is assigned why he slew him, Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous; not for any harm he had done, or for any evil he had deserved, but because Cain was bad himself, and his works bad: to hate godliness, and to persecute the godly, is the very nature and disposition of a wicked man. Observe lastly, the inference drawn by the apostle from this example of Cain's hating his holy and innocent brother: Marvel not, my brethren, says he, if the world hate you; intimating that the world always did, and ever will, hate God's children j and that the children of God are not to marvel or wonder at it, but to prepare for it; it is no new thing, but what has been from the beginning: though Cain be dead, the spirit of Cain is alive; the persecutor goes about with Cain's club in his hand, reddened with blood; marvel not then if the world hate you.
14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother, abideth in death.
Observe here, 1. Our apostle's description of a carnal, unregenerale state; it is a state of spiritual death. 2. Of a christian's
renewed state by the Spirit of Christ, it is a state of spiritual life: we are passed from death to life. 3. Here is the mark and token by which Ihis translation from death to life may be known, namely, by love; for love being the great work of God's renewing Spirit on the soul, it is by the production of that we come to the knowledge that we are changed from a Camisli corrupt state of death, unto a slate of holy life: whatever grace men pretend unto, if they want this grace of love, they are yet dead in sin. Observe, 4. The characteristics! note of that love which will be an indubitable evidence of this our translation from death to life: it must be a love of the brethren; that is, of all christians, as such; particularly it must bean extensive and universal love, that reacheth all the children of God, all good men, of what judgment and opmion soever, otherwise it is the love of a party only, and a love for opinion's sake, not for grace's sake, Colos. i. 4. We give thanks since -we heard of your love to all the saints: that is, to all of what nation and kingdom soever, of what estate and condition soever, of what judgment and opinion soever, though differing from you in some lesser things. It must also be an holy love that will evidence our christianity : though all men must be loved as men, yet the brethren must be loved for the likeness of God in them; we must love God's holiness in holy persons; it is one thing to love the brethren, and another to love tliem as brethren, and because they are brethren; a gracious person may be loved only for carnal respects, and sinister ends: agtiin, it must be active and operative, a costly and expensive love; that cheap love of some men, which will wish a poor christian well, but will beat no pains, no cost, or expense, to help and succour him, because they love their money better then they do their brother, is the hypocrite's love, not the saints'; see James ii. 15. If a brother or sister be naked, and we say unto him, Be thou clothed, Sec. this is a cold sort of love, which will profit neither our brother nor ourselves. From the whole learn, That the love of grace in another, is a good evidence of the life of grace in ourselves ; unfeigned love to the children of God as such, is an undoubted evidence of our regeneration and adoption: We know that -we are passed from, Src.
16 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no
murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
Observe here, 1. The nature of the sin condemned, it is a secret sin of the heart, not an open sin of the life ; he that hateth his brother, that is, in his heart, is a murderer, tbough he dolb not smite him either with his tongue or with bis hand. Learn hence, The sins of the heart are damning, as well as sins of the life; a man may be an adulterer in the sight of God, and yet never touch a woman, Matt. v. 28. an idolaier, and yet never bow his knee to an image, Eph. v. 5. a murderer, and yet never hurt his brother; if he hates him in bis heart, it is recorded murder in God's account. What need have we to put up David's prayer, Psal. xix. Cleanse thou me from my secret sins! Observe, 2. The sad and deplorable condition of such as arc guilty of this sin, namely, of murdering their brother by hatred in their hearts: He that hateth his brother abideth ia death, ver. 14. and hath not eternal life abidmg in him, ver. 15. that is, he hath no spiritual life, nothing of the life of grace abiding in him, which is the seed and principle, the original and beginning, of eternal life. Note thence, That the life of grace io the heart of a regenerate person is the beginning and first principle of a life of glory, whereof they cannot but be destitute who hate their brother in their hearts. So much hatred in a man, so much death ; and so much want of love, so much want of life.
lfl Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren,
Here our apostle presses brotherly love from another argument, namely, from the example of Jesus Christ, who being God as well as man, laid down his life, as man, for us. Where note, That the intimate union betwixt the divine and human nature in Christ, gives ground for the calling of Christ's life, as man, the life of God ; as his blood is said, Acts xx. 23. to be God's own blood: Hereby perceive we t/ie love of God, that is, of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, in that he laid down kis life far us. Thence learn, That the death of Christ for us is a special manifestation of his singular love unto us. Observe farther, The inference which our apostle draws from Christ's love in laying down his life for us namely, that we therefore ought to lay down our lives for the brethren; that is, in a time of persecution, when the glory of God, the edification of the church, and the eternal salvation of our brethren, do require it, and stand in need of it: we must never stick at laying down our lives when God calls us to it, as needful for better ends than our lives. It is not needful that wc live, but needful and necessary that we glorify God both in life and death.
17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of companion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
Our apostle here draws an argument from the greater to the less, after this manner. "If, says he, we ought to be ready in some cases to part with our lives for the brethren, surely we much more ought to impart and communicate our worldly goods to them in the time of their necessity; and he that refuses so to do, can never think there is any thing of that love in him, which God requires of him towards his children." Learn hence, that there certainly dwells no love of God in that man's heart, who having this world's goods, stretchetli not out his hands to help the necessities of his brother. Here note, 1. The fountain from which all charitable distributions are to proceed and flow, namely, from the compassion of the heart. 2. That lhe compassion of the heart must draw forth the help of the hand: he that is a.christian indeed will open both heart and hand to the distressed, and they shall partake of his purse as well as of his pity. 3. It is not said. He that has abundance of this world's goods, let him of his great superfluity give; but he that hath this world's goods, that is, in any measure, yea, though he has no more than be works for, yet he is required, Eph. iv. 28. that worketh with his hands, to give to him that needeth. The world is greatly deceived who thmk charity and alms-giving a duty that only concerns the rich ; indeed it concerns them eminently, but not exclusively. And O! the dreadful account that some rich men have to give, who expend more upon a lust in one day, than they give to the poor in a whole year. But yet after all, every one that hath this world's goods, though he has but what he labours and sweats for, yet must he, in proportion to what he has, give to him that needeth.
Note, 4. The object of this our compassion and charity ; a brother, a brother in need, and every brother in need: not only such as are cast down, but such as are falling, are the proper objects of our pity and help. Note, 4. The circumstance of time when we must give, namely, when we see our brother in need. What a vanity it is to leave our alms till after our death, to be beholden to the justice of others for their distribution! Let us see our charity bestowed withourown eyes, and given out with our own hands, when the loins of the poor will bless us; but their prayers will do us no good when we are dead. Whoso seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, ho-w dwelleth the love of God in him? From the whole learn, That when we are in a capacity, and enjoy an opportunity of expressing our charitable benevolence towards our poor and indigent brethren, the omission of it is a certain evidence that there is nothing of the love of God residing in us.
18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
Having laid down several motives to brotherly love before, by way of excitation, as an help to their affections, he comes now to propound some directions to them as an help to their endeavours. And the first is this, to lake special care that their love be sincere, and not hypocritical. Let us not love in word, that is, in word only, but in deed, and in truth. As if he had said, "Let our deeds speak the truth of our love; sincere love is fruitful; true affection will put forth itself into action; it doth not rest at the tongue's end, hut will be seen at the fingers' end, rendering us laborious in works and offices of friendship; as faith, so love, without works, is dead ; and as faith is justified by works, so is our love'also." Observe next, The encouragement which our apostle gives to the exercise of this true love: hereby we shall know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him; that is, "by such efficacy and real fruits of our love we shall know that we are true christians, who live by and walk according to the rule of the gospel, which is emphatically styled the truth, and shall have the assured testimony of our consciences that we are sincere in the sight of God." Learn hence, 1. That the love of christians one to another, ought not to be verbal, or in word only, but in deed, and in truth. 2. That the sincertty of our love to our brethren is the security of our consciences and estates before God. A christian may be assured of his good estate, and may build his assurance upon the sincerity of his love to God and christians.
20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knowcth all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God:
By heart, here, is undoubtedly meant conscience: and it is as much as if the apostle had said, " If our consciences tell us that our love is barren and fruitless, and so condemn us for hypocrisy, God is greater than our consciences, both in holiness to condemn, and in knowledge, to perceive, the evil of them, for he knoweth all things: whereas if we have the witness of our consciences touching the sincerity of our love by the fruits of it; if, after a most strict examination of our consciences, and an exact comparing of our lives and actions with the law of God, we are not condemned of insincerity in our obedience to God, and love to our neighbour; then have we an humble confidence with God in all our addresses to him." Learn hence, 1. That the consciences of men have a self-condemning and a self-absolving power. 2. That the consciences of men are much better known to God, than they either are or can be known unto themselves. 3. That if our hearts or consciences do condemn us, it is an evidence of greater condemnation from the heart-searching God. 4. That if our consciences do absolve us, it is an argument of our acceptance with God, and a ground of confidence in all our addresses to him. 5. That accordmg to the verdict or testimony of men's consciences, rightly informed, and truly testifying, God will either acquit or absolve them at the great day.
22 And whatsoever wc ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
Observe here, 1. An extraordinary favour and privilege insured, Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him: that is, whatsoever we
ask according to his will, we are sure to receive, either in kind or in equivalency. It shall either be given in mercy, or denied in love; for verily God is as kind in denying some of our requests, as in answering others; we often cry for that which it would be cruelty for God to give: we know not what is best to beg, but an infinitely wise God knoweth what is fittest to give. Dat pr» jucundis aptissima: Observe, 2. The qualification of the persons to whom this precious privilege does belong: They keep God's commandments, and do the things that please him. According to our hearing God's commandments, so he hears and answers our prayers; with what measure we mete to God, God will measure to us again. If God's command be trod under our feet, no wonder that all our prayers fall to the ground. God hears not us, if we hear not him. If we keep his commandments, whatever we ask we receive of him.
23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
Observe here, I. What is the sum of the christian's duty, faith and love, to believe on the name of Jesus Christ; that is, to rely upon him as our redeemer, our teacher, our king, our intercessor, and to obey his great command of loving one another with a pure heart fervently. Observe, 2. What a mighty encouragement it is to faith, that believing on Christ is constituted a duty by a plain gospel-precept: This is his commandment, for this command cuts off that vain pretence and plea of presumption. What} such a vile wretch as thou presume to believe on Christ; says Satan. Yes, says the christian, here is a command to me so to do, yea, a command from the highest sovereignty, the contempt whereof I must answer at my utmost peril. Observe, 3. How the command of faith and the command of love are linked and knit together, as if the weight of our salvation hung equally and alike upon both; as without faith it is impossible to please God, so without love it is impossible to please him also. Will no duty profit without faith? in like manner can we neither profit ourselves nor others without love: as whatever is not of faith is sin, so whatever duty we perform towards our brother, if we do it not out of love, we miss our reward. I Cor. siii. 3. If I git*
all my goods to feed the poor, and have not love, I am nothing. Lord! can we ever think this command of love small and inconsiderable, when thou hast joined the love of thine image with faith in thy dear Son? This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son, and love one another.
24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
Observe here, 1. The benefit of obedience to God's commands: God dwelleth in us, and we in him. God's dwelling in us implies, 1. Right and property; what a man dwells in is his own. 2. Command and authority; the master and owner is the commander and disposer of the house. It also, 3. Implies residence and continuance, settlement and fixedness of abode; there a man dwells where he constantly resides, and our dwelling in God imports, 1. Reconciliation with God. Can two dwell together except they be agreed r 2. Affiance and trust in him. 3. An upholding constant communion with him; it is one thing to run to God for refuge in a storm, and another thing to make himourdwelling-placeat all times, and in all conditions: he that keepeth God's commandments thus dwelleth in God, and God in him. It follows, And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. Learn hence, That the Spirit of God, bestowed upon us in his sanctifying gifts and saving graces, is an evident sign of God's dwelling in us, and we in him.
"OELOVED, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Our apostle having in the last verse of the foregoing chapter mentioned the abiding of the spirit of God in the souls of believers, lest the Christians to whom he wrote should be deceived by such as might pretend to be acted by the Spirit, when indeed they were not; he comes in this chapter to caution and counsel all christians to take heed of being seduced by such as should pretend to be inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, say
ing, Believe not every spirit; that is, every teacher who pretends to be inspired, and every doctrine that lays claim to the authority of divine revelation: But try the spirits: that is, examine their doctrines by the rule of the word of God, and try from whom they come, whether from the Spirit of God, or Satan: for many false prophets,ot impostors and deceivers, are gone abroad into the world. Learn hence, 1. That men from the beginning of Christianity have, and still do, falsely pretend to divine inspiration. 2. That christians ought not to believe every one that thus pretends to be divinely inspired; for every one that has but enough of confidence, and little enough of conscience, may pretend to come from God. Learn, 3. That neither are we to reject all that pretend tocome from God; for when the apostle bids us not to believe every spirit, he supposes that we are to believe some; and when he bids us try the spirits whether they be of God, he supposes some to be of God, and that such as are so, ought to be believed by us. Learn, 4. That there is some way to discern mere pretenders to inspiration from those who are truly and divinely inspired; it were in vain to make the trial, if there were no way to discern the truth. Learn, 5. That it is the duty of all christians to examine the doctrines propounded to them by the word of God; they having a judgment of discretion, though not a judgment of decision; a power to judge for themselves, not to impose upon others: nor does this allowed liberty of every one judging for himself take away the necessity and use of our spiritual guides and teachers, or exempt us from a due submission and obedience thereunto, but in concurrence with them, -we are to try the spirits, whether they be of God.
2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye leave heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
In these words our apostle lays down a plain mark and rule of trial, how they might know a teacher that was acted and inspired by the Spirit of God, from one that was not; such a one as durst truly and openly in the face of danger own and profess, teach