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1: That we should be called - That is, should be, the
children of God. Therefore the world knoweth us not - They
know not what to make of us. We are a mystery to them.
2: It doth not yet appear - Even to ourselves. What we
shall be - It is something ineffable, which will raise the
children of God to be, in a manner, as God himself. But we
know, in general, that when he, the Son of God, shall appear,
we shall be like him - The glory of God penetrating our inmost
substance. For we shall see him as he is - Manifestly, without a
veil. And that sight will transform us into the same likeness.
3: And every one that hath this hope in him - In God.
4: Whosoever committeth sin - Thereby transgresseth the
holy, just, and good law of God, and so sets his authority
at nought; for this is implied in the very nature of sin.
5: And ye know that he - Christ. Was manifested - That he
came into the world for this very purpose. To take away our
sins - To destroy them all, root and branch, and leave none
remaining. And in him is no sin - So that he could not suffer
on his own account, but to make us as himself.
6: Whosoever abideth in communion with him, by loving
faith, sinneth not - While he so abideth. Whosoever sinneth
certainly seeth him not - The loving eye of his soul is not
then fixed upon God; neither doth he then experimentally know
him - Whatever he did in time past.
7: Let no one deceive you - Let none persuade you that any
man is righteous but he that uniformly practises righteousness;
he alone is righteous, after the example of his Lord.
8: He that committeth sin is a child of the devil; for the
devil sinneth from the beginning - That is, was the first sinner
in the universe, and has continued to sin ever since. The Son
of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil - All sin.
And will he not perform this in all that trust in him?
9: Whosoever is born of God - By living faith, whereby God
is continually breathing spiritual life into his soul, and his
soul is continually breathing out love and prayer to God, doth
not commit sin. For the divine seed of loving faith abideth
in him; and, so long as it doth, he cannot sin, because he is
born of God - Is inwardly and universally changed.
10: Neither he that loveth not his brother - Here is the
transition from the general proposition to one particular.
12: Who was of the wicked one - Who showed he was a child
of the devil by killing his brother. And wherefore slew he
him - For any fault? No, but just the reverse; for his goodness.
13: Marvel not if the world hate you - For the same cause.
14: We know - As if he had said, We ourselves could not
love our brethren, unless we were passed from spiritual death
to life, that is, born of God. He that loveth not his brother
abideth in death - That is, is not born of God. And he that is
not born of God, cannot love his brother.
15: He, I say, abideth in spiritual death, is void of the
life of God. For whosoever hateth his brother, and there is no
medium between loving and hating him, is, in God's account, a
murderer: every degree of hatred being a degree of the same
temper which moved Cain to murder his brother. And no murderer
hath eternal life abiding in him - But every loving believer hath.
For love is the beginning of eternal life. It is the same, in
substance, with glory.
16: The word God is not in the original. It was omitted
by the apostle just as the particular name is omitted by Mary,
when she says to the gardener, "Sir, if thou hast borne him
hence;" and by the church, when she says, "Let him kiss me with
the kisses of his mouth," (So 1:2); in both which places there
is a language, a very emphatical language, even in silence. It
declares how totally the thoughts were possessed by the blessed
and glorious subject. It expresses also the superlative dignity
and amiableness of the person meant, as though He, and He alone,
was, or deserved to be, both known and admired by all. Because
he laid down his life - Not merely for sinners, but for us
in particular. From this truth believed, from this blessing
enjoyed, the love of our brethren takes its rise, which may very
justly be admitted as an evidence that our faith is no delusion.
17: But whoso hath this world's good - Worldly substance, far
less valuable than life. And seeth his brother have need - The
very sight of want knocks at the door of the spectator's heart.
And shutteth up - Whether asked or not. His bowels of
compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him
- Certainly not at all, however he may talk, (1Jo 3:18),
of loving God.
18: Not in word - Only. But in deed - In action: not
in tongue by empty professions, but in truth.
19: And hereby we know - We have a farther proof by this
real, operative love. That we are of the truth - That we have
true faith, that we are true children of God. And shall assure
our hearts before him - Shall enjoy the assurance of his favour,
and the "testimony of a good conscience toward God." The heart,
in St. John's language, is the conscience. The word conscience
is not found in his writings.
20: For if we have not this testimony, if in anything
our heart, our own conscience, condemn us, much more does God,
who is greater than our heart - An infinitely holier and a more
impartial Judge. And knoweth all things - So that there is no
hope of hiding it from him.
21: If our heart condemn us not - If our conscience, duly
enlightened by the word and Spirit of God, and comparing all our
thoughts, words, and works with that word, pronounce that they
agree therewith. Then have we confidence toward God - Not only
our consciousness of his favour continues and increases, but we
have a full persuasion, that whatsoever we ask we shall receive
23: And this is his commandment - All his commandments in
one word. That we should believe and love - in the manner and
degree which he hath taught. This is the greatest and most
important command that ever issued from the throne of glory.
If this be neglected, no other can be kept: if this be observed,
all others are easy.
24: And he that keepeth his commandments - That thus
believes and loves. Abideth in him, and God in him: and
hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which
he hath given us - Which witnesses with our spirits that we
are his children, and brings forth his fruits of peace,
love, holiness. This is the transition to the treating
of the Holy Spirit which immediately follows.