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1 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, Jesus Christ the righteous:
Ver. 1. That ye sin not ] Presuming upon an easy and speedy pardon. The worst sort of Papists will say, When we have sinned, we must confess; and when we have confessed, we must sin again, that we may confess again; so making account of confessing, as drunkards do of vomiting. But we have not so learned Christ. If his word dwell richly in us, it will teach us to deny ungodliness, &c.; to forsake as well as confess sin, and not after confession, to turn again to folly, or (as those that are dog sick) to their former vomit. With confession of sin must be joined confusion of sin,Proverbs 28:13; Proverbs 28:13 . We may not do as those Philistines, that confessed their error and yet sent away the ark of God, 1 Samuel 6:3 . Nor as Saul, "I have sinned, yet honour me before the people," 1 Samuel 15:30 . Nor yet as those perverse Israelites, "We have sinned, we will go up;" though God had flatly forbidden them at that time to go up against the Amorites; and for their presumptuous attempt brought them back by weeping cross,Deuteronomy 1:41-43; Deuteronomy 1:41-43 , &c. Sin confessed must be, 1. Disallowed in our judgments. 2. Disavowed and declined in our wills and affections. 3. Cast out of our practice; Ephraim shall say, "What have I to do any more with idols?"Hosea 14:8; Hosea 14:8 . He shall pollute the images that he had once perfumed: he shall angrily say unto them, Get you hence, Isaiah 30:22 .
And if any man sin ] Being taken before he is aware, Galatians 6:1 . See Trapp on " Gal 6:1 "
We have an advocate ] Who appears for us in heaven, and pleads our cause effectually. SeeHebrews 9:24; Hebrews 9:24 .
Jesus Christ the righteous ] Or else he could not go to the Father for us. See Trapp on " Joh 16:10 "
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
Ver. 2. He is the propitiation ] Heb. Copher; he coffers up, as it were, and covers our sins, Psalms 78:38 . See Trapp on " Rom 3:25 " The Hebrew word כפר used for covering and propitiating of sin, is Gen 6:14 used of the pitch or plaster whereby the wood of the ark was so fastened that no water could get in.
But also for the sins of the whole world ] That is, of all the faithful, both of Jews and Gentiles, that mundus ex mundo, that world of whom the world is not worthy, Hebrews 11:38 .
3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
Ver. 3. We know that we know him ] By a reflex act of the soul; hence the assurance of faith, the fruit of fruitfulness, 1 Corinthians 15:58 .
That we know him ] With a knowledge not apprehensive only, but affective too.
If we keep his commandments ] Si facimus praecepta, etiamsi non perficiamus; If we think upon his commandments to do them, Psalms 103:18 , aim at them, as at a mark, Psalms 119:6 .
" Non semper feriet quodcunque minabitur arcus. "
Wish well to an exact obedience which yet we cannot attain to,Psalms 119:4-5; Psalms 119:4-5 ; be doing at it as we can, following after righteousness,Proverbs 15:9; Proverbs 15:9 , as a poor aprentice follows his trade, though he be nothing less than his craftmaster; and lastly, be humbled for our daily aberrations, resolving and striving to do better: this is that evangelical keeping of God’s commandments, which God (measuring the deed by the desire, and the desire by the sincerity thereof) will accept and crown, through Christ our propitiation.
4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
Ver. 4. He that saith, I know him ] Here he disputeth against Verbalists and Solifidians. SeeJames 2:14; James 2:14 . See Trapp on " Jam 2:14 "
Is a liar ] i.e. A hypocrite; his spot is not the spot of God’s children, Deuteronomy 32:5 , for they are children that will not lie, Isaiah 63:8 . They all deserve that title of honour that was given of old to Arrianus the historian, viz. φιλαληθης , A lover of truth. They know that the God whom they serve, desireth "truth in the inward parts," Psalms 51:6 , and that dicta factis deficientibus erubescant (as Tertullian hath it), words without deeds will not bear a man out in the end. It is a question whether the desire of being, or dislike of seeming, sincere, be greater in the good heart. Not so every loose and ungirt Christian, every profligate professor, that denieth that in deed what he affirmeth in word.
5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
Ver. 5. In him verily is the love of God perfected ] St John was a mere compound of sweetest love. As iron put into the fire, seemeth to be nothing but fire, so he (the beloved disciple) was turned into a lump of love. Hence he so presseth love, perfect love, to God and his people. And Jerome tells us, that living to a very great age at Ephesus, he would get up into the pulpit; and when through weakness of body he could say no more, he would say, "Little children, love one another;" Si hoc solum fiat, sufficit, If this be well done, all is done. (Jerome in cap. vi. ad Gal.)
That we are in him ] In communion with him, and in conformity to him.
6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
Ver. 6. To walk even as he walked ] This is the same with that Colossians 2:6 , to walk in Christ; and with that,1 Peter 2:21; 1 Peter 2:21 , to follow his steps. See Trapp on " 1Pe 2:21 "
7 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.
Ver. 7. I write no new commandment ] The apostle studiously declineth the suspicion of novelty. We should ever set a jealous eye upon that which is new, and stand in the old way, Jeremiah 6:16 , in the ancient paths, Jeremiah 18:15 . God’s people are called the ancient people, Isaiah 44:7 . And idolaters are said to sacrifice to new gods, that came newly up,Deuteronomy 32:17; Deuteronomy 32:17 . Truth, as wine, is better with age, Luke 5:39 . And of witnesses, Aristotle well saith, the older they are, the more credible, because less corrupted, πιστοτατοι οι παλαιοι, αδιαφθοροι γαρ (Rhet. i.). As we prefer the newest philosophy, so the ancientest divinity; and we may justly suspect them of falsehood and delusions, who arrogate to themselves to utter oracles, to bring to light new truths, &c.
8 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.
Ver. 8. A new commandment ] See Trapp on " Joh 13:34 " "A new commandment" it is called, saith a late learned interpreter, 1. Because it was renewed by the Lord after it had been as it were antiquated, and almost extinguished. 2. Because it was commanded to such men as were new or renewed. 3. Because it was an excellent commandment.
9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
Ver. 9. And hateth, his brother ] As Paul presseth faith, and Peter hope, so John love, those three cardinal virtues,1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Corinthians 13:13 . See Trapp on " 1Jn 2:5 "
Is in darkness ] Yea, in the prince of darkness, who acteth and agitateth him, as he did Cain. Holy Greenham often prayed, that he might keep up his young zeal with his old discretion.
10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
Ver. 10. None occasion, &c. ] Gr. σκανδαλον , No scandal, i.e. no occasion of spiritual falling, whereby a man is made any manner of way worse, and backwarder in goodness. Quod fieri potest vel dicto, vel facto, sive exemplo in moribus, saith learned Lyserus, which may be done by word, deed, or evil example.
11 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.
Ver. 11. He that hateth, &c. ] There is a passion of hatred (saith a famous divine). This is a kind of averseness and rising of the heart against a man, when one sees him so that he cannot away with him, nor speak to nor look courteously or peaceably upon him, &c. 2. A habit of hatred, when the heart is so settled in this alienation and estrangement, that it grows to wish and seek his hurt. This is manslaughter,1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:5 .
12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.
Ver. 12. I write unto you, little children ] A Christian hath his degrees of growth; childhood, 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 ; youth or well grown age, when he is past the spoon, as here; old age, Acts 21:16 .
Because your sins are forgiven you ] Though perhaps you as yet know it not, through weakness of faith and strength of corruption.
13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.
Ver. 13. Him that is from the beginning ] The Ancient of days. Old men love to speak of ancient things. These are ancient things,1 Chronicles 4:22; 1 Chronicles 4:22 . You know him with a knowledge of acquaintance; you have had much familiarity and intercourse with him, you are not far from knowing even as also you are known, 1 Corinthians 13:12 . To this pitch of perfection all God’s people must aspire, as all men do follow after old age.
Because ye have overcome the wicked one ] "The glory of young men is their strength,"Proverbs 20:29; Proverbs 20:29 . The Hebrew word there rendered young men, signifieth choice men, sc. for military employments; neither can they better show their valour than by resisting the devil, that he may flee from them. Weak grace may evidence pardon of sin; but it is strong grace that can overcome the temptations of Satan.
Because ye have known the Father ] We say, He is a wise child that knows his father (and the Greeks have a proverb to the same purpose, Hom. Od.); but God hath no child so young that more or less knoweth him not. The bastardly brood of Rome are all for their mother.
14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
Ver. 14. Because ye have known him ] The same again as 1 John 2:13 , which to a carnal heart may seem superfluous. Et certe si humano ingenio conscripti essent libri illi, quos pro sacris (ira ut verissime sunt) agnoscimus et veneramur, bonum alicubi dormitasse Homerum disceremus, said one. But far be it from us to reprehend what we cannot comprehend.
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Ver. 15. Love not the world ] You fathers, and you young and strong men, let me caution you (before I speak again to the little children, 1Jn 2:18 ), to beware of worldliness. A man may be very mortified, and yet very apt to dote on the world.
If any man love the world ] Have it he may, and use it too, as the traveller useth his staff (which either he keeps or casts away, as it furthers or hinders his journey), but love it he must not, unless he will renounce the love of God. See Trapp on " Mat 6:24 " See Trapp on " Col 3:2 " Aristotle in his Politics teacheth, by the example of Thales, that philosophers may be rich; but he excellently addeth αλλα ου τουτο εστι περι ου σπουδαζουσι , howbeit this is not their chief study; it is but a by-business with them. (Polit. i., cap. ult.)
The love of the Father is not in him ] The sunbeams extinguish the fire; so doth the love of the world the love of God. But some not so much as roving at God, make the world their standing mark.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Ver. 16. The lust of the flesh, the lust of, &c. ] That is, pleasure, profit, preferment; the worldling’s trinity, as one saith. Compare herewith Christ’s threefold temptation, Luke 4:3-9 , and St James’s character of worldly wisdom, James 3:15 . See Trapp on " Jam 3:15 " It is his pleasure, his profit, and his honour (saith a divine) that is the natural man’s trinity, and his carnal self that is these in unity. And to the same purpose the Christian poet,
" Ambitiosus honos, et opes, et foeda voluptas,
Haec tria pro trino numine mundus habet. "
But is of the world ] Base and bootless. Nec verum, nec vestrum. To know the vanity of the world (as of a mist) you must go a little from it.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
Ver. 17. And the world passeth away ] As the stream of a swift river passeth by the side of a city. Animantis cuiusque vita in fuga est, Life itself wears out in the wearing, as a garment; all things below are mutable and momentary. Wilt thou set thy heart upon what is not? saith Solomon.
And the lust thereof ] So that although thou wert sure to hold all these things of the world, yet they may be suddenly lost to thee, because thou canst not make thine heart delight in the same things still. Not the world only, but the lust thereof, passeth away; there is a curse of unsatisfiableness lies upon the creature, απαντων η πλησμονη , saith the orator; There is a satiety of all things. The world’s comforts are sweeter in the ambition than in the fruition; for after a little while we loathe what we lusted after, as Amnon did Tamar. Men first itch, and then scratch, and then smart. Dolor est etiam ipsa voluptas. Even sorrow itself is enjoyable. Crueiger used often to say,
" Omnia praetereunt, praeter amare Deum. "
They pass by all things except to love God.
18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
Ver. 18. Little children ] Children may easily be deceived, and made to take a sheep counter for an angel, because broader and brighter; so young Christians are soon seduced; hence they are cautioned. See Trapp on " 1Jn 1:5 "
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out , that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
Ver. 19. But they were not of us ] No more were our Anti-trinitarians, Arians, Anti-scripturists, ever of our Church, otherwise than as wens and botches, whatever our adversaries aver and cavil. So of old, because the Waldenses and Manichees lived in the same places, and were both held heretics, the Papists maliciously gave out that the Waldenses (those ancient Protestants) were defiled with the errors of the Manichees and Catharists, which yet they ever abhorred.
20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
Ver. 20. But ye have an unction ] That oil of gladness, the Holy Ghost. In derision thereof, Domitian, the tyrant, cast St John into a caldron of boiling oil, but he by a miracle came forth unhurt.
Ye know all things ] Not all things knowable, but all things needful to be known.
21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
Ver. 21. Because ye know not, &c. ] Because ye are utterly ignorant; for God hath no blind children, but they all know him from the least to the greatest. Howbeit, the angels know not so much, but they would know more, Ephesians 3:10 . Should not we?
22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
Ver. 22. That denieth that Jesus ] Papists deny him as a King, in setting up the pope; as a Priest, in setting up the mass; as a Prophet, in piecing their human traditions to the Holy Scriptures.
23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also .
Ver. 23. The same hath not the Father ] See Trapp on " Joh 5:23 " Mahomet speaks very honourably of Christ, but denies his Divinity, and that he was crucified. He acknowledged that he was the word and power of God, and that all that believe in him shall be saved, &c.
24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.
Ver. 24. Let that therefore abide ] Persevere and hold fast the faith of the gospel without wavering in it, Ephesians 4:14 , or starting from it,2 Peter 2:20; 2 Peter 2:20 . Be as the centre, or as Mount Sion, stedfast and unmovable. Stand fast; for ye are sure to be shaken: the tree must be shaken, that rotten fruit may fall off.
25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
Ver. 25. Even eternal life ] Hold therefore the doctrine of faith sound and entire by the hand of faith, that ye may receive the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
Ver. 26. That seduce you ] That carry you into byways, highways to hell.
27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
Ver. 27. But the anointing ] See1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:20 . It was an aggravation of the fall of Saul,2 Samuel 1:21; 2 Samuel 1:21 , as "though he had not been anointed;" so for the saints to fall from their own stedfastness.
28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
Ver. 28. Little children, abide in him ] q.d. Your enemies are many and crafty; therefore keep home, keep home; this shall be no grief unto you, nor offence of heart, as she said, 1 Samuel 25:31 .
29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
Ver. 29. Is born of him ] And exactly resembles him, as a child doth his father. See 1 Peter 1:17 . See Trapp on " Mat 5:9 "
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 John 2". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent