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THE COMMANDMENTS NOT GRIEVOUS
1 John 5:3. His commandments are not grievous.
IT is a painful office which I have to discharge at this time. I must vindicate religion from an aspersion too generally cast upon it; and stand up in justification of Almighty God himself against the accusation of being a hard Master. The Apostle evidently supposed that there were in his day, and would from time to time arise, persons ready to calumniate their Maker, as having imposed upon them burthens which they were not able to bear, and as having exacted an obedience which it was unreasonable for him to require. Our own observation abundantly confirms and justifies the supposition: so that I need make no apology for proceeding to shew,
Whence it is that we are apt to account God’s commandments grievous—
That the great mass of mankind does account them grievous, is a fact too notorious to admit of doubt. And whence is it? Is it that they are indeed unreasonably severe? No; it springs,
From our inveterate love of sin—
[Man, in his fallen state, is altogether corrupt: his carnal mind is enmity against God, so that it neither is, nor can be, subject to the law of God, so as to render to it any willing obedience.
We are alienated from God himself. As Adam, after he had sinned, fled from God, so, at this time, the language of fallen man to God is, “Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” And, when the faithful servants of God endeavour to bring them to a better mind, they reply, “Prophesy not unto us right things; prophesy unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits: make the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.”
To every particular command, not of the law only, but of the Gospel itself, the heart of man is averse. Repentance is too painful a work: faith in Christ is too humiliating: an unreserved surrender of the soul to Christ is too strict and rigorous. Man wishes to be a god unto himself. “Who is Lord over us?” is the reply of all, when urged to renounce their evil ways, and to turn unto their God. They will not endure restraint, but “will walk after the imagination of their own evil hearts.” Fire and water are not move opposed to each other, than they are to the commands of God; and hence they regard every injunction, whether of the Law or Gospel, as a yoke too grievous to be borne.]
From the real difficulty which there is in obeying them—
[To man in Paradise the commands of God were easy, because his whole soul was in unison with them: but to fallen man they are not easy, even after he is renewed by grace. St. Paul justly says, “The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Indeed, the metaphors by which the Christian life is set forth in the Holy Scriptures clearly shew, that it is not maintained without great difficulty. A race is not won without great exertion, nor a warfare gained without severe conflicts. Indeed, the terms in which our duty is set forth clearly shew, that obedience, in our present fallen state, is no easy task. We are called to “mortify our members upon earth,” and to “crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts.” We are enjoined to “pluck out the right eye, and to cut off the right hand or foot, that may offend us.” No wonder therefore that the unregenerate man accounts such commandments grievous: for it must be confessed, that they are altogether against the current of corrupt nature; and that, in order to obey them, we are constrained to urge our way continually against the stream.]
But, whilst I acknowledge the difficulty which even the best of men experience in obeying the commandments, I can by no means admit that they are, or ought to be, considered, “grievous.” Indeed, a little reflection will shew us,
How far they are from deserving such a character—
They are all most reasonable in themselves—
[Can any thing be more reasonable than that we should improve for God the faculties we have received from him; and that we should serve Him, in whom we live, and move, and have our being? Is it unreasonable to require of us that we love the Saviour, who has so loved us as to give himself for us? or that, when “he has bought us with his own precious blood, we should glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his?”
If it be said, that we are required even to lay down our lives for Christ’s sake, I answer, True, we are: but has not he laid down his life for our sake? Has he not done this for us, too, when we were enemies? Is it not reasonable, then, that we should be ready to die for him who is our greatest Friend? If he endured all the curses of God’s broken law for us, yea, and for our sakes sustained all the wrath of Almighty God, should we think it a hard matter to encounter the wrath of feeble man, who, at most, “can only kill the body, and after that has no more that he can do?” Were there no recompence beyond the grave, we could not justly complain of this command: but what shall we say, when we reflect on the crowns and kingdoms which every victorious servant of the Lord shall have awarded to him? Does any man account it a hard matter to sustain a momentary pain or trouble, in order to procure a prolongation of his bodily life? How, then, can any thing be considered hard that ensures to us the possession of eternal happiness and glory?]
They are all, without exception, conducive to our happiness—
[Truly, if we would designate obedience to God’s commandments by its right name, we must call it rather privilege than duty. Was it not Adam’s privilege in Paradise to know, and love, and serve his Creator? and is it not a privilege to all the saints and angels in heaven to be incessantly occupied in singing praises to God and to the Lamb? Or if we look at the duties of repentance, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, shall we not esteem them high privileges? Offer them to the unhappy souls that are shut up in the prison of hell under the wrath of Almighty God, and then tell me, whether they will not be regarded as privileges. But I will venture to ask of persons in this present life; Who amongst you ever spent a day or an hour in humiliation before God, and does not at this moment look back to it as the best season of his life? Who does not regret that such a season has passed away without a due improvement of it? and who would not be glad to have it renewed, protracted, perfected? In truth, holiness in all its branches is the very perfection of our nature, and the restoration of our pristine happiness: and if we were as holy as the glorified saints and angels are, we should be not one atom inferior to them in peacefulness and bliss. Say, then, whether the commandments of our God deserve to be accounted grievous? No, in truth: “they are all holy, and just, and good;” and “in keeping of them there is great reward.”]
Those who entertain prejudices against religion as a hard service—
[Why will ye not believe our blessed Lord and Saviour, when he says to you, “My yoke is easy, and my burthen is light?” You will say, perhaps, This is contrary to experience; for every one finds how difficult it is to be truly religious. But what is it that makes it so? It is nothing but your own corruption that renders a conformity to God’s commandments difficult: and, if once you obtain a new heart, and have the law of God written on it by his Holy Spirit, I will pledge myself that you will find obedience to be as food to the hungry, health to the sick, and life to the dead. Nor was there ever a human being turned effectually from sin to holiness, but he found religion’s “ways to be ways of pleasantness and peace.”]
Those who profess to serve God according to his Gospel—
[Men will judge of religion, in a great measure, by what they see in you. If they behold you rendering service to God on as contracted a scale as you think will consist with your ultimate safety, they will be confirmed in their notions of religion as a painful yoke, to which no one submits but from necessity. And if they behold you going to the world for happiness, they will feel assured, that, whatever you may affirm to the contrary, religion of itself is not sufficient to make you happy. On the other hand, if they behold you devoting yourselves wholly and unreservedly to the Lord, and walking cheerfully in his holy ways, they will be constrained to acknowledge, that there is something in religion which they have never tasted, and of which they at present can form no just conception. Remember then, I pray you, how many eyes are upon you, and how great may be the influence of your conduct in the world. You may unhappily cast a stumbling-block before men, and involve them in ruin; or you may recommend the ways of God, and be the means of saving many souls alive. Get the love of God in your hearts, and then all will be comparatively easy. You will still, indeed, “find a law in your members warring against the law in your minds:” but, on the whole, you will “delight in the law of God after your inward man;” and be able so to walk, that all who shall behold your light shall be constrained to “acknowledge, that God is with you of a truth.”]
OVERCOMING THE WORLD
1 John 5:4-62.5.5. Whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
CHRISTIANITY is a warfare: every follower of Christ is by profession a soldier. The enemies whom he is engaged to combat are, the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is of one of these more especially that my text speaks; and that is, the world. Mankind at large are led captive by it. The Christian combats and overcomes it. In this respect he differs from, and surpasses, all the human race. These things are plainly affirmed in the passage before us: which will lead me to shew,
The victory which every true Christian gains—
The Christian is here described as “born of God”—
[He is not only born of the flesh, like other men, but has a new nature imparted to him from above, and which he alone possesses. The Spirit of the living God, who moved upon the face of the waters, and reduced the whole chaotic mass of this world to order and beauty, has moved upon his soul, to restore it to the image of his Creator, in which it was originally formed, in righteousness and true holiness. The person here spoken of as born of God, is also characterized as believing that Jesus is the Son of God. This shews what the process of the Holy Spirit is, in transforming the soul. He makes us to feel our guilt before God: he reveals the Lord Jesus Christ to us, as the appointed Saviour of the world: he enables us to believe in him, and to confess him openly before men, as all our salvation and all our desire. Thus the regenerate person shews himself to be a believer in Christ; and the believer in Christ approves himself to be regenerate. And hence the terms, as characterizing the child of God, are convertible, and of the same import.]
He overcomes the world—
[From the moment that he experiences the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit, he enters into conflict with the world, and overcomes it. He overcomes both its allurements and its terrors. Every thing in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is fascinating to the corrupt heart of man, and gains an ascendant, over all, whilst in their natural and carnal state. But the regenerate person has higher gratifications, which he affects as his supreme good, and for which he sacrifices all that this world can give him. He feels that earthly vanities debase the soul: and he will no longer be led captive by them. He says to them all, “Depart from me, I will keep the commandments of my God” — — —
In like manner, he triumphs over its terrors also. The world will take up arms against those who dare to oppose its maxims and its habits. Sometimes, by contempt and ridicule it will endeavour to check the Christian’s progress; and sometimes by the most envenomed hostility and bitter persecution. But the regenerate person braves all the world’s hostility, and will be deterred by nothing from following the path of duty. If the whole creation were to rise up against him, he would say, Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye: for I cannot but do what my God has enjoined.
There are those who will have regeneration to consist in baptism. But I would ask, Can it be said of every baptized person, that he overcomes the world? Does not the whole state of the Christian world contradict this? Are there any, amongst heathens themselves, more captivated by its allurements or enslaved by its terrors, than millions of baptized persons are? This shews, incontrovertibly, that, whatever blessing God may see fit to confer on any particular persons in baptism, baptism itself is not, and cannot be, regeneration: for, if it were, every baptized person must, of necessity, overcome the world; which we see and know is far from being true in fact.
There is a peculiarity in the expression in my text, which will serve to throw considerable light on this subject. It is said, “Whatsoever is born of God [Note: πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον.]” overcometh the world. In conversion a new nature is formed within us [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.]: a new principle, new judgment, new taste, is imparted to us: and the whole of that is, in its very nature, opposed to the world, even as light is to darkness: and, as light struggles with darkness till it has overcome it, so does that new and heaven-born principle, which is imparted to us in conversion, conflict with, and overcome, the world; so that the bonds in which, during our unregenerate state, we were held, are broken, and we are enabled to walk at liberty, in the way of God’s commandments. This may be well explained by an expression of our blessed Lord, who says, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life [Note: John 4:14.].” The meaning of which passage is, not that the Holy Spirit which he imparts shall infallibly bring us to everlasting life, but that that will be its constant tendency and operation. A fountain is always sending forth its waters upwards: and so shall the Holy Spirit within us always operate to raise the soul from earth to heaven. Let the two passages be compared; and they will shew, not what baptism does, but what the new nature, which the Spirit of God imparts in conversion, will effect, in all that are truly regenerate.]
Let us now point out,
The means by which he achieves it—
The Christian, to his latest hour, is no stronger in himself than others. He is, from first to last, like a new-born infant in its mother’s arms. But, as we have already seen, he believes in Christ; and, through the faith which is thus formed in his soul, he is enabled to maintain his conflicts even to the end: “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
From faith he derives his motives—
[He believes all that the Scriptures have spoken respecting the world, and all who belong to it: “It lieth in wickedness [Note: ver. 19.],” and will finally “be condemned [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:32.].” He believes, too, that a very principal end for which our blessed Saviour gave himself for us was, “that he might deliver us from this present evil world [Note: Galatians 1:4.].” Under this conviction, he engages on the side of his Lord and Saviour; and determines, through grace, that what HE so desired, shall surely be effected. Hence he draws the sword, and throws away the scabbard. He will “not be conformed to this world: but will seek to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, that he may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God [Note: Romans 12:2.].” If at any time he be tempted to taste of its cup, he puts it from his lips, as David did the waters from the well of Bethlehem; saying, ‘Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: Is not this the blood of my Lord and Saviour, who not only jeoparded his life, but laid it down for me? I will not drink it [Note: 2 Samuel 23:16-10.23.17.].’ In like manner, if bonds and imprisonments await him for his fidelity, he will say, “I am ready, not only to be bound, but also to die, at any time, and in any manner, for my Lord’s sake [Note: Acts 21:13.].” “Constrained by the love of Christ,” he “wars a good warfare,” and thus “endures unto the end [Note: Matthew 10:22.].”]
From faith he receives his strength—
[By faith he is united to the Lord Jesus Christ, as a branch to the vine; and by faith also he receives, out of his fulness, grace, according to his necessities [Note: John 1:16; John 15:5.]. “In Christ he is strong” and invincible [Note: 2 Timothy 2:1.]: and “through Christ he can do all things [Note: Philippians 4:13.].” To the natural man the Christian’s conduct is perfectly inexplicable. He cannot conceive how a poor weak creature like himself should be able so to overcome all the allurements of sense, and all the terrors of an infuriated world. But the Christian soldier has armour provided for him, even armour of an heavenly temper; and through that he is enabled to sustain the unequal combat [Note: Ephesians 6:11.], and to triumph over all his enemies [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:14.]. Thus does he “fight the good fight of faith [Note: 1 Timothy 6:12.];” and thus is he made “more than conqueror, through Him that loved him [Note: Romans 8:37.].”]
But in this victory he stands alone; as you will see, whilst I shew,
His exclusive claim to this prowess—
God himself appeals to us: “Who but the regenerate ever effects this?”
[Look through the world, and see, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” It must be remembered, that a mere speculative faith in Christ is not that which is here spoken of, but such a faith as leads us altogether to rely on Christ for every thing, and to devote ourselves entirely to his service. And now, I ask, where will you find one single person, except the regenerate believer, who so overcomes the world? You may find some who seclude themselves from it: but they flee from the combat altogether. You may find some who retire from it in disgust: but they are overcome by it. The person for whom I inquire is, a man who lives in the world, and fulfils all his civil, social, and personal duties in it; and yet is enabled to discard all its maxims, to set at nought all its customs, to despise all its vanities, to mortify all its corruptions, and, whilst in it, not to be of it, any more than the Saviour himself was [Note: John 17:14; John 17:16.]? Where will you find one who makes the word of God his sole directory; and determines to adhere to that, in opposition to all the contempt that can be poured upon him, or the persecution which he may be called to endure? Search amongst the despisers of spiritual regeneration, and see if you can find one of this character: search amongst the despisers of a life of faith, and see if you can find one. You may search all the records of the world, and I will defy you to find one. God himself sets you at defiance. Go, search him out: “Who is he that thus overcomes the world?” I tell you there is not one on earth, except “he who is born of God,” and “he who believes in Jesus” as his only hope. There may be found persons who fly from the world: but they do not act “as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.” The people who fight and overcome, are those only who have been before described: and it is through faith in Christ alone that they maintain the conflict; “it is by the cross of Christ alone that the world is crucified unto them, and they unto the world [Note: Galatians 6:14.].”]
On the other hand, What truly regenerate man does not effect it?
[Every one that is born of God does effect it. Whatever be his age or condition in life, it makes no difference; whether he be a king on his throne, or a beggar on the dunghill, this is his spirit, and this his conduct. In the external habits of men there must, of necessity, he a great difference: because it is not possible for a monarch to live precisely in the style and manner of a private man: but, in the internal principles and feelings there will be no difference whatever between the rich man that lives in splendour, and the poor Lazarus that lies at his gate. The hearts of all, whether young or old, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, will rise superior to the world; they will all account themselves “pilgrims and sojourners here;” and “have their conversation in heaven [Note: Heb 11:13 and Philippians 3:20.],” where their treasure is, and where they hope to spend a blissful eternity in the presence of their God.]
Behold then here,
A test, whereby to try your state—
[You cannot wish for a better touchstone than this. You see that every Christian in the universe will stand this trial; and that no other person whatever can. To a certain extent, the unregenerate and unbelieving may resemble the regenerate believer: but when you bring them to this test, the difference between them will instantly appear. I would not speak disrespectfully of any person, or any body of men; nor would I presume to sit in judgment upon them. But I will submit a question to you, which I think deserves consideration. It is well known that names of reproach are given to those who are more religious than their neighbours, and names of honour assumed by those who differ from them. At the present day, their respective titles are, the orthodox, and the evangelical: (what they may be at a future period, we know not: in every age they vary: and my object is, not to designate persons, but characters:) and these are supposed to differ very widely from each other in principle: but it is in practice, rather than in principle, that they differ: for you may hold what principles you will; and if you will be of the world, you will be reputed orthodox: but if you will not be of the world, whatever your principles may be, you may be infallibly sure that you will be ranked with the evangelical. Here, in fact, is the true point of distinction between the nominal and the real Christian: the nominal Christian is of this world: and the real Christian is not of this world, nor has any desire to be of it: for he knows, that even “to desire its friendship, is to be an avowed enemy of God [Note: James 4:4. the Greek.].”]
A rule, whereby to regulate our conduct—
[“We must he dead unto the world,” even as our Lord himself was. And does this appear unreasonable, or impracticable? Let anyone imagine a number of angels, sent down from heaven, to occupy different stations in the world for a season: how would they conduct themselves? They would take each his station, whether it were to rule a kingdom, or to sweep the streets. They would look down with contempt upon all the vanities of the world; and would stand at the remotest distance from its contagion. They would be intent only on serving God in their respective places, that they might be approved by him when they should be called to give up their account. Now, what should hinder us from considering ourselves in this precise point of view? True, we have corruptions, which the angels have not: but these corruptions are to be mortified, and not indulged: and though our duty is rendered the more difficult by means of them, it is not a whit altered. Nor need we despair of attaining at least some measure of victory over the world; because the Spirit within us has always this bearing; and because the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we believe, has said, “My grace shall be sufficient for thee.” This, then, I would recommend to every regenerate soul; “Love not the world, nor any thing that is in the world [Note: 1 John 2:15-62.2.16.]:” but let the same mind be in you as was in Christ Jesus, and endeavour in all things to “walk as he walked [Note: 1 John 2:6.].”]
JUSTIFICATION AND SANCTIFICATION BY CHRIST
1 John 5:6. This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
THERE are in the Scriptures, and especially in the history of our blessed Lord, many circumstances recorded, which appear to have been accidental and of no moment, whilst they were in reality ordained of God, and of the utmost importance for the advancement of his glory. For instance, the soldiers offering him vinegar upon the cross, and dividing some of our Lord’s clothing, and casting lots for the remainder; what trifles do these circumstances appear, when compared with all the other events of that day! Yet by means of them were the most improbable prophecies fulfilled, and the strongest possible testimony given to the Messiahship of Jesus. Another circumstance I will mention as deserving of particular notice, namely, that of the soldier, without any order from his superiors, piercing our Lord with his spear after he was dead. This, as far as respected the soldier, was a mere wanton act either of cruelty or contempt; of cruelty, if he doubted whether he was not yet alive; and of contempt, if he believed him to be really dead. But that act of his, whilst it fulfilled a very remarkable prophecy, was productive of consequences which are replete with instruction to the whole world. On his inflicting the wound, there came forth from our Saviour’s side both water and blood, not blended together, but in streams visibly distinct from each other. St. John, who was the only Disciple present, took particular notice of this. He saw it with his own eyes: and, in his Gospel, he records it as a most remarkable event, to which he could bear the most assured testimony, and of which he was extremely anxious that every one should be informed: “One of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side: and forthwith came thereout blood and water. And he that saw it bare record; and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe [Note: John 19:34-43.19.35.].” It is to this that the Apostle alludes in the words of our text; “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood:” and the same anxiety does he manifest to impress it deeply on our minds, when he adds, “The Spirit beareth witness to it; and the Spirit is truth.” Let me then, in conformity with his example, call your attention to,
The truth here specified—
In this event there was a deep stupendous mystery, inasmuch as it declared, in a very striking way, the great ends of our Saviour’s death. Take the Apostle’s assertion,
As simply declared—
[Our Lord “Jesus Christ came by water and blood.” He came as “a teacher sent from God,” to instruct us in the knowledge of his will, to lead us also by his own example, and by the gift of his grace to strengthen us for the attainment of universal holiness. This is called “coming by water:” for, as water is of use to cleanse and purify, so his doctrine was to cleanse and purify our souls from every species of defilement.
But it was not merely as a teacher that Jesus came, but to make an atonement also for sin. This he was to do by offering himself a sacrifice for us upon the cross: and this he did, shedding his own most precious blood, that through it we might be purged from guilt, and be reconciled to our offended God. In this he differed from all who had ever come before him. The different prophets that had been sent from God, came solely for the former purpose: and John the Baptist, who baptized such multitudes in the Wilderness, professed that the whole scope of his ministry was to lead men to repentance. But Jesus had a higher end in view. Repentance, however deep, and reformation, however extensive, would have been of no avail, if an atonement had not been offered to God for the sins of men: and this office neither men nor angels could undertake: he alone was sufficient for it: his Divine nature would give a virtue and efficacy to his blood, which no other blood could have, and would render it a sufficient propitiation for the sins of the whole world. For that end therefore he assumed our nature, and died upon the cross; so that, as my text expresses it, “he came by blood.”]
As solemnly confirmed—
[There is a peculiar emphasis to be observed in the Apostle’s mode of repeating his assertion. The circumstance of the blood and water flowing in distinct streams from the wounded side of our Saviour, was intended emblematically to declare the united ends of his death. The Apostle therefore would not suffer it to be overlooked, lest by a partial view of Christ, as a Prophet only, we should lose the blessings which he came to purchase for us. The mode appointed by the law for the purifying of the leper, will place this matter in a just point of view. Two birds were taken: one of them was killed over running water, and his blood was mingled with the water. The blood and water were then sprinkled seven times upon the leper, and the living bird, being dipped in the blood and water, was let loose into the open field, and the leper was pronounced clean [Note: Leviticus 14:4-3.14.7.]. This was intended to shew how man should be cleansed from sin. The Lord Jesus Christ should shed his blood as an atonement for sin: he should also send forth his Spirit upon man: by neither of these separately should he fulfil the office of a Saviour; and by neither of these separately should man be restored to the favour of his God. The union of the two was necessary for all; and the two united should be effectual for all: so that, however deep any one’s leprosy may have been, he shall, the very instant he has been so purified, be pronounced clean.
This then all must carefully notice, if they would possess the full benefits of Christ’s salvation.]
In addition to his own testimony, the Apostle further confirms his assertion, by adducing,
The testimony which the Holy Spirit bears to it—
In two ways the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of truth,” has borne witness to the doctrine inculcated in our text:
By established ordinances in the Church of God—
[This doctrine was not unknown to the Church of Israel in the wilderness; for there were ordinances appointed on purpose that it might be known, and be kept in everlasting remembrance. The Paschal Lamb which was slain from year to year reminded them, as indeed all the daily sacrifices did, that they were redeemed by blood. And, in their passage through the Red Sea, they were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, to shew them, that they must also be washed from their pollutions by the Spirit of God; as indeed all the washings and lustrations appointed by the law yet further taught them. Under the Christian dispensation, the same truths are constantly inculcated by the two sacraments appointed for our observance. Our baptismal washing reminds us, that “Christ came by water;” and the sacramental cup, which is “emblematic of his blood which he shed for the remission of our sins,” reminds us, that “he came by blood.” And our Apostle himself, in the second verse after my text, declares, that these ordinances were appointed for these very ends by the Spirit of God, who by them, and with them, bears testimony to the truth asserted in our text: “There are three that bear record on earth; the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one:” they agree in attesting that the Lord Jesus “Christ came by water and blood; not by water only, but by water and blood.”
How can we be sufficiently thankful for such clear and unquestionable testimonies to these important truths! Here is nothing left to arbitrary interpretations of a few select passages, which an advocate for some favourite doctrine might be supposed to pervert for the purpose of establishing his own sentiments: here are ordinances which speak for themselves, and which cannot be perverted: the spiritual import of them cannot admit a doubt: so that we may consider the truth of our text as fully declared, and incontrovertibly established.]
By visible operations on the souls of men—
[The Holy Spirit has yet further attested this truth by his immediate agency on the soul. He came down in a visible shape, in cloven tongues, as of fire, upon the Disciples on the day of Pentecost, in order to qualify them to proclaim these truths in all manner of languages; and, in confirmation of their word, he converted not less than three thousand souls to God in one day, enlightening all their minds, renewing all their souls, and filling them all with the richest consolations. When Peter opened the Gospel to the Gentiles also in the house of Cornelius, the Holy Spirit again bore witness to the truth in the same manner. The manner in which this is noticed by the historian, is worthy of particular observation. St. Peter, in his discourse respecting Christ, said, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Then we are told, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.” Here you perceive, it was at the very moment when Peter was proclaiming Jesus as a Saviour, not as a teacher, but as a Saviour, who was “come not by water only, but by water and blood,” that the Holy Spirit descended visibly upon all to attest that blessed truth. So, in like manner, at the present day, the Holy Spirit bears witness to this truth in every place: he works by it to the conversion of men to God, to the enriching of them with peace and joy, to the transforming of them into the Divine image, and to the bringing of them safely to glory. No other doctrine is ever honoured by him for these ends; but this is invariably, wherever it is proclaimed with that fidelity which becomes a servant of Christ. The people, who receive this doctrine into their hearts, are themselves made living witnesses of its truth, being enabled by it to live as no other persons can live, and to shine as lights in a dark benighted world. In every age this doctrine has been, and to the end of the world it shall be, “preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven [Note: 1 Peter 1:12.].”]
Be careful to receive these truths into your hearts—
[It cannot be that, when so much care has been taken to reveal them to us, we should be at liberty to neglect them: yet are they most grievously neglected by the great majority of the Christian world. The blood of Christ is actually denied by many as an atonement for sin: and of those who do not systematically deny its virtue, many are yet unmindful of it as a source of salvation to their own souls. And as for the influences of the Holy Spirit, they are derided by the generality as the dreams of a heated imagination. Ah! brethren, let it not be thus with you. Trample not in this ungodly manner upon “the blood of the covenant,” whereby alone you can be purged from guilt: and “do not such despite to the Spirit of God,” by whose all-powerful influence alone you can ever be truly sanctified and saved — — — But rather seek to be yourselves living witnesses of their truth and efficacy. Seek by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ upon your souls to obtain peace with God and in your own consciences: and seek by the effusion of the Spirit of God upon your souls to be renewed in your inward man, and rendered meet for heaven. So shall you in this world be “epistles of Christ, known and read of all men;” and in the world to come be everlasting trophies of his redeeming love.]
Beware that you never attempt to separate what God has joined together—
[Some there are of a self-righteous turn, who look to sanctification only as the means of recommending them to God; whilst others of an Antinomian cast think of little but of justification through the Redeemer’s blood. But both of these are involved in most grievous errors; and, if they obtain not juster views of Gospel truth, will perish for ever: for, on the one hand, there is no fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness, but that which was opened on Mount Calvary; nor, on the other hand, can any one that is unsanctified behold the face of God in peace: for “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” If any take refuge in the doctrines of predestination and election, let them know, that God has ordained the means as well as the end; and that, if we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” it is “through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ [Note: 1 Peter 1:2.].” Whichever of these truths any man confide in as of exclusive importance, we would say to him, as our Lord said to the self-deceiving Pharisees, “These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”]
THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY VINDICATED
1 John 5:7. There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one [Note: Any one who should preach on this subject can use his own discretion about the mode of introducing it. If he be perfectly assured that the words are an interpolation, he can state his views of that matter, and adopt the text, in order to shew, that, though the words themselves are not authentic, the truths contained in them are truly scriptural, and important: or he can take ver. 9. for his text.].
NEVER was there any record so well attested, so worthy of acceptation, so necessary to be believed, as that which God has given of his Son. Upon the receiving or rejecting of it depends the eternal welfare of all mankind. The riches of wisdom, and love, and mercy that are contained in it, surpass all the comprehension of men or angels. With respect to the truth of it, every species of testimony that could be given to it by friends or enemies, by angels from heaven, by men on earth, yea, even by devils themselves, has been given in the most abundant degree. But it has been confirmed by other testimony still, even by the Three Persons in the adorable Trinity.
From the words before us, we shall be led to shew,
Who they are that are here said to “bear record”—
Much has been written, and well written, to disprove the authenticity of this text. Certainly, if the genuineness of this text be admitted, and the sense be given to it which those who adduce it as establishing the doctrine of the Trinity, maintain, it will put an end to all controversy on the subject of the Trinity. But we need not be anxious about the validity of this individual passage, as though the doctrine of the Trinity rested upon it; since, if the text were expunged from the Bible, there are a multitude of others which maintain most unequivocally the same important truth.
To establish the mysterious doctrine of a Trinity in Unity, we shall lay down, and substantiate, three positions:
There is but one God—
[The unity of God may be deduced even from reason itself: but it is repeatedly affirmed in Scripture [Note: Compare Deuteronomy 6:4. with Mark 12:29.]; nor must a doubt of it ever be suffered to enter into our minds. It is true, that in a subordinate sense there are gods many, and lords many; because angels, and magistrates, and the idols of heathens, are sometimes called by these names on account of the resemblance they bear to God in the authority vested in them, and the respect paid to them: but there is One Supreme Being, who alone is self-existent, and from whom all other beings, whether in heaven or earth, derive their existence. He, and he only, is God [Note: 1 Corinthians 8:5-46.8.6.].]
Though there is only one God, yet there are three distinct Persons in the Godhead—
[In reference to this subject, we use the term persons, because there is no other so suitable: but we mean not that these persons are in all respects as distinct from each other as Peter, James, and John; but only that in some respects they are distinguished from each other, though they subsist together in one undivided essence.
It is certain that there are three persons mentioned in the Scripture: for baptism is ordered to be administered, not in the name of God merely, but “in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost [Note: Matthew 28:19.].” These three are represented as distinct from each other; for the Son has told us, that “he will send the Holy Spirit from the Father [Note: John 15:26.].” They are moreover spoken of as performing separate offices in the work of redemption; the Father elects [Note: Ephesians 1:4.]; the Son redeems [Note: Ephesians 1:7.]; the Spirit sanctifies [Note: Romans 15:16.]; and St. Peter, comprising in few words the whole mystery of redemption, ascribes to each of these persons his proper office [Note: 1 Peter 1:2.]. They are also declared to be sources of distinct blessings to the Church; the Apostle prays, that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, may be with us all [Note: 2 Corinthians 13:14.].]
Each of these persons is God, without any difference or inequality—
[We shall not occupy any time with proving the Godhead of the Father; but, taking that for granted, shall establish the Godhead of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
To each of these belong the same names as unto the Father. Is the Father God? so is the Word [Note: John 1:1.], (as Christ is called in the text). He is “Emmanuel, God with us [Note: Matthew 1:23.],” God manifest in the flesh [Note: 1 Timothy 3:16.], the mighty God [Note: Isaiah 9:6.], God over all, blessed for evermore [Note: Romans 9:5.]. To Him is also given the incommunicable name, Jehovah; for we are to call him, “Jehovah our Righteousness [Note: Jeremiah 23:6.].” To the Holy Spirit also these names belong. Ananias, in lying unto the Holy Ghost, lied unto God [Note: Acts 5:3-44.5.4.]. And we, in being the temples of the Holy Ghost, are the temples of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:16.]. The words also which were confessedly spoken by Jehovah to the Prophet Isaiah [Note: Isaiah 6:9-23.6.10.], are quoted by St. Paul as spoken by the Holy Ghost [Note: Acts 28:25.].
To each of these the same attributes also are ascribed as characterize the Father. Is the Father eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, almighty? So is the Son [Note: Mic 5:2 and Hebrews 13:8. Matthew 18:20; Matthew 28:20. John 2:25; John 21:17. Joh 1:3 and Matthew 28:18.] — — — and so is the Holy Ghost [Note: Hebrews 9:14. Psa 139:7-8. 1 Corinthians 2:10. Gen 1:2 and Job 26:13.] — — —]
What now is the conclusion to be drawn from these premises, but that which is asserted in the text, that “there are Three that bear record in heaven; and that those Three are One [Note: Hence we see how properly we are taught to express our belief of this doctrine in the Athanasian Creed: “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance; for there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost: but the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal …So that in all things the Unity in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped.”]?”
Having shewn that by the Three Witnesses we are to understand the Triune God, we proceed to shew,
What that is concerning which they bear record—
We may well expect that the importance of the matter to which these Divine Witnesses have borne record, is suited to the majesty of the Witnesses themselves. Acccordingly we find, that,
Their testimony relates to the salvation that is in Christ Jesus—
[God, who had passed by the angels that fell, has looked in mercy upon fallen man, and has given us eternal life, in and through his Son Jesus Christ [Note: ver. 11.]. He sent his dear Son to die in our stead, and, by his own obedience unto death, to work out a righteousness whereby we might be saved. The merit whereby we are to be justified, and the grace whereby we are to be renewed, he treasured up for us in Christ; and he calls all men to receive these blessings out of his fulness. This way of salvation is open for all, and sufficient for all: but, this rejected, no other remains for us.
This is the sum and substance of the Gospel; and this it is to which the Sacred Three bear record.]
Nor is their testimony at all more than the subject requires—
[If God himself had not revealed such things, who could ever have imagined them? who could ever have thought of God becoming incarnate, and, by his own death, expiating the guilt of his own creatures? Who could ever have devised a plan so calculated to exalt the perfections of God; so suited to answer the necessities of man; and so efficacious to renew us after the Divine image? — — — Besides, supposing these things to have been reported, who would ever have believed them, if they had not been thus divinely attested? Notwithstanding the testimonies given by the Sacred Three, there is yet reason to adopt that reiterated complaint, “Who hath believed our report [Note: Isaiah 53:1. Joh 12:38. Romans 10:16.]?” Professions of faith indeed abound amongst us; but a true believer, whose feelings and conduct accord with his professions, is “a sign and a wonder” in Christendom itself [Note: Isaiah 8:18.].]
It remains yet to be declared,
In what manner they bear record—
Each of these Divine Persons has borne record at divers times, and in different manners—
[The Father thrice bore witness to Christ by an audible voice from heaven; declaring at the same time his acquiescence in him as the Saviour of men; and requiring us at the peril of our souls to “hear” and receive him in that character [Note: Matthew 3:17; Mat 18:5 and John 12:28.]. Moreover, in raising Christ from the dead, he yet more emphatically testified, that he had discharged the debt for which he had been imprisoned in the grave, and was “able to save to the uttermost all that should come unto God through him [Note: Romans 1:4.].”
The Lord Jesus Christ continually bore witness to himself. When asked, “If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly;” he answered, “I have told you, and ye believe me not [Note: John 10:24-43.10.25.].” “Before Pontius Pilate he witnessed the same good confession [Note: 1 Timothy 6:13.],” though he knew that it would issue in his death. After his resurrection, he called himself “the true and faithful witness,” and testified, “I am he that was dead and am alive again, and have the keys of death and of hell [Note: Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:14.].”
The Holy Spirit also bore witness to him, when he descended in a bodily shape, like a dove upon him: and again, when he came down in the likeness of fiery tongues upon the Apostles, and converted three thousand to the faith of Christ. Similar testimonies he still continued to give [Note: Acts 10:44-44.10.45.]; and at this very day, when any are converted to the faith, it is owing to the testimony which the Holy Spirit bears to Christ; “the Spirit testifies of him,” and thereby produces conviction or consolation in the soul [Note: John 15:26; John 16:7-43.16.11.].
Thus the Sacred Three bear record in heaven, and by their united testimony encourage our acceptance of the salvation offered us in the Gospel.]
How unreasonable and dangerous is unbelief!
[If only men, who are credible and competent witnesses, attest a thing, we think it right to believe them. What an insult then is it to the Sacred Three to doubt their testimony! Yet this, alas! is the treatment which their record meets with in the world. Some reject it as “a cunningly-devised fable;” while others, professing a regard to it in general, deny the most important part of it, the necessity of being saved by Christ alone. Even those who in their hearts approve the Gospel, are too apt to doubt the freeness and sufficiency of the salvation revealed in it. Let every one consider the extreme sinfulness of such conduct, and abhor the thought of “making God a liar [Note: ver. 9, 10.]”.]
What obligation lies upon believers to bear an open testimony to the truth!
[It is evident how earnestly God desires that his dear Son should be known, and that the salvation wrought out by him should be embraced. Now believers are his witnesses in the midst of a blind deluded world. Ought they then to be ashamed or afraid to bear their testimony for God? What if the world agree to call the Gospel a delusion, and to consider all as hypocrites or fanatics who embrace it? Should that deter us from making a public profession of his truth? Should we not rather be the bolder in confessing Christ, in proportion as others are bold in denying him?
But let us not confine our profession to creeds and forms: the best and most acceptable way of declaring our affiance in Christ, is by manifesting to the world its efficacy on our hearts and lives. This will make them think that there is a reality in the Gospel; and may contribute to win many who never would obey the written word.]
How exalted must be the glory which believers will enjoy in heaven!
[It cannot be conceived that the Three Persons of the Godhead would have devised and executed such a wonderful plan of salvation, if the end to be accomplished by it were not exceeding glorious. Surely all that the love of the Father can devise, all that the blood of Christ can purchase, all that the Holy Spirit can impart, is prepared for us in the eternal world, and shall be bestowed on us according to our measure and capacity to receive it. Yes, in heaven we shall see God as he is, and have the brightest discoveries of his glory: and, while we have the richest enjoyment of his presence and love, we ourselves shall be witnesses for him, how far his mercy could reach, what astonishing changes it could effect, and what blessedness it can bestow on the most unworthy of mankind.]
THE BELIEVER’S INWARD WITNESS
1 John 5:10. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.
THE truth of our holy religion is confirmed by every kind of evidence that the heart of man can desire. Not only was it established by an appeal to prophecy, but by miracles without number. Nay more, as the religion of Moses had at the very time different rites appointed in commemoration of the principal events with which that dispensation was marked; as the feast of the passover, to commemorate the destruction of the Egyptian first-born, and the preservation of Israel,—and the feast of Pentecost, to commemorate the giving of the law,—and the feast of tabernacles, to commemorate their living in tents in the wilderness;—so has Christianity been attested by the Holy “Spirit” given to the Apostles, and “the water” of baptism, which was administered on that very day, and “the blood” of the cross commemorated by the cup which is drank by all in the supper of the Lord.
But, convincing as these testimonies are, the true believer has one peculiar to himself, one abiding in his own bosom, arising from his own experience: “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself;” the witness of Christ, and of his salvation; of its necessity, its suitableness, its sufficiency. He has in himself the witness of,
[The generality of persons see no need of such a salvation as the Gospel has provided. Many have no conception that they merit condemnation at the hands of God: or that there can be any occasion for more than a mere exercise of mercy, without any atonement offered to divine justice for their sins, or any righteousness to be imputed to them for their justification before God. But the believer has views of his own exceeding sinfulness, and of his utter incapacity to reconcile himself to God, and of his need of a Saviour to effect salvation for him. He is conscious, that no repentance of his can ever suffice to expiate his guilt, nor any good works of his prevail for the purchase of heaven: and hence he is in his own apprehension as much lost without a Saviour, as the fallen angels are, for whom no Saviour has been provided.]
[Looking into his own bosom to explore his wants, and then examining the Holy Scriptures to see what provision God has made for him, he sees that the one corresponds with the other as the wards of a lock with the key that opens it. He has no want in himself for which he does not see in Christ a suitable supply: nor does he behold in Christ any thing which he does not need. Is Christ both God and man? Such an one does the believer see that he stands in need of; even man to take on him what man was bound to do and suffer; and God to render that work effectual for our salvation. Did the believer need an atonement for his guilt, a righteousness wherein to stand before God? Did he need a divine power to renew his soul? Did he need an Advocate with the Father to intercede for him? Did he need an Head of vital influence to impart unto him all seasonable supplies of grace? This, and ten thousand times more than this, does he find in Christ, whose fulness corresponds with his necessities, as an impression with the seal; in neither of which is there a jot or tittle either superfluous or defective. The every office of Christ, and every character is precisely that which the believer needs; to the hungry, Christ is bread; to the thirsty, a living fountain of water; to the sick, a Physician; yea and life to the dead.]
[The believer feels in himself that he is a partaker of those very benefits which Christ came to bestow. He is alive from the dead, and is enabled to live as no unregenerate man can live. Let any one behold a river which a few hours ago was running down with a rapid current to the sea, running back again with equal rapidity to the fountain head; and will he doubt how this is effected? He may not be able to say what influence that is by which it is produced, or how that operation is effected: but he sees that there is a power which has wrought this: he sees it in its effects, just as he sees the trees agitated by the wind, though he knows not whence that wind comes, or whither it goes. He cannot declare how the Spirit which Jesus has imparted to him, operates upon his soul: but he can no more doubt who it is that has thus created him anew, than who it is that formed the universe. He is a perfect wonder to himself; a spark kept alive in the midst of the ocean, a bush ever burning, yet never consumed. He is a living witness for the Lord Jesus, that he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.]
Behold then here,
The true nature of the Gospel—
[The Gospel is a remedy. The whole world are sick: and in Christ Jesus there is all that every sinner needs [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:30.] — — —]
The blessedness of those who truly receive it—
[All are in one great hospital: and those who submit not to the physician die: but those who take his prescriptions live. True, they are not cured at once: it is possible too that they may suffer occasional relapses for a little season: but through the care of their heavenly Physician, their recovery is progressive; and when the good work is perfected within them, they are removed to that happy world, of which “no inhabitant will ever have occasion to complain that he is sick.” And what a witness will the believer have within himself at that day! At that day there will be amongst all the millions of the saints but one feeling of perfect health, and but one ascription of praise “to him who loved them, and washed them from their sins, and made them kings and priests unto their God and Father for ever and ever.”]
THE GOSPEL RECORD
1 John 5:11-62.5.12. This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
IN matters that are established by human testimony, we necessarily proportion our assent to the number and credibility of the witnesses. And if we will act in the same manner towards the Holy Scriptures, we shall not entertain a doubt, either of their Divine authority in general, or of the way of salvation contained in them. Moses and all the prophets concur with the Apostles in directing our eyes to Christ as the only Saviour of the world: but in the words before us we have the testimony of One whose information cannot be doubted, and whose veracity cannot be impeached; of One who is too good to deceive, and too wise to be deceived. This witness is no other than Jehovah himself.
Let us then consider,
His testimony concerning his Son, and concerning the way of salvation through him—
This record embraces two points; and asserts,
That “God hath given to us eternal life”—
[Since the fall of Adam, man has lost all right to life. In him we died, and through him condemnation is come upon us all. Moreover, we have all increased our guilt and condemnation by our own personal transgressions. But God willed not that we should perish, and therefore sent his only dear Son to deliver us: and, having opened a way for our return to him through the blood and righteousness of his Son, he has published the glad tidings, and offered freely to give eternal life to as many as would receive it in his appointed way. He has not tendered it to us as a blessing to be earned or merited, but as a free unmerited gift to be received [Note: See Romans 6:23.Ephesians 2:8-49.2.9; Ephesians 2:8-49.2.9. Titus 2:5.].]
That “this life is in his Son”—
[This life, comprehending all the blessings of grace and glory, is in Christ as the Proprietor, the Dispenser, and the Guardian of it [Note: For this just and elegant mode of expressing this idea, the Author is indebted to that very judicious author, Mr. Robert Walker, of Edinburgh; whose four volumes of Sermons are well worthy of every man’s perusal.]. He is the Proprietor of it. As the light is primarily in the sun, so is all good originally and essentially in Christ. “In him was life,” says St. John; “and the life was the light of men [Note: John 1:4.].” The same writer says of him again at the conclusion of the chapter from whence the text is taken, “This is the true God, and eternal life [Note: ver. 20.].” He also is the Dispenser of it. As life was in him essentially as well as in the Father, so was it committed to him officially, in order that he might impart it to whomsoever he would [Note: Colossians 1:19. John 5:21; John 5:26; John 17:2.]. He himself arrogates to himself this honour [Note: John 10:28.]; and all his Apostles acknowledge themselves indebted to him for all that they possessed [Note: John 1:16.]. He is moreover the Guardian of it. When life was entrusted to Adam, he, though perfect, and in Paradise, was soon robbed of it through the devices of Satan. And if it were now committed to us, we in our present fallen state should not be able to preserve it one single hour. God has therefore graciously committed it to his dear Son, that, by being “hid with Christ in God [Note: Colossians 3:3.],” it might be inaccessible to our subtle enemy. By this mysterious, this merciful dispensation, “our souls are bound up, as it were, in the bundle of life with the Lord our God [Note: 1 Samuel 25:29.].” Christ “lives in us [Note: Galatians 2:21.],” and “is our very life [Note: Colossians 3:4.]:” and hence, “because he liveth,” and as long as he liveth, “we shall live also [Note: John 14:19.].”]
Thus has God testified, that eternal life is to be sought as a free gift from him, and to be only in, and through, and for the sake of, the Lord Jesus Christ. But to see the full importance of this record, we must consider,
The declaration grounded upon it—
A more solemn declaration is not to be found in all the inspired volume. But let us consider,
What is meant by “having the Son of God?”
[The more simply this is explained, the more intelligible it will appear. Christ is represented as God’s gift to man [Note: John 3:16; John 4:10.]: and we then receive that gift when we believe in Christ; or, in other words, when we receive him for all the ends and purposes for which he is given. This is the explanation which St. John himself gives us [Note: John 1:12.]: and consequently we may then be said to “have” Christ, when we have received him, and are making use of him, as the source and substance of our spiritual life.]
What depends on our “having” the Son of God—
[Behold! nothing less than everlasting happiness or misery depends on this point.
He that has felt a desire after eternal life; and has sought it earnestly through Christ; and has received it from God as a free unmerited gift; and is looking to Christ to impart it to him yet “more abundantly [Note: John 10:10.],” and to preserve it in his soul; he who thus “lives by faith in the Son of God,” has both a title to life, and the very beginning and earnest of eternal life in his soul. He can claim eternal life upon the footing of God’s word. He can plead the promises of God [Note: John 6:40.]; and may be fully assured that he shall not be disappointed of his hope [Note: Isaiah 45:17.]. Indeed he has eternal life already begun in his soul [Note: John 6:47.]. He was once dead like others; but now he “is passed from death unto life [Note: John 5:24.].” The very act of living by faith in the Son of God proves to a demonstration, that he is alive, and that Christ liveth in him [Note: See Galatians 2:21. before cited.]. He may not indeed have a comfortable sense and assurance of his happy state; but he really liveth, and shall live for ever.
On the other hand, he that hath not so received and lived upon the Lord Jesus Christ, has no life in his soul: he is yet “dead in trespasses and sins:” and, so far from having any title to life, he is under a sentence of condemnation, and “the wrath of God abideth on him [Note: John 3:18; John 3:36.].” “Not having the Son of God, he hath not life.” Whatever he may have, he hath not life. He may have learning, riches, honour, and even morarily itself, according to the general acceptation of the term, but he has not life: and if he die in his present state, he must perish for ever: yea, if he were the first monarch upon earth, he would in this respect be on a level with the meanest of his subjects; he would descend from his pinnacle of honour to the lowest abyss of shame and misery.]
How plain is the way of salvation!
[Supposing the way of salvation to be such as has been already stated, how can words express it more clearly than it is expressed in the text? There is no learning requisite to explain it: it is level with the comprehension of the most unlettered man in the universe. Nothing is requisite for the understanding of it but humility of mind, and a willingness to be indebted for every thing to the free grace of God in Christ Jesus. If there be any difficulty, it arises only from the pride of our hearts that would mix something of our own with the finished work of Christ. The fact is, that salvation by faith alone is so plain and simple, that we are offended at it on account of its plainness and simplicity [Note: 2 Kings 5:10-12.5.14.]. But let the weak rejoice, that what is hid from the wise, is revealed to them [Note: Matthew 11:25.].]
How suitable is the way of salvation!
[If salvation had been to be merited and earned by our good works, who amongst us could have entertained a hope? If our works, imperfect as they are, were only to have eked out the merits of Christ, who could tell us the precise quantity and quality of the works that would have sufficed? In what doubt and suspense must we have been held all our days! And how would this way of salvation have suited persons in the situation of the dying thief, who are called away without having sufficient time to “make up their tale of bricks?” But a gift is suitable to all: a free salvation commends itself to all: and the more humbled we are under a sense of our own guilt and weakness, the more suitable will it appear, that we should receive all from Christ, and give all the glory of our salvation to him.]
What infatuation is it to substitute any other plan of salvation in the place of that which God has offered us!
[Suppose for one moment (though it is a horrid and blasphemous supposition) that we were wiser than God, and that we knew better than he did what was fit for him to do; still are we also “stronger than he?” and can we oblige him to alter his decrees? Vain hope! We may entertain as strong prejudices as we will, and load the Gospel with opprobious names; still that will be true and irreversible, “He that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” Let all of us then cease to weave a spider’s web, and accept with gratitude “the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.”]
USE OF THE SCRIPTURES TO BELIEVERS
1 John 5:13. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
THE Scriptures of the New Testament were written doubtless for the whole world. Yet perhaps we may say, that the Gospels were written more immediately for unbelievers, in order to convince them of the Messiahship of Jesus; and that the epistles were written rather for believers, to bring them to a life becoming their high and holy calling. This idea seems to be sanctioned by St. John: for, at the end of his Gospel, he says, “These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, ye might have life through his name [Note: John 20:31.].” But, at the end of this epistle, he says, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.” In truth, he had in his mind all the different classes of believers—children, young men, and fathers: “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. 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 [Note: 1 John 2:12-62.2.14.].” Of course, there is much in this, as well as in all the epistles, profitable to unconverted men: but I must, on the present occasion, attend rather to believers, and mark of what use this epistle is intended to be to them. It is intended,
To assure them, that in Christ they have all that they can need—
All who truly believe “have eternal life:” they have,
The substance of it, treasured up for them in Christ—
[The Lord Jesus Christ is the depository in which eternal life is placed: as the Apostle says in the preceding context; “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son.” The Lord Jesus purchased it for us, by his own obedience unto death: and to him it was granted, for our use and benefit; “that he might bestow it on as many as have been given him by the Father [Note: John 17:2.].” “In Him, through the good pleasure of the Father, it dwells, even all the fulness of it [Note: Colossians 1:19.].” “Whatever can be conceived to be comprehended in eternal life, to him it is all committed; and out of his fulness it must be received [Note: John 1:16.].”]
A title to it, conferred on them by Christ—
[The Lord Jesus, when he sent forth his Disciples to the Gospel to the whole world, commissioned them to declare to all, without exception, “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved.” No one was required to bring any measure of worthiness with him as a title: on the contrary, there was to be but one plea for all mankind; namely, the promise of God to the believing soul. On that all were to rest; and that was to be the one ground of hope to every child of man. Life was to be, “not of works, but of grace [Note: Ephesians 2:8.]:” and “it was to be by faith, that it might be by grace [Note: Romans 4:16.].” The only thing required on our part, was to receive thankfully what God offered freely in the Son of his love. In receiving Christ therefore by faith, we have a title to every thing else; according as it is said, “All things are yours; and ye are Christ’s.”]
The actual possession of it, derived to them from Christ—
[Of this, also, the Apostle speaks strongly, in the preceding context: “He that hath the Son, hath life: and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life:” that is, life is the exclusive possession of the believing soul. This is no less plainly affirmed by our Lord himself: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my words, and believeth in Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life [Note: John 5:24.].” Whatever is comprehended in all the glory and felicity of heaven, is now begun in the believer’s soul: “He has the witness of it in himself [Note: ver. 10.];” yea, and “the earnest” and foretaste of it [Note: Ephesians 1:13-49.1.14.]. In fact, as an embryo in the womb has all the parts of which manhood is the perfection, so grace is glory begun; and glory is grace consummated.]
But the Scriptures are of yet further use to believers,
To confirm and augment their affiance in him—
It is necessary that they should grow in faith, as well as in every other grace [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:3.]. The faith of all should daily become,
More simple in its exercise—
[The world at large have very little idea how difficult it is to exercise a pure “unfeigned faith.” It is easy to say, ‘I believe:’ but to “renounce all confidence in the flesh” is inconceivably difficult. A stone does not more naturally fall to the ground, than we cleave to our own wisdom, strength, and righteousness, as grounds of hope, and sources of acceptance before God. To derive all from the Lord Jesus Christ, and depend on Him alone, as an infant on its mother’s care, is the very summit of Christian perfection. And where is the person that has attained to it? But, to aid us in this attainment, the Holy Scriptures are of wonderful use: they shew us the fulness that is in Christ, and the emptiness of the creature, that is only as “a broken cistern, that can hold no water:” and they set before us all the great and precious promises of our reconciled God, who has engaged to “work all his works in us,” and to “perfect that which concerneth us.” After being made to feel, in ten thousand instances, the weakness of human nature, we are made at last to “have our strength in the Lord alone [Note: Ephesians 6:10.],” and to be willing that “his strength should be perfected in our weakness [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.].”]
More firm in its actings—
[Our faith, when tried, is apt to waver. Peter, when the waves began to rise, brought on himself this just rebuke, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” And Sarah too “laughed” through unbelief, when, at her advanced age, she was taught to expect a progeny, and to become a mother of nations. Yes, and Abraham himself, through the weakness of his faith, repeatedly desired Sarah to deny her relation to him, lest an acknowledgment of it should lead to his ruin. Thus we all find it, when we come into heavy trials. But by seeing in the Scriptures what God has done for his people in every age, and what he has engaged to do for them even to the end of the world, we learn, at last, to trust our God in all possible circumstances, and to be “strong in faith, giving glory to God [Note: Romans 4:20.].”]
More uniform in its operations—
[Faith ought not to consist in acts, so much as to be one continued habit of the mind. The believer should live upon the Lord Jesus Christ, as a branch upon the vine. Whether winds or frosts menace its existence, the branch still cleaves to the stock, and derives from it the sap which is necessary to its preservation: and so must the believer cleave to the Lord Jesus Christ; and say with the Apostle, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who hath loved me, and given himself for me [Note: Galatians 2:20.].” In himself he must “be dead,” if I may so speak; and “his life must be hid with Christ in God:” it is by having “Christ as his life,” that he will insure his future “appearance with Christ in glory [Note: Colossians 3:3-51.3.4.].”]
Study then, my brethren, the blessed word of God—
[“Search the Scriptures,” says our blessed Lord; “for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they that testify of me [Note: John 5:39.].” Yes, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,” and of the whole Scriptures [Note: Revelation 19:10.]. It is in them that you will behold his whole character portrayed; and by them will you have his whole work carried on and perfected within you [Note: Ephesians 5:26. John 17:17.]. Study them, then, with prayer. Nothing will be gained from them without prayer. From human compositions, you may acquire all that they contain by the mere force of intellectual exertion: but the Scriptures are “a sealed book,” till God himself shall open them to your minds. But, if God shine upon his word, and enable you to comprehend the truths contained in it, you will derive from thence such views of Christ, as shall change you into the Divine image, and “fill you with all the fulness of God [Note: Ephesians 3:18-49.3.19.].” “As new-born babes, then, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby [Note: 1 Peter 2:2.].”]
Apply to yourselves every thing that is the proper object of faith—
[All the glory of heaven is unfolded in the Scriptures to the believing soul. Make the Scriptures, then, a ladder, whereby to ascend to heaven. Go thither, and there “behold Him that is invisible [Note: Hebrews 11:27.].” There get a sight of his covenant: there see your own “name written in the Lamb’s book of life.” There survey the throne prepared for you, with the crown of glory, and the golden harp already tuned for your touch. Survey it all as yours—your property, your portion, your inheritance. Rise thus upon the wings of faith, and all that is here on earth will vanish from before your eyes, or become like a mere speck in the unbounded regions of space. This is the proper office of faith; and this is the privilege of the believing soul, even to have “your conversation in heaven [Note: Philippians 3:20.];” and to occupy “your seat there with Christ [Note: Ephesians 2:6.],” almost as you will do when you shall be personally dwelling in the realms of bliss. Verily, it is no mean thing to be a Christian. If you believe in Christ, “all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours; and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:21-46.3.23.].”]
ANSWERS TO PRAYER
1 John 5:14-62.5.15. This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
PRAYER is universally acknowledged to be a service proper for sinful men to perform; yet few have any just idea of its efficacy. If a man were to speak of having received an answer to his prayers, he would be considered as an enthusiast, who was deceiving his own soul. Yet it is clear that we are taught to expect answers from Almighty God, and that too even in relation to the specific petitions which we have presented before him. The words which we have just read abundantly attest this, and naturally lead me to shew,
The confidence which a believer may enjoy in drawing nigh to God—
He may possess a confidence,
Respecting the acceptance of his prayers in general—
[God has been pleased to make himself known to us under this very character, “A God that heareth prayer [Note: Psalms 65:2.].” And in the most explicit terms has he assured us, that “no man shall seek his face in vain [Note: Isaiah 45:19.]:” Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened [Note: Matthew 7:7-40.7.8.].” In truth, if this hope were not held out to us, it would be in vain to approach our God at all. Thus far, therefore, the world at large will admit the efficacy of prayer: they will acknowledge that some good will proceed from it; though their idea is, that the benefit will accrue rather from the meritoriousness of the act of prayer, than from any attention paid to the prayer itself. But we must go further, and assert, that the believer is warranted to enjoy a confidence also,]
Respecting specific answers to each particular petition—
[This is plainly declared in the passage before us, and therefore it may certainly be expected. But here it will be proper to mark the different limitations with which the subject must be understood. If these be not carefully noted, I grant that much error may prevail in relation to it; but if these be kept in view, we may take to ourselves all the comfort which this subject is calculated to convey.
First, then, the text itself limits our petitions, and supposes them to be in accordance with the will of God: “If we ask any thing according to his will.” It were absurd to imagine that we could, by any request of ours, prevail on the Deity to do any thing which was contrary to his will. This limit, therefore, must be admitted of course. Besides, our prayers must be offered in the name of Jesus Christ. He is our Mediator; nor is there any access to God for us, except through him. Hence he himself, in order to the acceptance of our prayers, requires that they be offered in his name [Note: John 14:13-43.14.14; John 16:23; John 16:26.]. They must also be offered up in faith. A man that doubts and “wavers in his petitions must not expect to receive any thing from the Lord [Note: James 1:5-59.1.7.].” Our Lord therefore declares this to be essential; “Whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive [Note: Matthew 21:22.].” And peculiarly strong is his declaration in another place, where he says, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them [Note: Mark 11:24.].” Our prayers, too, must be presented with a pure and holy end; not for the gratification of any unhallowed feeling of our own, but with a view to the honour of our God [Note: James 4:3.].
Moreover as proper limits must be assigned to our prayers, so a proper latitude must be conceded to God for his answers to them. He is not bound in relation to the time when he shall answer them, or the manner in which he shall answer them. He may suffer us to wait long before he answers us; that so we may feel the deeper need of his mercy, and be better prepared to receive it, and be led more devoutly to praise him when he has answered. In answering us, too, it must be left to him to grant what, in his infinite wisdom, he may judge most conducive to our welfare. “He heard his dear Son always;” yet he did not take the bitter cup out of his hands; but enabled him to drink it [Note: Matthew 26:39.], and for his sake took it out of the hands of a dying world. He did not extract the thorn from the flesh of his servant Paul; but he made use of it, to prevent the risings of pride, which would have been an infinitely sorer plague; and enabled him to rejoice and glory in it, as the means of honouring more abundantly his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.]. Even to an angel he refused the specific request; but “answered him with good and comfortable words,” which were eventually a more suitable and substantial blessing [Note: Zechariah 1:12-38.1.13.].
Take these limitations, then, with respect to our prayers, and these exceptions respecting God’s answers to them; and then we need not fear to entertain the confidence described in our text: we may not only be “sure that God hears us, but we either have, or shall have, the petitions that we desired of him.”
And now you will readily see,
The encouragement which this affords him to abound in that duty—
What is there that man can need at the hands of God? Whatever it may be, he is at liberty to ask it: and may be confident, that, in answer to his petitions, it shall be granted to him. Needest thou, believer,
The forgiveness of thy sins?
[Call them to remembrance from thine earliest infancy, and spread them all before him: fear not, either on account of their number or malignity; but go with confidence to thy God, in the name of Jesus; and “he will blot them out as a morning cloud,” and “cast them all behind him, into the very depths of the sea [Note: Isaiah 44:22.Micah 7:19; Micah 7:19.].”]
A supply of grace, to sanctify thy soul?
[Look not at the inveteracy of thy lusts, as though they were too great to be subdued; but look rather at the extent of God’s gracious promises; and expect that he will enable you to “cleanse yourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].” Restrain not prayer before him; and he will transform you into “his perfect image, even from glory to glory,” “by the mighty working of his Spirit, who raised Christ himself from the dead [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18. Ephesians 1:19-49.1.20.]” — — —]
All the glory and blessedness of heaven?
[“Be not straitened in yourselves, my brethren; for ye are not straitened in God.” He himself says to you, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it [Note: Psalms 81:10.]:” and therefore spread before him your every want, assured that, as he is able, so also is he willing, to “give you exceeding abundantly above all that ye can ask, or even think [Note: Ephesians 3:20.]” — — —
If it be said, that such confidence is not warranted at this day, I ask, Are our privileges diminished under the Christian dispensation? or, Are we less entitled to expect these blessings, than the Jews were, under their less perfect economy? I grant, that we are not authorized to expect such visible interpositions as they enjoyed: but ours shall not be a whit less real, or less certain. We have not the Urim and Thummim, whereby to consult God, and obtain an answer that shall be legible by acknowledged marks upon the breast-plate; but God will nevertheless hear us when we call upon him; and cause us also, in doubtful circumstances, to hear a voice behind us, saying, “This is the way; walk ye in it.” Though therefore I acknowledge, that, as being under a theocracy, the Jews enjoyed privileges peculiar to themselves, I affirm that, so far as those privileges will conduce to our spiritual welfare, we possess them in as high a degree as ever they did; and it is our own fault if we avail not ourselves of them, for the advancement of our souls in peace, in holiness, and in glory. Did the Prophet Elijah shut and open the windows of heaven? it is recorded to shew the efficacy of prayer, for whatever it be made, and by whomsoever it be offered [Note: James 5:16-59.5.18.].]
I would not however conclude without suggesting a caution, in reference to your exercise of this confidence—
[Take care to exercise it with modesty and holy fear. It is possible enough to mistake our own feelings for an answer to prayer; and to persuade ourselves that God is directing us, when we are following only the imaginations of our own hearts. Let us, on all occasions, take the written word for our guide; and, in all doubtful circumstancess, wait the issue, before we presume to refer them to God as expressions of his will in answer to our prayers. The truth in our text is to be improved rather for our encouragement to commit our ways to God, than for the purpose of determining positively what God has done, or will do. Let us take it with this limitation, that God will fulfil our requests, if they will really conduce to our welfare and to his glory; and then we cannot err, nor can our confidence ever be misplaced.]
THE CHRISTIAN’S KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST
1 John 5:20. We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
IT is thought by many, that the doctrines of the Gospel are uncertain speculations, and that the experience of them in the soul is nothing more than an enthusiastic conceit. We acknowledge that the mysteries of religion are in many respects beyond the grasp of our reason; and that the inward feelings arising from them can be judged of by those only in whose bosom they are found: yet neither the one nor the other can on this account be considered as uncertain: on the contrary, whenever they are mentioned in the Scriptures, they are spoken of as matters that are plain and unquestionable. In the text, and the two verses that precede it, the Apostle thrice repeats the assertion, “We know:”—“We know that he that is born of God sinneth not:” “We know that we are of God:” and then, in reference both to the Gospel itself, and to his experience of its truth, he adds a third time, “We know that the Son of God is come,” &c.
From these words we shall be led to notice three things which Christians know in relation to their Lord and Saviour:
The first Christians knew assuredly that the Messiah was come—
[To state all the grounds of their conviction, would be superfluous, and indeed impossible in a single sermon. We shall confine ourselves to those which were most obvious and incontrovertible, namely, the prophecies that were accomplished in him, and the miracles that were wrought by him. When they saw that so many, so various, so minute, and (to appearance) so contradictory prophecies all united in him, and were fulfilled by him, they could not doubt but that Jesus was the person to whom they all referred. When, moreover, they beheld such numerous, such undoubted, such benevolent, and such stupendous miracles wrought by him in confirmation of his word, it was impossible for them to withhold their assent to the justice of his claims, unless they were altogether blinded by Satan and their own lusts.]
But we have, if possible, yet clearer evidence than they—
[Many of the most remarkable prophecies were either not quite accomplished, or but just accomplished, when our Lord died; so that the fulfilment of them might then be questioned. But who can doubt whether Daniel’s weeks of years [Note: Daniel 9:24.] have not expired many centuries ago? Who can doubt whether “the sceptre which was not to depart from Judah, till Shiloh should come [Note: Genesis 49:10.],” has not departed long since? Who can doubt whether the second “Temple to which the Messiah was to come [Note: Malachi 3:1.],” has not long since been demolished?
But a further and most satisfactory proof of Christ’s Messiahship is, that his Gospel was propagated so extensively, in so short a time, by such instruments, in opposition to all the prejudices and passions of mankind; and that, though every effort of men and devils has been exerted to root out Christianity from the earth, none have ever been able to prevail against the Church.
On these grounds then, in addition to the former, we may say, “We know that the Son of God is come.”]
Moreover, we know also,
Many had been the impostors who had laid claim to the title of the Messiah. In opposition to all of these, the Apostle twice designates our Lord as “the true, the only true,” Messiah; and, in the close of the text, specifies more particularly,
His personal character—
[Jesus is “the true God.” St. John, more than all the Apostles, seems to have been studious to assert the divinity of Christ. With this he opens his history of Jesus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [Note: John 1:1.].” The whole Scriptures also concur to establish this important doctrine, that he who was “a Son born, was also the mighty God [Note: Isaiah 9:6.];” that he was Emmanuel, “God with us [Note: Matthew 1:23.];” even “God manifest in the flesh [Note: 1 Timothy 3:16.],” yea, “God over all blessed for ever [Note: Romans 9:5.].” Nothing can be more clear than this fundamental point. Indeed the very name, “Son of God,” so far from militating against his equality with the Father, was in the apprehension of the Jews themselves an assertion of that equality [Note: John 5:18.].]
His official character—
[Christ, as God, has life in himself essentially [Note: John 1:4; John 5:26.]: but he is also “the Author of eternal salvation” to all his followers [Note: Hebrews 5:9.]. As there is no other God but he, so is there no other Saviour [Note: Acts 4:12.]. It was he who purchased eternal life for us: none can claim any part of his glory in this respect: “his life was the ransom paid for us;” and by his obedience unto death we obtain righteousness and life. Moreover it is he who imparts eternal life to us: we receive it from him, who “is exalted to give it,” and from “whose fulness alone it can be received.” As we cannot merit it, so neither can we obtain it, by any efforts of our own: it is purely the gift of God through Christ [Note: Romans 6:23.]: and Christ, as “Head over all things to the Church,” bestows it on whomsoever he will [Note: John 5:21; John 10:28.]. We know from Christ’s own express assertion (and stronger evidence than that we cannot have), that he is “the way, the truth, and the life [Note: John 14:6.];” and to all eternity shall we ascribe our salvation “to him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood [Note: Revelation 1:5-66.1.6.].”]
But it is yet further the privilege of all Christ’s followers to know,
Their interest in him—
The knowledge which his people have of him is not a mere speculative acquaintance with his history, but an intimate connexion, or rather, a oneness with him [Note: John 17:21.]. They are “in Christ,”
By a federal relation—
[As Adam was a head and representative to all his descendants, so is Christ to all his spiritual seed [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:22.]. They have communion with him in all his transactions upon earth, and in heaven: they are circumcised in him, baptized in him, dead with him, quickened with him, risen with him, seated in heaven with him [Note: Romans 6:4; Romans 6:8. Colossians 2:12-51.2.13.Ephesians 2:5-49.2.6; Ephesians 2:5-49.2.6.]. We cannot indeed be said to have done or suffered the same things as Christ, (for to assert that we had fulfilled the law, or made atonement for sin, would be blasphemy,) yet by virtue of our relation to him as our Head and Representative, every thing which he either did or suffered, is, as far as respects the beneficial effects of it, considered as though we had done or suffered it: and on this account we may claim, on the footing of justice as well as of mercy, all that he purchased for us, and merited on our behalf [Note: Romans 3:25-45.3.26. 1 John 1:9.].”]
By a vital union—
[The union of a member with the head [Note: Colossians 2:19.], or of a branch with the vine [Note: John 15:1.], justly characterizes our onion with Christ. Separate from him, we can do nothing [Note: John 15:5.]: we can perform no one act, of the spiritual life, nor bring forth any spiritual fruit. The body and the soul are not more closely united than Christ and his people: he lives in them [Note: Galatians 2:20.]; he is their very life [Note: Colossians 3:4.]; they are one spirit with him [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:17.].
Now this, no less than their federal relation to Christ, is known to all true Christians. They do not indeed at all times equally enjoy a sense of it in their minds; but, in proportion as they live nigh to God in the exercise of faith and love, they “have the witness of these things within, themselves [Note: 1 John 5:10.].” Temptation or sin may so weaken the assurance, that it shall be scarcely discerned: but when these obstructions are removed, and the believer is walking closely with God, a holy confidence will almost invariably crown his labours, and fill his soul with peace [Note: 1 John 3:21.].]
We shall conclude this subject with answering two questions:
How do Christians obtain this knowledge?
[The text informs us: It is not from human teaching, or the power of reason, that this light springs up in the soul: it is Christ who “gives us an understanding to know him:” He, who opened the heart of Lydia [Note: Acts 16:14.], and the understandings of his own Apostles [Note: Luke 24:45.], enlightens the minds of believers at this day, and “reveals unto babes and sucklings the things that are hid from the wise and prudent [Note: Matthew 11:25.].” If then we would obtain this knowledge, let us not lean to our own understanding, but pray to him to open our eyes, and to “guide us into all truth” — — —]
What benefit do they derive from it?
[A merely speculative knowledge of Christianity expands the mind, and leads it to high and heavenly contemplations. But no tongue can utter the benefits arising from an experimental acquaintance with Christ: What just views does it give us of every thing in the world! What peace does it bring into the conscience! How does it disarm death of its sting! And what bright prospects does it open to us in the eternal world! O let a desire after the full blessings of salvation animate us in our inquiries after truth! Let us seek to have more enlarged views of Christ, and of our interest in him; and thus shall we be prepared for that complete vision of his glory, in comparison of which our present knowledge is but as a taper before the sun.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 John 5". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany