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THE FIRST EPISTLE GENER A L
Br the unanimous consent of antiquity this epistle is ascribed and acknowledged to be John's, the author of the Gospel. It seems to have been written long after the Gospel. (See Introduction, p. 7.) This epistle is directed to no particular church, but seems designed for the use of all christians, to oppose the various errors which sprang up in the church, and which subverted the doctrine of Christ ; such as the Docetæ held, some denying the humanity of Christ; and some, his divinity; or the Nicolaitans, who maintaining that Christ having suffered for us, we are under no law to maintain good works, but by a mere profession of believing we are saved, and may live in every kind of sinful indulgence.
ship is indeed with the Father, and with his
Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we 4 A. D. 90. The glorious person of Christ as the word of life, who has been
manifested to us; and by conformity to him we have communion with him unto you, that your joy may be full. and forgiveness of sins.
Now this is the declaration which we have 5 1 With respect to the Word of Life which heard from him, and make known to you, that
was from the beginning, which we have heard, God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. which we have seen with our eyes, which we If we say that we have fellowship with him, 6
have looked on, and our hands have handled ; || and walk in darkness, we speak falsely, and 2 (For the Life was manifested ; and we have
conform not to the truth : But if we walk in the 7 seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship
eternal Life, which was with the Father, and with each other, and the blood of Jesus Christ 3 was manifested unto us;) That which we have his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say 8
seen and heard we declare to you, that ye also that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and may have fellowship with us: and our fellow- the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, 9
CHAP. I. 1. The Word of Life. The terms an'azxns, are ambiguous, and may either denote “from the beginning" of our Lord's ministry, or “from eternity." See 2 Thess. ii. 13, and Greek; Mic. v.3, and Ecclesiasticus xxv. 9. I incline to the latter sense, as agreeing with John i. I. Rev. i. 3.; iii. 14.; xxi. 6.; and with the next verse, which is explanatory of this. When this Word of Life had come in the flesh, and commenced his ministry, he called the apostles, and they heard, saw, and handled him, so as to be sure that he was a man, and no phantom, as the Docetæ, an early erring sect, maintained. For the sake of perspicuity, I have followed the construction, and not the order of the text; and consider the neuter pronoun as used for the masculine, as it often is by this evangelist, and by other sacred writers. See John iji. 6.; Xv. 12, and ; John v. 4, and 1 Cor. i. 27.
2. For the Life, &c. The Word of Life, or Son of God, was manifested by his incarnation to the senses of men, and we have seen him, and we declare to you him who is not only “the Life,” but who had an Eternal Life with the Father as his Son, and which was declared to us by a voice from heaven at his baptism, &c.
3.' Our fellowship. The term xovwvor, signifies a joint participation in any thing, 1 Cor. x. 16, and was used to denote a firm, a partnership in trade, &c. Christians were united by their common faith into one society, and were joint partakers of the same blessings and privileges; and the head of this, and
3 1 2
the source of all good, is the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, of whose fulness, grace, and love, we partake, and in which we have a common interest. And we write these things concerning the adorable person of the Word, and of the love of the Father, and of our interest and fellowship with them, that your joy, &c. In these three verses the pre-existence of Christ as the Life, the Eternal Life, is clearly stated; his being with the Father before he became manifest to men; and his beivg from the beginning, or before the creation, proves his eternity, and of course his divinity.
5—7. That God is light, &c. A being of the most perfect knowledge, of unspotted holiness, and the great source of anirration, joy, and pleasure ; and “in him is no darkness," no iyuorance and sin.- If we say, &c. If we endeavour to persuade ourselves and others, if we profess that we, &c. And conform, &c. Or perform and practice not the truth; we do not act agree. ably to the true doctrine of the gospel, and studiously follow the holiness which it requires, seeking to be conformed to God in purity, we have fellowship with each other, God by bestowing the richest blessings, and we by receiving and enjoying them. And the blood, &c. This fellowship, and the continuance of it, is founded on the blood of Jesus shed to atone for our sins, and by which we believers are cleansed from the guilt of them.
8-10. If we say that, &c. If we maintain as some do, that no action is now sinful; or that we live so as to fulll the holy law of God, we are but de
Christ our advocate.
I JOHN II.
His word to be kept.
God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, And we hereby know that we know bim, if 3 10 and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If
we keep his commandments. He who saith, 4 we say that we have not sinned, we make him “I know him," and keepeth not his command
speak falsely, and his word is not in us. ments, speaketh falsely, and the truth is not 1 My children, I write these things unto you, in him. But whoso keepeth his word, of a 6
that ye may not sin. Yet if any man sin, we truth the love of God is perfected in him:
have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ hereby we know that we are in him. He who 6 2 the righteous : And he is the propitiation for i saith that he abideth in him ought himself
our sins; and not for our's only, but also for so to walk, as he walked. the sins of the whole world.
"Beloved," I write no new commandment to 7 you, but an old commandment which
had CHAPTER II.
from the beginning: The old commandment Å. D. 90. To know God is to keep his commandments; to love our brethren, is the word which ye have heard from the
and not to love the world, we must beware of seducers, and continue in faith and holiness.
beginning. Again, a new commandment 1.8
7. • Griesb. Others, brethren. REFLECTIONS UPON CHAPTER 1. 1. How glorious is the faith rest on their word, as to the person, grace, and power of the person of our Redeemer, as he is the eternal Word and Life! How- Saviour ; and by it we are introduced to a blessed communion with
the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Son, one with him in nature, will, counsel, and operation, before he 2. Let us beware of imposing on ourselves, either by mistaking was manifest in flesh. He had a glory with him before the world the holy character of God or our own. He is pure, glorious, and reexisted ; a glory, the emanation of his own infinite excellence, and splendant as the exherial light, comprising all moral excellence, loveliperfections. He had life in himself, and was the source of life and ness and beauty. We cannot have fellowship with him, if we are being to all creatures ; and of holiness and happiness to the intelligent destitute of his holy image, and walking in the darkness of a blinded and spiritual world. And when man had fallen into a state of guilt, mind, and of an unsanctified heart. It is a vain delusion, and equally misery, and helplessness, he was promised as his deliverer; and in the opposed to the nature of things and to the gospel, for any who live in fulness of time was manifested to men by his incarnation. He bowed a course of sin, which is the worst darkness, to imagine that they have his heavens and came down; and in the exercise of love, grace, and communion with him. And it is equally vain sor any to think that mercy, he dwell with men. As the great prophet, be taught and in, they are absolutely persect, and without any sin, as it would be to say structed bis disciples, explained and enforced the obligations of the and maintain, that they had never sinned. None such have any boly law, and applied it to convince of sin, and then invited the humbled | fellowship with God, they only enjoy this privilege, who, by the and abased siliner to come to him for pardon and life. Having agency of the Spirit, are convinced of their sins, penitently confess them, chosen and called his apostles, they were his constant attendants, re- and by faith apply to the Redeemer's blood for pardon and reconcilia ceiving divine truth from his lips ; and they were the witnesses of his tion. In this way we come to the enjoyment of peace, holiness, and astonishing miracles. What they saw and heard, gazed on, and their fellowship. And though we should be always painfully conscious of hands bandled, they testified to others. They could not be deceived, our defects, and of our aggravated sins, it is matter of eternal praise unless we admil as great a miracle as any to which they bear testimony; that we have an Advocate to plead our cause, and a sacrifice to secure that all their senses were, during his ministry, so influenced and per. our safety. To this advocate, and to this sacrifice, let us daily apply verted as to convey only illusions to the mind. O how firmly may our by believing prayer, that we may be pardoned, cleansed, and purified. his eyes.
ceiving ourselves, &c. If we confess, &c. With sincerity and true peni- Jesus Christ, the righteous One, died on the cross, and his blood was shed for tence,“he is faithful to perform his promise, and just to his Son, in forgiving this gracious purpose, the expiation of our sins; and such is the virtue of il, our sins, and by the influence of the Spirit cleansing us, &c."- -We have not that it is in its nature sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world, and sinned. In time past " we make him a liar," because in his word he has de will in effect be found sufficient to all believers of every nation and in every clared us and all men to be sinners; and because he has acted towards us as period, until the world shall end. such by giving his only Son to die for our sins, and promising pardon.
3-6. If we keep, $c. We have no right, po genuine knowledge of CHAP. II. 1, 2. That ye may not sin. Knowingly, wilfully, and Christ, if we do not keep his commands. For he who saith I know him, &c. habitually, see verse 8.- - Yet if any man sin, &c. Fall by some temptation, -Keepeth his word, &c. Is careful to practice as well as profess it, shows and by his remaining depravity, let him not despair of mercy, as we have an that the love of God in giving his Son is perfected in him, produces its proper advocate with the Father to plead our cause, Jesus Christ, the righteous One. effect, obedience; and hereby we know, &c. That he abideth, &c. As a
The propitiation, &c. The term, laopos is used by the seventy to ex. branch in the vine, that he is united to him by faith, ought to manifest it by press the making of atonement for any trespass or sin. Levit. vi. 6,7. Numb. walking in love as he walked. J. 8. Ezek. xliv. 27. Under the law this was done by the shedding of blood; 7-11. ls the word which, &c. Preached to you from the first, namely, for this only made the atonement, and was the ground of pardon. And so " that ye sbould keep his word and abide in him.". -New commandment. I
Evils of the world.
I JOHN 11.
Many antichriste. write to you, which thing is true' in him and and the desire of it: but he that doeth the
in you : because the darkness is past, and the will of God abideth for ever. 9 true light now shineth. He who saith that My children, it is the last time : and as ye 18
he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is have heard that antichrist will come, so even 10 in darkness even until now. He who loveth now there are many antichrists; by which we
his brother, abideth in the light, and there know that it is the last time. They went out 19 11 is no occasion of stumbling in him. But he
But he from us, but they were not of us; for if they who hateth his brother is in darkness, and had been of us, they would have continued walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither with us : but they went out, that they might he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded be made manifest, that they were not all of us.
But ye have an unction from the Holy One, 20 12
I write to you, children, because your sins and know all things. I write not to you be- 21 13 are forgiven you for his name's sake. [I write cause. ye know not the truth, but because ye
to you, fathers, because ye have known him know it, and that no falsehood is from the truth. that is from the beginning. I write to you, Who speaketh falsely, but he who denieth that 22 young men, because ye have overcome the Jesus is the Christ ? He is antichrist, who dewicked one.
I write to you, children, because nieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever 23 14 ye have known the Father.] I write to you, denieth the Son, hath not the Father : but
fathers, because ye have known him that is he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Fafrom the beginning. I write to you, young ther also." Let that therefore abide in you, 24 men, because ye are strong, and the word of which ye have heard from the beginning. If
God abideth in you, and ye have overcome that which ye have heard from the beginning 15 the Evil One. Love not the world, nor the shall abide in you, ye also shall abide in the
things which are in the world. If any man Son, and in the Father. . And this is the 25
love the world, the love of the Father is not promise which he hath promised us, even ever16 in him. For all that is in the world, (the lasting life. These things I write to you con- 26
desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, cerning those who would deceive you. But the 27
and the pride of life,) is not of the Father, but unction which ye have received from him 17 is of the world. And the world passeth away, abideth in you, and ye need not that any one
so loving one another as Christ loved you, John xili. 34. This is included in in the support and propagation of the gospel; by fathers, old christians, who “Walking as Christ walked,” verse 6, and expressed in verses 9-11. had long known Jesus and served him.-Love not the world. Place not Which thing is true. Which new command, or practice of love, is verified your happiness in the things of it, much less in the vices of wicked men ; for and exemplified in him and in you; because the darkness of heathenism and he who thus loves the world, &c.- -Desire of the flesh. Unlawful, sensual, of Jewish error and superstition is passed, and the true light now shineth, indulgencies; “ desire of the eyes," avarice, whose eye is rivetted on acquisi. and powerfully teacheth and leadeth men to the exercise of mutual love.- tion ; “pride of life,” undue splendour, pomp, &c. These desires are proHe is in the light. Has savingly embraced the gospel, but he who does not duced, not by the father, but by the world operating on our depravity; buť love, but hate his christian brother, is a heathen still. He that loveth his these objects pass away, and men who seek them only perish; but he that brother, abideth in the light, acts agreeably to it, and occasions no ove to fall, doeth the will of God, &c. while he who hateth, &c.
18. It is the last time, &r. The last dispensation. - Antichrist. or 12-17. I wrile to you, children. In the 12th, 13th, and 14th verses whom Paul has written, and others have preached; and even now the spirit of there is such a tautology as is not to be found in any other place. Doddridge that great enemy worketh, and some bearing Christ's name are his enemies, omits the 13th verse, as do others; but Dr. Wall the 14th. Some mss omit and may be called antichrists. onė part and some another. I bave followed Doddridge, including the 13th 19. They went out from, 8c. Hence Jolin means érroneous apostates in a parenthesis.- Your sins are, &c. Emblématically in your baptism. from the christian church.- Were not of us. Never did in heart believe the Acts xxii. 16.-Him that is, &c. As there is no variation in the mss. this truth, and feel its holy influence; for if they bad, they would have continued text clearly refers to the eternal existence of our Lord. “ From the beginning.” with us, &c. being equivalent to eternity; for he who has existed from the beginning of 20. An unction. Of the Spirit from Christ the Holy One of God; and time, or of creation, must necessarily exist prior to it. See note, Ch. i. 1, and taught by this ye know all things relating to christian doctrive and discipline. Middleton-Young men, dc. By children, I suppose young converts to be 21-23. No falsehood is from. No false sentiment propagated by these meant; by young men, vigorous christians, who were strong in faith and active apostates is any part of the gospel, or taught by the Holy Spirit; and indeed
Unction of the Spirit.
Adopting love. teach you ; but as that unction teacheth you
CHAPTER III. concerning all things, and is truth, and no false:, hood; and ever as it hath taught you, abide in
A. D. 90, God's great love towards us in our adoption ; we are bound to
keep his commandments, and show brotherly love to each other. 28 him. And now, my children, abide in him;
that, when he shall appear, we may have conti- Behold, what manner of love the Father I t'i dence, and not be ashamed before him, at his hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called 29 coming. If ye know that he is righteous, be the children of God: therefore the world
assured that every one that doeth righteousness knoweth us not, because it knew him - not: is born of him.
Beloved, now are we the children of God, and 2
REFLECTIONS UPON CHAPTER II. 1. We learn that the real humility, meekness, and spirituality, than either of the other classes. saving knowledge of Christ is uniformly manifested by keeping his They have known, loved, and served their divine master, and can commands. By this only can we ascertain the nature of our knowledge, trust their all in his hand. O let all regard the admonition, “ not to faith, and hope. If we profess his name, but practically disregard his love the world, nor the things in it." For the world, as apostate, is precepts, our profe-sion is false and vain, and the truth is not in us. opposed to God; and the things which the men of it seek, are ouly But if we bow to his will, and humbly strive to keep his word, though what satisfy their sensuality, covetousness, pride, and ambition. The in many instances we fail, yet we may conclude that we are in hin, pursuit of such things for such purposes is altogether inconsistent with belong to him, and are beloved for his sake.' And how reasonable is the real love of God; and tends only to pollution and condemuation; it for such as abide in him, to endeavour to follow his holy example and and how soon will they pass away for ever ? But how different is the walk as he also walked ? The glorious light of the gospel having portion of the believer, who does the will of God. His end is peace, dispelled the darkness which covered the earth, and made manifest the his crown unfading, and his inheritance incorruptible. way of pardon, peace, and reconciliation by Christ, and clearly de- 3. Among the sincere, humble, believing followers of Christ, scribed our duty, and enforced it by the strongest and most endearing there will be found some almost christians, and some unsound and motives, we ought to embrace the one, and practice the other. How hypocritical pretenders to religion. These will one way or another unsuitable to a disciple of Jesus to live in malice, to indulge hatred, corrupt the gospel and oppose the honour and cause of Christ ; and on and delight in strise? Let such know that they are in darkness, in this account may justly be called antichrists. Some will deny that an awful state of guilt and sin, and, without repentance, will assuredly Jesus is the Christ; and by denying the Son, virtually deny the Father, perish. He who loveth bis brother, and shows it by his whole conduct, who had borne and continued to bear, the most evident testimony to is in the light, is a child of light, and an heir of the world of light, him. And let such know that they have no part in the love of the love, and happiness.
Father, or the redemption and salvation of the Son. Others will 2. In the household of faith there are babes and children, as well endeavour to model the gospel according to their reason and philosophy, as young men and fathers; and each class needs the word of caution, and to render it palatable to the world, and consistent with the spirit direction, and exhortation. The lambs in Christ's flock have heard and practices of it. These withdraw themselves from the self-denying and know his voice; they have fled for refuge to his atoning blood disciples of Jesus; and by this show that they never in reality were and perfect righteousness; and though their faith and love may be true believers. O what a blessed privilege is it to have the unction of feeble they are genuine and sincere. As the good Shepherd, he is gra. the Spirit, to teach us the truth as it is in Christ, and to preserve us ciously pledged to gather them, and carry them in his boson, showing from destructive errors and delusions. Taught to know our sinfulness, to them bis love, and assuring them that their sins are forgiven for his helplessness, and need of an all-sufficient Redeemer, we cannot but name's sake. As to young men, persons who have attained to a deep cleave to Jesus as such by faith ; and under the influence of our feelings knowledge of themselves, and of the system of divine truth, and who and convictions, we can resist the enticing errors which some propagate, are strong in the grace of Christ, and have his word dwelling in them of man's rectitude, the efficacy of repentance alone to obtain pardon, richly in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, by their faith they without any atoning sacrifice, the merit of good works, &c. Such overcome the Evil One. The fathers and mothers in Israel have per- opinions are directly contrary to the holy scriptures, to the work of the haps less fervour and apparent zeal, but more wisdom, stedfastness, Holy Spirit, and the experience of all regenerate persons.
he who denieth Jesus to be the Christ, depieth the Father, who gave testimony to him as his Son; and he who doeth this hath no interest in the love of the Father; but he that acknowledgeth the Son, &c.
24, 25. Let that abide, $c. That doctrine which ye heard at first, and tben ye will abide in the fellowship of the Son and of the Father. Ch. i. 3.
This is the promise, $c. See John xvii. 1, 2. Luke xii. 24.
26–28. Deceive you, &c. The false teachers, whom I have named antichrists, the real enemies of our Lord.—Abideth in you, teaching you to discern between pretenders to spiritual gifts, and those who possess them;
and as ye have this unction of the Spirit, grieve him not, but abide in him in Christ, by a stedfast faith ; yea, abide in him, that wben he shall appear, &c.
29. Every one that doeth, &c. That followeth his holy example is born of him. Newcome observes this is the only place where a christian is said to be born of Christ. Macknight applies it to the Father; but the close of the 28th verse clearly leads us to apply it to Christ.
CHAP. III. 1-3. What manner of love, &c. As the term toranny signifies both how great and what kind the apostle might have both senses in his mind.
-Love. Unspeakable and immense, and displayed in the most astonishing
I. JOHN III.
Love of the brethren. it is not yet manifest what we shall be: but we fore slew he him? Because his own works know that, when he shall be manifested, we shall were evil, and his brother's righteous. Won- 13
be like him; for we shall see him as he is. der not, my brethren, if the world hate you. 3 And every man that hath this hope in: bim, We know that we have passed from deatk unto 14 4 purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Who- life, because we love the brethren. He that
soever doeth sin transgresseth the law also; for loveth not his brother abideth in death. Who- 15 5 sin is the transgression of the law. And ye soever hateth his brother is a murderer: and
know that he was manifested to take away ye know that no murderer hath everlasting life 6 our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abiding in him. Hereby we know love, in 16
abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth that Christ laid down his life for us : and we 7 hath not seen bim, nor known him. My chil- ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
dren, let no man deceive you : he that doeth But whoso hath the good things of this world, 17
righteousness is righteous, even as Christ is and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth 8 righteous. He that doeth sin is of the devil; up his bowels of compassion from him, how
for the devil sinned from the beginning: for abideth the love of God in him? My children, 18 this purpose the Son of God was manifested, let us not love in word, nor in tongue; but
that he might destroy the works of the devil. in deed and in truth. And hereby we know 19 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit that we are of the truth, and shall assure our
sin ; for his seed remaineth in him: and he hearts before him. For if our heart condemn 20 10 cannot sin, because he is born of God. In us, God is greater than our heart, and know
this the children of God are manifest, and the leth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn 21 children of the devil: whosoever doeth not us not, then have we confidence towards God.
righteousness is not of God; nor he who loveth And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, 22 11 not his brother. For this is the charge which because we keep his commandments, and do
ye heard from the beginning, that we love those things which are pleasing in his sight. 12 one another. Not as Cain, who was of that And this is his commandment, That we should 23
Evil One, and slew his brother. And where- believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ,
mapper towards sinners, and its effects on them, they being begotten by it to as he did before his spiritual birth. The word cannot, must, in many cases
the brethren. We are conscious from this, that we have passed from a state 4, 5. Dorth sin. Practiseth it daily, as if his trade, transgresseth the in which we were subject to death and final misery, to one in which we enjoy law also, &c.; but ye know the great design of our Lord's manifestation in spiritual life, and have the promise of everlasting life; for he that loveth not the flesh was, that he miglit take away our sins by suffering for them as the his brother abideth in death, is dow dead in sin and subject to destruction. scape.goat did, and to save us from them by the influence of the gospel and Is a murderer. His latred may hurry him on to this great sip, and such a the Spirit. John i. 29. Tit. ii. 14.
man cannot have any fitness for the enjoyment of everlasting life in heaven, 6, 7. Abideth in him, &e. By faith and love sinneth not willingly. where love is made perfect indeed. Not seen him, 8c. Some think that the apostle may refer to one of the wicked 16--18. We know love, &c. We know what it is, and what it effects apostles, who pretended to have seen and known Christ, to give more effect and accomplishes; and we are to follow his example, and if necessary to lay to his errors; but John observes that such as lived in sin had neither seen his down our life, &c. When the life and happiness of many are concerned, ve true character, nor known him aright. Be not, my children, deceived, &c. ought to be willing to sacrifice our own. For if one only. were to be rescued
8. Is of the devil. He imitates him and complies with his suggestions. on such terms, the argument would fail, unless the life of that one were of such
- From the beginning. He introduced sin into the creation; and as he was great importance, that in dying for him, we in fact died for many.-Seeth his the first offender, he continues to sin and to delight in it.-- Destroy the brother." His christian brother, how abideth, &c - Love in word, 8c works, $c. Sin and the miseries flowing from it.
James ii. 14-16. Let us give real proofs of our love by our works. 9, 10. Doth not sin, &c. See verse 4.- -His seed. The word of the 19-21. Of the truth. By our brotherly love we know that we have gospel, (1 Pet. i. 23,) cordially believed and treasured up in the heart. received and obey the truth as it is in Christ; and are assured in our hearts Cannot sin. Habitually, or at any time willingly, as the unregenerate do, and that we shall be approved of God; but if our heart coudemn us of hypocrici,