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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

In this chapter, the Apostle points out the object which he had in view in reminding them, in the foregoing, of their weakness and liability to sin; and that was, to prevent them from committing sin any longer. He strengthens such as may have committed sin, against the horrors of despair, by pointing to the powerful advocacy of Jesus Christ in heaven (verse 1). He explains in what sense he is our advocate—viz., an advocate of redemption and propitiation (2). He next proceeds to point out the necessity of good works, the performance of them being the surest sign that we love God (3); and whosoever says he loves him, and observes not his commandments, is a liar, and asserts what is untrue (4); while, on the other hand, whosoever keeps his law, gives the clearest proof of the sincerity of his love for God, and a probable conjectural mark of being in his love and friendship (5). He requires for a continuance in God’s friendship and grace, a moral assimilation with Christ in the performance of good works (6).

He says that the precept which he is inculcating, is not a “new” precept, but an “old” one, with which they were familiar from the very beginning of their conversion, although, under a different respect, it might be termed “new,” also (7, 8). He shows what the precept is, to which he is referring—viz., the precept of loving our neighbour, and he points out the evils of its infraction, and the advantages flowing from its observance (9, 10, 11).

He next addresses the faithful in general, and congratulates them on the spiritual gifts which they received (12); and having referred to the different stages of spiritual life, he congratulates them on their spiritual perfections, analogous to the natural gifts in which men, in the different stages of human life, are prone to glory (13, 14).

The Apostle next guards them against the greatest obstacle to fraternal charity—viz., the love of the world, and the things of the world, and assigns reasons for shunning all inordinate attachment to both one and the other—viz., their incompatibility with the love of God (15), their innate deordination (16), and the transient, fleeting condition of their enjoyment and possession (17).

The Apostle next proceeds to caution them against the snares of the heretics of the day. These heretics are the forerunners of the great Antichrist, and they deserted the Church, because they were not solid members of it (18, 19). But the faithful, who persevered in the unity of the Church, were sharers in the graces deposited with her (20).

He refers to one leading heresy of the day—viz., the denial of Jesus Christ, which involved a denial of his Father (22, 23). He exhorts them to perseverance in the profession of the old faith, from which the heretics wished to seduce them (24–26), and ascribes their perseverance to the grace of God, left in his Church, of which grace they were sharers (27).

He again exhorts them to perseverance (28), and closes the chapter by entering on a new subject—viz., a description of the sons of God (29).

Paraphrase

1. My little children, and dearly beloved, I write these things which I have now alluded to concerning our common weakness and sinfulness, in order that, mindful of human frailty, you may guard against temptation and against adding still more to your natural weakness, by the habit of committing sin. But if any man commit sin, let him not despair of pardon; because, we have a Mediator in heaven with God the Father, possessing all the qualities of a powerful advocate, who can allege sufficient grounds for obtaining the remission of our sins, viz., his own merits, and the ransom paid for them, and who has also a right to be heard. This is Jesus Christ the Just.

2. For, he is a victim of propitiation for our sins; and not only for our sins, but for those of the entire world.

3. And the probable test or mark, whereby we can ascertain, as far as can be ascertained in this life, that we have known him with a practical and effective knowledge of love and charity is, if we observe his commandments.

4. Whosoever says that he knows him, in the sense already expressed, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

5. But, on the other hand, whosoever observeth his commandments, in him the charity or love which we bear to God is genuine and sincere; and it is by observing his word, we can form a very probable conjecture, that we are united to him by charity, and have society with him.

6. Whosoever says that he is united with God in the bonds of charity and operative love, should prove the truth of his assertion, by becoming morally assimilated to Christ in the performance of works of sanctity, such as he performed.

7. Dearly beloved brethren, in inculcating the observance of God’s commandments, alluded to in the foregoing, or rather, in inculcating the love of our neighbour, to which I am about to make special allusion, I do not mean to burthen you with a multiplicity of new precepts; I only repeat an old precept, with which you have been familiar, from the very beginning of your conversion. That old precept is, the word of doctrine, or the commandment regarding the love of our neighbour, which you have received from the very beginning of your conversion.

8. Again, the same precept already designated as old, when considered under a different respect, I call a new precept, and that this precept is new, is a thing true both in reference to Christ himself, who has observed it in an extraordinary manner, dying for his enemies, and in reference to you; because, the darkness and mists of infidelity are dissipated by the promulgation of the gospel, and the true light of faith, which proposes new motives for this love of our neighbour, is already shining in the hearts of the faithful.

9. Whosoever congratulating himself on having received the Christian faith, and on being a true follower of Christ, still hates his brother, is grievously mistaken. He is still, at least equivalently, in the darkness of infidelity.

10. While, on the other hand, whosoever loveth his brother, equally enjoys the light of the gospel, and the love and friendship of God; and such a person offends not against the commandments and the holy law of God.

11. But whosoever hateth his brother is in a state of darkness, even when he refrains from action, and walks in darkness, whenever he performs any work, his actions being generally infected by the state of sin and hatred in which he lives; nor does he know whither he is going, for want of duly considering his actions in a proper light; because the darkness of sin and ignorance in which he exists, blinds the eyes of his soul.

12. I write unto you, my spiritual children of every age and degree of advancement in Christian virtue, because your sins are remitted on account of the merits of Christ, which is a subject of the deepest congratulation.

13. I write to you, who are perfect in the Christian faith, able to instruct and bring forth others spiritually in the gospel; because, you have known and loved him, who was from eternity. I write to you also, and congratulate you, who have arrived at the stage of spiritual youth and manly vigour; because, in your spiritual strength, you have been proof against the temptations of the wicked one, viz., the devil, and have overthrown both him and his leagued auxiliaries, the flesh and the world.

14. I write to you who have lately received the faith, and require still to be fed with the milk of babes and to be assisted in your Christian progress; and congratulate you, on having known your heavenly Father, and lisped forth his sacred and endearing name. I once more, as I have done already (5:13) congratulate you, who have attained a state of spiritual youth, on the strength which God has imparted to you, on becoming armed with his word and your having conquered the devil.

15. What I write to you, and exhort you to, Christians of every age and degree, is this—love not this world, as your fixed, permanent dwelling-place, as your final end, nor the riches, pleasures, honours, &c., that are found therein. If any one love the world in the prohibited sense now explained, the love of the Father, who cannot endure a divided heart, or partial service, is not in him.

16. (Neither love the things that are in the world); for, all that is in the world are, the corrupt pleasures and inordinate gratification of sense; the greedy acquisition of wealth, and other goods of this life; and the inordinate desire of procuring honours, dignities, and elevated stations—this triple concupiscence in its present sinful state has not God for author; but, has its origin in the corruption of the world.

17. And, moreover, the world passes, and is daily becoming more and more subject to decay; so will all the darling objects of worldly esteem, viz., pleasures, riches, and honours, also pass away; but, the man who does the will of God, and observes his commandments, will remain for ever, and his works will entitle him to an everlasting reward.

18. My dearly beloved children, we have now fallen upon the last age of the world, and as you have heard, and been informed, that the famous Antichrist, the man of sin and son of perdition, is to come; so now, many precursory Antichrists have made their appearance, ushering in his approach; whence we infer, that the last stage of time, which the persecuting reign of this man of sin is to close, has arrived.

19. They went from amongst us; but they did not possess the true spirit of God’s faithful, or, they did not belong to those on whom God had designs of predestinating grace and glory. For, if they possessed the true spirit of the faithful of Christ, or, if they belonged to the elect, they would have remained with us united in the Church; but God permitted their departure and open separation, that it might be made manifest that He has not designs of grace and mercy on all.

20. But you, who have remained firm, are sharers in the unction and grace of the Holy Ghost, through the merits of Christ, promised to his Church; and owing to the enlightenment it bestows, you know all the truths necessary for salvation, and are strengthened against the delusive errors of these heretics.

21. Hence, in writing thus to you, I am far from wishing to imply, that you are ignorant of the truth; on the contrary, I only wish to recall to your mind the truths with which you have been thoroughly acquainted, and among the rest, you are aware that no lie, or error in faith, can proceed from the spirit of truth.

22. And is there a liar in existence unless he be one, who denies that Jesus is the promised Messiah? Such a person is one of the precursory Antichrists, whoever he be, that denies to the Father and Son, the true and eternal relations between both.

23. Every man that denieth the Son, or that errs regarding his eternal filiation, denieth also, or errs regarding the eternal paternity of God the Father.—And he who confesseth the Son, as he ought, holds the true faith regarding the Father also.

24. I, therefore, exhort you, to persevere unto the end in the belief and profession of what you heard from the beginning of your conversion, and if you thus persevere, you will enjoy a union of friendship, and of permanent grace both with the Son and with the Father.

25. And the value of such a union is, that you will enjoy the object promised to those who are in God’s friendship, which is, life everlasting.

26. These things I have written to guard you against the false teachers, who are endeavouring to lead you astray, and to destroy your faith.

27. But as for you, you are indebted for your stability in the faith and your resistance to their efforts to the grace of the Holy Ghost, which resides within you, and which is abundantly imparted to the Church, and you have no need of being taught as ignorant persons, by these false teachers; but as the grace of God has wrought inward conviction and faith in your minds, regarding the things taught you exteriorly, through the ministry of your pastors (for what the grace of the Holy Spirit has taught you is true, without any admixture of falsehood); as it has taught you, I say, so persevere in believing and professing regarding him.

28. And now, dearly beloved children, continue united with him in the bonds of true faith, and in the profession of true doctrine; that when he shall make his appearance to judge the world, we may all stand with great confidence in his presence and not be confounded at his coming (we Pastors, by being deprived of the accidental glory of seeing the fruits of our labours in your salvation, and you, by being subjected to the eternal confusion of the damned.)

29. And, since you have known him to be just by excellence, know also this, that every man who doth good works has contracted with God the relation of Son, having been regenerated by his spirit; it is only in virtue of the grace and strength, received at this second spiritual birth, that he performs good works.

Commentary

1. “My little children,” a term of affection and endearment frequently employed by St. John in this Epistle, as also by our Redeemer himself (Mark, 10; John 13, and by St. Paul, Gal. 4), “these things I write to you, that you may not sin.” By “these things,” some understand the entire Epistle, the object of which is to keep them from sinning. Others make them refer immediately to the preceding chapter,—viz., I write these things regarding the liability in which we are all involved, of committing sin; and also regarding the sins into which we all fall, in order that, acknowledging your weakness and sinfulness, you may thus avoid the sins of pride or presumption; or, in order that, mindful of human frailty, you may be the more on your guard against exposing yourself to temptation, and against adding to your natural weakness by habits of sin. Hence, the sinfulness in which we are all involved, and the facility of obtaining remission (verse 9, of the foregoing chapter), should be no reason for our committing sin anew. There is no contradiction between this and verse 10 of foregoing chapter; for, here there is question of grievous sins, or sins for the commission of which, or continuance in them, the preceding words of St. John might be misconstrued, as a motive. “But if any man sin,” that is, commit sin, whether mortal or venial, “we have an advocate,” &c. Such a person should not despair of pardon, knowing that Jesus Christ has all the qualities of a powerful advocate in heaven. In the first place, he can adduce reasons for satisfying justice, without involving the condemnation of the criminal; these reasons he has in his own merits. In the next place, he intercedes for guilty man, whose humble confession he presents to his Father (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7), and thus applies his merits to us. “An advocate with the Father.” The Greek word for “advocate,” παρακλητον, also means, a comforter, helper, intercessor. The literal translation from the Greek (paraclete) expresses all these meanings together.

2. The Apostle explains in what sense Christ is our “advocate;” it is, as advocate, or Mediator of Redemption, who made atonement for our sins, paid the ransom, and substituted himself in our place, as a vicarious offering, αντιλυτρον, as St. Paul expresses it.—(1 Tim. 2:5, 6)

Is not the Catholic doctrine respecting the invocation of angels and saints opposed to this?

By no means, since we invoke them, in quite a different sense, merely as mediators, or advocates of intercession, to obtain for us a share in the merits and graces which the one Mediator of Redemption purchased with his precious blood.

But is it not derogatory to the efficacy of Christ’s advocacy, to have recourse to any others?

Certainly not, in the sense in which this is done by Catholics; for so, St. Paul would have derogated from Christ’s advocacy, by begging a share in the prayers of the faithful on earth (Rom. 15:30; 1 Thes. 5:25; Heb. 13:12, &c., &c.); so would St. James, in recommending the faithful, to pray for one another (chap. 5:16). Moreover, if it be derogatory to the merits of Christ, for us to beg the intercession of the saints, it must be equally so for them, to intercede; hence, the angel (Zacharias, 1:12,) who prayed for Jerusalem, and Michael, the archangel (Daniel, 10:12), and Raphael (Tobias, 12:12), and the saints, of whose prayers there is question (Apoc. 8:4), must have derogated from the merits of Christ. The Church of England, on the Feast of St. Michael and all angels, employs a form of prayer as expressive of intercession, as any Catholic prayer can be.—See Book of Common Prayer.

But who can tell that the angels and saints hear us, or know our wants?

RESP.—Our Divine Redeemer can tell, and actually tells us they do know our wants (Luke, 15:10): “there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance;” also, Tobias (13:12), and Daniel (10:12). And we are told in the Gospel (Luke, 20:36), that the saints in heaven are equal to the angels. How, then, could they rejoice over the sinner’s conversion, unless they knew of it? But, how can they know it? We cannot say. Whether it be through the medium of visual rays or undulating sounds, or (which is more probable) in God, who may make this knowledge a part of their beatitude, we know not. We merely know and believe the fact. How the fact takes place, we know not, any more than we know the how of every other truth of faith, or of many phenomena of nature, which we firmly believe and know with undoubted certainty; although, utterly ignorant of how they exist or take place.

Do Protestants understand the how of the fundamental Christian mysteries, Trinity. Incarnation, &c.?—of several undoubted, natural truths?

But do not Catholics worship saints and angels? Yes, with a worship, quite different from that paid to God. The word “worship” is expressive not only of the supreme adoration paid to God, which, according to Catholic doctrine, we could pay no creature, ever so exalted, without being guilty of the most heinous crime; but, also of the inferior respect, paid the saints and angels, which is, however, ultimately referred to God himself, and is a homage to his grace and gifts, resplendently displayed in them. Thus, the children of the prophets at Jericho, “worshipped” Eliseus (4 Kings, 2:15). In the very marriage ceremony of Protestants the word is, or, at all events, was employed, to denote respect quite different from divine adoration—“and with my body I thee worship.” Hence, the fairest rule for knowing whether the word is employed in a sense expressive of supreme worship, is, to ascertain the meaning attached to it by the society, among whom it is in use, and the acts expressed by it, practised. Should this fair test be applied to the worship of saints by Catholics, there can be no grounds whatever for the clumsy charge of idolatory, on this head. They ought themselves to be the best judges of what their Church teaches, and of what they themselves believe and practise, on this and on every other subject.

3. The Apostle proceeds to inculcate the necessity of good works against the heretics who put forward the sufficiency of faith only. “By this we know,” as far as it is given us here below to ascertain, that is to say, with great probability, “that we have known him”—the word “known” expresses a knowledge of love and affection; it means, that we have loved him, a signification the word frequently bears in sacred Scripture (Jeremiah, 31:34; Wisdom, 15:2; and Gospel of John, 10:14); “if we keep his commandments;” but as no one can be infallibly sure that he observes God’s commandments, in every respect: so, neither can he be infallibly sure that he enjoys the charity and friendship of God.—See Council of Trent, SS. vi. 9.

4. “He who saith that he knoweth him” (in Greek, ὁ λεγων, ὅτι εγ νωκα αὐτον, he who saith I have known him), with the effective knowledge of love already explained; in other words, he who saith that he loves God or Christ, “and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar;” for the test of his love (verse 3) is wanting; and hence, his pretences are proved to be false, “and the truth is not in him,” he asserts what is untrue.

5. In this verse, the Apostle, by an antithesis, confirms his assertion, made in the preceding one. “But he that keepeth his word,” that is, his commandments, particularly that which regards the love of our neighbour, including the love of our enemy, “in him in very deed, the charity of God,” that is, the charity or love we have for God, “is perfected,” that is, sincere and genuine; it is as sincere and genuine as our love of God can be in this life, notwithstanding the numerous venial sins and frailties to which we are all subject (chap. 1:8). Others understand “perfected” of the external manifestation of our charity. In such a person the charity or love he bears to God is not merely confined to the mind, it is externally manifested in its fruits, which is the perfection of charity; for, all charity, which is externally manifested, is more perfect than that which is confined to the mind. It is in the same sense that sin is said by St. James to be perfected or “completed,” (chap. 1:15). “And by this,” that is, by observing his word, “we know,” as far as we can know in this life—viz., by a probable conjecture, “that we are in him,” united to him by love and friendship.

6. He continues the same idea expressed in the preceding verses; to “abide in God,” and “to be in him,” signify the same thing—viz., to be united with God, in the bonds of friendship and sanctifying grace. Whosoever then, says that he holds the endearing relation of a friend with God, “ought himself also to walk,” that is, should prove the truth of this assertion, and the sincerity of such a pretence, by “walking, even as he walked,” by habitually living and progressing in the practice of good works, and the observance of God’s commandments, as Christ did. Of course, the Apostle only requires a moral assimilation, such as can subsist between man and God, just as the words, “be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” regard a likeness, not an equality of perfection. The verse may also mean, if any man pretend to enjoy God’s friendship, he must, in order to remain in such a state, continue to perform good works, as Christ also performed good works, when here on earth.

7. “Dearly beloved,” (in some Greek copies, brethren; but the chief MSS. have αγαπητοι, the Vulgate reading). Both readings are united in the Paraphrase—“I write not a new commandment to you,” when inculcating the observance of God’s commandments, to which I have been alluding in the foregoing part of the Epistle; or rather, in inculcating that precept by which the whole law is fulfilled—viz., the love of our neighbour (which he specifies immediately after), “but an old commandment,” a commandment with which you have been familiar, “which you had from the beginning.” By the “beginning,” some understand the beginning of creation, the love of our neighbour being a precept of the natural law; others, from the beginning of the Mosaic law, transmitted to you by your fathers. The word, however, most probably refers to the beginning of the gospel, or, of their conversion to the faith, as St. Augustine understands it, and as the following words, which are a further explanation of the preceding, render very probable. “The old commandment is the word which you have heard;” (to which is added in the Greek, from the beginning; but they are wanting in the chief MSS.; and hence, although implied in sense, expunged by modern critics). These words explain what the “beginning” in the foregoing refers to. It refers to the beginning of their conversion, when they first, “heard the word” of faith, and embraced the gospel.

8. “Again,” although he called this precept of loving our neighbour, “an old commandment,” as having been received from the beginning of their conversion; or, according to others, as having been as old as creation; still he calls it “a new commandment,” considered in a different light. It was called “new” by our Divine Redeemer himself, when he first promulgated it, and made it the distinctive badge of his followers (Gospel of St. John, 13:34, 35); and it may have been termed “new” by him, either on the grounds of new and more exalted motives for its observance and its heavier obligation; or new, as to its standard of fulfilment (“as I have loved you”); or, new, with reference to the persons to whom it was first promulgated, in regard to whom the precept of loving their neighbour was unheeded both speculatively (for, the false grossary of the Pharisees was “thou shalt love thy neighbour; therefore, thou shalt hate thine enemy”), and practically, owing to the universal corrupt selfishness prevailing, when the Gospel began to be preached.

“Which thing,” viz., that this precept is new, “is true both in him,” viz., Christ, with whom St. John was so fully engaged, as not to permit his expressing who it was; for, who else but Christ could it be that thus filled his soul, and engrossed his thoughts? It was true in reference to Christ; for, he fulfilled the precept of loving his neighbour in, an extraordinary way, by dying for his enemies, and praying for his very executioners; and even now, as head of the Church, he loves us intensely.

“And in you,” the same thing is true in reference to you also, “because the darkness is passed,” the night of infidelity is rapidly passing away, owing to the preaching of the Apostles, who in a particular manner, inculcate the precept of charity; “and the true light shineth now,” the true light of faith is now shining in our hearts, and in the hearts of the faithful; who, owing to the dictates of faith, love their neighbour from new and more exalted motives: hence, the precept is observed, in a new manner in them also. Some translate the Greek words corresponding with “true both in him,” αληθες ἐν αυτῷ thus: true in itself; because, the precept of loving our neighbour is a precept of the law of nature.

9. The man, whoever he be, that pretends to enjoy the possession of the true light of Christian faith and friendship with God, and, at the same time “hates his brother,” which word embraces every fellow-creature, not excluding our very enemy; such a person “is in darkness even until now;” still involved in the darkness of Paganism, at least, equivalently and practically; his faith will not avail him; for, as charity or brotherly love is the great leading virtue of Christianity; so, is the opposite vice a leading characteristic of Paganism.

10. In this verse, the Apostle specifies what the precept is to which he has been referring in the foregoing, viz., the precept of loving our brethren. “He that loveth his brother,” embracing every human being; for, all mankind are united in one common bond of brotherhood; “abideth in the light,” that is, really enjoys the true light of the gospel, and is united in friendship with God; the love of our neighbour is the surest mark, that we are loved by God. “And there is no scandal in him.” Such a person does not himself impinge or offend against the weighty commandments of God, which is passive scandal; nor does he serve as an occasion for others to do so, which is active scandal; a man walking in the light will not fall in with the obstacles placed in the way. The Apostle most probably alludes to the words of the Psalmist: “Much peace have they that love thy law, and to them there is no stumbling block,” or scandal.—Psalm 118.

11. This point regarding the love and hatred of our neighbour is so important, that St. John is not tired of repeating it. “Is in darkness,” is always, even when performing no particular action, in a state of sin and spiritual darkness, “and walketh in darkness;” whenever he acts, his actions are generally infected with the hatred and sin in which he exists; for, although such a person may and does perform some good actions; still, while hating and retaining feelings of hatred for his neighbour, he will, probably, render his actions vitiated by this evil passion. “And knoweth not whither he is going,” which is understood by some thus: He knoweth not, that he is on the straight road to hell; but it more likely means (as in Paraphrase) that he does not weigh his actions properly or consider them in the true light. “Because the darkness (of sin and ignorance) hath blinded his eyes.” Hence, every sin is the result of a practical error, which precedes it.

12. “Little children,” τεχνια. It is disputed what class of Christians is designated by the words, “little children.” By some they are understood of those who have not yet left their childhood, and have received the remission of sin in baptism. These also understand the words, “fathers,” “young men,” and “babes,” in the following verses, of the different ages of men and their advancement in years. This opinion derives probability from the circumstance of the Apostle attributing to the different ages, what forms the peculiar matter for glorying, pertaining to each; old men, or “fathers,” glory in their knowledge (verse 13)—“young men,” in their bodily vigour and strength, and in their active feats; and “babes” or children in fawning on, and lisping the names of their fathers.

It is, however, more probable, that the Apostle refers to the different periods or stages of advancement in the spiritual life (as St. Augustine understands the passage), and to Christians placed in each of these, he ascribes perfections, and congratulates them on qualities, in the spiritual order, analogous to the natural perfections, in which men, during the several stages of physical existence, are prone to glory. Even following the opinion of St. Augustine, interpreters are divided about the meaning of “little children,” in this verse. Some understand the word to mean the same as “babes,” as in verse 14, where, according to them, the idea is repeated; and refer it to a state of spiritual childhood. Others, more probably, understand the word of Christians generally, as in verse 1, and verse 28, which is again subdivided into “fathers,” “young men,” and “babes,” in the following verses.

The Apostle, then, writes to all Christians in general, congratulating them on having received the remission of their sins, and all graces through the merits of Christ, “for his name’s sake.” The heart of the Apostle was so full of Christ, that he does not express his name. Who else could it be but Christ that thus occupied all his thoughts?

13. He now divides “little children,” or Christians in general, into “fathers,” or, such as are for a long time professing the faith, and able to instruct and spiritually beget others; and “young men,” or Christians advanced in virtue and spiritual knowledge, who though not so far advanced, as the class termed “fathers,” still need not the milk of babes to support them. He congratulates this class, on their spiritual strength.

14. The next class of Christians are those whom he terms “babes,” or persons in their spiritual infancy, who require to be fed with the milk of babes, and to be supported and propped up in their spiritual progress. These he congratulates on having known the father. Their lisping accents in the spiritual life show that they acknowledge God by faith to be a Father in their regard; and as it is the glory of infants, in the order of nature, to lisp and know the name of father; so, it is likewise in the spiritual order of grace … Some, say these words. “I write unto you, babes,” &c., are only a repetition of the words (verse 12), “I write unto you, little children,” with an additional reason for addressing them. The interpretation now given is the more probable, and accords better with the order observed by the Apostle in marking out the different ages. (In the Greek, we find inserted here, a repetition of the words (verse 13), I have written to you, fathers, because you have known that which was from the beginning).

“I write” (in Greek, ἔγραψα, I have written), “unto you, young men,” or such as have arrived at the stage of spiritual youth—it is a repetition of the words (verse 13), with a fuller reason, “because you are strong,” and I congratulate you on being valiant in grace; “and the word of God abideth in you.” You have taken the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit to resist your enemies (Ephes. chap. 5)—“and you have overcome the wicked one,” the devil and his leagued auxiliaries, the flesh and the world.

It is, then, most likely, as St. Augustine maintains, that the Apostle is referring to the different stages of spiritual life; and to those constituted in each, he attributes the perfections, in the spiritual order, analogous to those of which men in the different stages of life are apt to boast, in the natural order. The old men, or those advanced in spiritual life, have acquired an exalted knowledge of him who existed from eternity. Those who had attained the state of spiritual youth, he congratulates on their active feats; they overcame their enemy, the devil; and the “babes,” or those lately converted, he congratulates on having known and lisped the name of their common Father, whom they are taught by faith to address as such.

15. The Apostle now explains what it is he writes to the different classes of Christians, whom he congratulates on the good qualities suited to each, and furnishing an earnest, that they will attend to the injunction he is now about giving them, viz., to avoid the greatest obstacle to their advancement in Christian virtue, and to the perfect fulfilment of the precept of fraternal charity. “Love not the world.” This is understood by some to refer to men of worldly habits and principles, who are not to be loved as such; although, as creatures of God, capable of eternal beatitude, they are to be loved by us. Others understand it (as in Paraphrase), of making this world our final resting-place; making it, instead of God, our last end. The following words, “nor the things that are in the world,” render this interpretation very probable. “If any man love the world,” fixing his heart and affections on it, as his last end; “the charity of the Father is not in him;” because, God cannot endure a divided heart. The world and God are two rivals, that cannot be served at the same time.

16. The Apostle having already, in the preceding verse, given a reason why they should not “love the world,” now in this, shows why they should not love “the things that are in the world,” by describing what these things are, and their utter worthlessness and opposition to the things of God. “For all that is in the world,” or all the things that corrupt and worldly men set their heart upon, all the things that they prize or value, “is the concupiscence of the flesh,” the inordinate gratification of their carnal and impure passions. In this member of the sentence, as well as in the following, the act of passion or concupiscence is employed, for the objects of concupiscence.

“The concupiscence of the eyes,” commonly understood of avarice or the inordinate affection for the sensible goods of this life, viz., the riches and worldly substance of any kind, which fall beneath the sense of seeing; in Eccles. 4:8, the eyes of the covetous man are said to be insatiable. Others, with St. Augustine, understand the words to refer to curiosity of every kind, of which the eyes are the principal inlets, not even excluding knowledge, when pursued from a mere spirit of curiosity, and from a desire of acquiring the reputation of learning. The former is, however, the more common interpretation of the words.

“And the pride of life,” understood commonly of the inordinate desire of honours, dignities, elevated stations, &c. From the words of St. John, then, it is clear, that these great ruling maxims of the world, which are the sources of all other sins, and the bane of fraternal charity, are, the inordinate desire of sensual gratification, avarice, and ambition. Hence it is, that those who renounce the world, and serve God in a religious state, having their conversation and all their cares centered in another and a better world, take care to renounce altogether, and at once, all connexion with these corrupt maxims of the world. By vows of chastity, they renounce all carnal pleasures; by vows of poverty, they renounce avarice; and by vows of humble obedience, they renounce ambition; and our Redeemer has proposed to all the faithful in general a triple remedy against these three corrupt principles, viz., fasting, almsdeeds, and prayer (Matthew, 6).

“Which,” triple concupiscence (as appears from the Greek, ὅτι πᾶν τὸ ἐν τῷ κοσμῷ, η επιθυμία της σαρκος … ουκ εστιν εκ του πατρος, because everything in the world, the concupiscence of the flesh, &c., is not of the Father), “is not of the Father,” in its present corrupt state, as the fomes peccati impelling us to the violation of God’s holy law; “but is of the world,” it is the effect of fallen human nature corrupted by sin; for, “God created man right” (Eccles. 7:30). This concupiscence, to which the Apostle refers, is evil; and hence, our Redeemer, who assumed our common infirmities, was not subject to it.

In the Greek, the verb “is” is wanting in the words, “all that is in the world,” as appears from the foregoing. The Syriac supports the Vulgate.

17. Another reason why they should not love the world nor the things of the world is derived from the fleeting, transitory nature of their existence and enjoyment. “The world passeth.” The “world” may refer either to the present creation, daily approaching decay and dissolution; or, to worldly men, who daily die and relinquish all their present enjoyments. This latter meaning is rendered probable by the contrast between the world and the man “who doth the will of God.” “The concupiscence,” the darling objects, prized by the world, such as pleasures, riches, honours. “But he that doth the will of God,” that observes God’s commandments, and renounces all inordinate attachment to the objects of this threefold concupiscence, “abideth for ever,” will enjoy for ever eternal life, as the reward of his good works, and of his resistance to his corrupt passions.

18. The Apostle now passes from the subject of fraternal charity, to inculcate the necessity of avoiding the contagious influence of the nascent heresies of the day. “My little children,” παιδια; a term of affection and endearment. “It is the last hour,” by which is commonly understood, the last stage of the world—different hours, or ages, have elapsed from Adam to Christ; but the period from Christ to the end of all things is called the last stage; because it will not be replaced by any other form of religion, or succeeded by any other dispensation, until the end of all arrives. “And as you have heard,” both from the prediction of our Redeemer (John, 5:43; 2 Thess. 2:3; and Apostolical tradition), “that Antichrist cometh,” or will come. The present is often, in scriptural usage, put for the future; the words may also mean, “he is on the eve of coming; for, the age or hour of the world, at the close of which he is to come, has arrived.” “Antichrist.” The word means, the enemy of Christ, and, by this name St. John designates him, whom St. Paul terms, “the man of sin,” “the son of perdition” (2 Thess. 2), whose impiety he there fully details.

“Even now.” The construction of the words appear to be, “As Antichrist is to come, so even now, there are become many Antichrists,” precursors of this man of sin, who are promulgating and endeavouring to enforce separately regarding both the Humanity and Divinity of the Lord Jesus, these errors, which Antichrist will attempt to establish all at once, by endeavouring to blot out the name of Christ, and abolish all divine worship. Hence, these Antichrists, the precursors of the Antichrist (as the Greek has it), are the heretics, by whom is worked, in every age, “the mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess. 2), “whereby we know;” from the appearance of these heretics we can see, that the last age of the world, which the persecuting reign of the famous Antichrist, or “man of sin,” is to close, has already arrived.

19. These heretics “went out from us;” they separated themselves from the Church, of which they were before members; but, they had not the spirit of the true faithful of Christ; “but they were not of us.” These words may also mean, they did not belong to those whom God had predestined for eternal salvation; since it seldom or ever happens, that Heresiarchs, such as St. John here refers to, return to the bosom of the Church. “For, if they had been of us,” if they had the true spirit of the followers of Christ, or, if they belonged to the elect, “they would, no doubt, have remained with us.” “But that they may be made manifest.” God permitted their departure and open separation from us, in order to make it manifest, that they did not all belong to us.

The words of this verse furnish no grounds whatever for the heretical doctrine, that faith is inamissible; for, the words, “they were not of us,” by no means imply, that these separatists had not true faith before their separation. They only convey, that the heretics in question were not, before their separation, solid, profitable members of the Church; for, St. Paul expressly declares, that many “will depart from the faith” (1 Tim. 4); that some persons “suffered a shipwreck of their faith” (1 Tim. 1:19); and that “Hymeneus and Philetus fell away from the truth” (1 Tim. 2).

Neither does the passage furnish any grounds for the erroneous teaching that sinners are not in the Church; the words, “they went out from us,” prove them to have been in the Church, previously; for, how go forth from us, if they were not heretofore with us; and the words, “but they are not of us,” are only a rhetorical correction, giving the words, “ex nobis,” a different signification in the second place, from what they had in the first. Again, the words, “they were not of us,” might also mean, that they were private heretics, long before they openly separated from the body of the faithful, in which interpretation, the words, as is evident, furnish no grounds for asserting, that sinners are not in the Church.

20. “But you have the unction,” that is, the grace of the Holy Ghost, enlightening your intellects, confirming and strengthening your will in the faith, without which grace, no one can have faith—no matter in how clear or convincing a manner, the external motives of credibility may present themselves to his mind. “From the holy one;” from the merits of Christ, “who is anointed the saint of saints” (Daniel, 9:24), “and know all things;” all the truths necessary for salvation, and all things required to guard you against the false and delusive teaching of these heretics; or, if “all things” regard all points of faith; then, they know them implicitly, by receiving all things proposed to our belief by the Church. To this “unction” or grace of the Holy Ghost, is their faith, as well as steadfastness in the same, attributed, as being the principal cause of both. The words, then, mean, that while remaining in the Church, subject to the pastors appointed by Christ to govern them, they share in the grace of the Holy Ghost promised to the Church of Christ; and that they have, through the pastors of the Church, all the necessary knowledge, so as not to be obliged to look for it elsewhere, since it is in the Church alone, of which they continue members, it can be found.

21. He here wishes to conciliate their good will, and to guard against any prejudices which the weak amongst them might conceive against him, for teaching them, as if they were ignorant of the truth. He says, far from supposing them ignorant of the necessary truths, on the contrary he supposes them to be already instructed, and his object in writing is, merely to remind them of what they already know, and among the rest, that “no lie is of the truth,” or consistent with truth; or, that no lie in faith can proceed from the spirit of truth.

22. “Who is a liar, but he who denieth?” &c. As if to say, if there be a liar in existence, one guilty of a lie, “which is not of the truth” (verse 21), he must be one who denies Jesus to be the long expected Messiah. Reference is, probably, made to the errors of the Judaizantes, or of the heretics, Ebion and Cerinthus, who broached pernicious errors regarding the Divinity of Christ, even in the Apostle’s own lifetime. “This is Antichrist,” or one of the precursory Antichrists, to whom I have referred (verse 18). “Who denieth the Father and the Son,” &c. Such a person is an Antichrist; for, by erring regarding the Son, he also falls into error, both regarding Father and Son, and denies the high and eternal attributes and relations of both.

23. “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.” The denial of the Son involves a denial of the Father. They are correlative terms. Hence, the relation of paternity is destroyed, if filiation be denied; for, if Jesus be not the Son of God, neither can we attribute to the Father the relation of paternity; and hence, these heretics, by erring regarding the Son, fall into error, consequently, regarding the Father. “He that confesseth the Son, hath the Father also.” These words are not read in the ordinary Greek copies, although they are found in the three principal Greek manuscripts, and in all Latin copies, and in many of the Fathers. Their omission can be easily ascribed to homoioteleuton, that is to say, to a desire, on the part of the Greek transcriber, to avoid the repetition of the same words, with which two successive sentences concluded; but their insertion, if not genuine, could not be so easily accounted for.

24. “As for you, let that which you have heard,” &c. The Greek runs thus: “Let that, therefore, which you have heard,” &c., which words convey an inference deduced from verse 21, as if he said, I have written nothing new to you, nothing but what you already know; persevere, then, in what you have known from the beginning of your conversion. The chief MSS. have not the word, therefore. “If that abide in you,” or, if you do persevere thus, “you shall also abide in the Son,” &c., you shall permanently enjoy the friendship of the Father and of the Son.

25. He shows the value of this union and friendship with God; it is the secure attainment of eternal life, the reward or inheritance promised to God’s friends—“This is the promise,” or, the thing promised.

26. These things he has written regarding the false teachers, who endeavour to corrupt the integrity of their faith.

27. “Let the unction which you have received abide in you,” according to which reading, he wishes them to persevere in the “unction,” or, doctrine taught and impressed upon them by the grace of the Holy Ghost. In the Greek, it runs thus: μενει εν ὑμιν, “The unction … abideth in you,” and to this you owe your faith and stability in the same. “And you have no need that any man teach you,” that is, you have no need to be taught by any of these false teachers, to whom allusion is made (verse 28), as endeavouring to seduce them; or, you have no need to be taught by any one, as ignorant persons, unacquainted with the elementary truths of your religion. “But as his unction teaches you of all things (and is truth …) and as it has taught you, so abide in him;” for “in him,” the Greek, εν αυτῷ, may also be translated, in it. Others arrange the sentence without including any part in a parenthesis, thus: As his unction has taught you concerning all things, so it is true, and there is no falsehood in what it taught you. St. John repeats the same truth negatively, a thing quite usual with Hebrew writers, who, after making an assertion, confirm the same by a denial of the contrary. The grace of God is called “unction,” or anointing, on account of the effects produced by it in the spiritual order, analogous to those produced by ointment in the natural. It cools and refreshes, it exhilarates, strengthens, heals, enriches, &c.; and it is said “to teach them concerning all things,” because, it is the principal cause of our faith; and hence, the entire effect is attributed to it, a thing quite usual in sacred Scripture. The words of this verse convey the same idea with the words of verse 20, “but you have unction from the holy one, and know all things.” “And as it has taught you, abide in him;” for “in him,” the Greek might be rendered. in it, in the unction, or rather doctrine, impressed in you by the grace of the Holy Ghost. That the Apostle does not here exclude the external ministry of teachers, is clear from his writing this Epistle; for, why write it, if the external ministry of teaching were not required? In writing it, he would be contradicting his own words: and from the whole context it is quite evident that he is only encouraging the faithful to persevere in the doctrine which they originally believed—of course, from the preaching of the Apostles, and aided by Divine grace—and to shun the new doctrines of error from which the grace of God, confirming in their minds the truths which they originally received, will preserve them. The necessity of an external ministry is abundantly proved from other passages of Scripture (1 Cor. 12 verse 28), where he mentions “Doctors,” in the third place—Ephes. 4:11, 12, 13; Rom. 10:14, &c.

28. “And now”—a term ordinarily used in urging an earnest request—“little children,” shows his love for them; “abide in him,” εν αυτῷ, may also be rendered “abide in it,” and both may be united in sense thus: “Continue united to him by the steady profession of the faith which the grace and unction of God has enabled you to conceive”—(vide Paraphrase); “that when he shall appear” in majesty to judge the world, “we may have confidence,” that is, great intrepidity in standing before him, “and not be confounded by him at his coming.” Estius understands the word “we” to refer to the Apostles, who would be subject to the slight confusion of losing the accidental crown of witnessing the success of their labours, in the salvation of their people. Of course, the essential reward is attached to the labour itself; this reward the Apostles and all teachers would enjoy independently of the fruits produced—which are not theirs but God’s—should they discharge their functions properly. “Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.”—(1 Cor. 3:8). The fruits result from God’s grace; the labour is ours. It is likely, that the Apostle included the people also, when he says “we,” and their confusion by falling away from the faith, would be the eternal confusion of the damned (as is explained in the Paraphrase).

29. The Apostle, after cautioning the faithful against the seductions of error, now proceeds to describe the sons of God. “If you know” (as you know, certainly, from faith) “that he is just,” that Christ is by excellence “just,” “know ye that every one also that doth justice” (to “do justice,” means in every part of sacred Scripture, to perform just or good works, v.g., Psalm 14:2; Rom. 9:30; 1 John, 3:7), “is born of him.” It is not in virtue of the strength or natural powers received at his birth from the first Adam, that he does good works; but in virtue of the spiritual and supernatural strength received at his second birth from the second Adam, by sanctifying grace; for, through sanctifying grace, we receive a new existence, and are made partakers of the Divine nature.—(2 Peter, 1:4). And, as the morals and complexion of the son in the order of nature, show his earthly parentage and the seed from which he sprang; so, does the performance of good works point out the heavenly seed of grace, and the spiritual birth from God.








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