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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 continues the subject, upon which he entered in the last verse of the preceding, and extols the great love of God, manifested in our spiritual regeneration by sanctifying grace (verse 1). He shows the great privilege of Divine Sonship, conferred on us at present, and points out the glory we are to enjoy in future (2); and also what we are to do here, in order to enjoy this glory hereafter (3). He next shows how opposed the commission of sin is to the sanctity of the Christian state, to the economy of the Incarnation of the Son of God, and to the true knowledge and love of God (4–6).

He then guards them against the leading error of the heretics of the day, respecting the sufficiency of faith without good works, and declares, that the performance of good works, and the avoidance of sin, are the real qualities and characteristics, whereby the sons of God are distinguished from the children of the devil, and among the principal sins of the latter, he specifies hatred of our brethren (7–10).

He points out, how stringent, from the very beginning of the gospel, has been the precept of loving one another (11), and cautions them against following the example of the fratricide, Cain (12). The love of our neighbour is a probable sign that we are in a state of spiritual life, while the man who loves not his neighbour is in a state of spiritual death (14); and the man who hates his brother, with a haired involving a wish for his death, the Apostle calls a murderer like Cain. In such a person, the grace of God cannot reside (15).

In continuation, he points out the extent to which the precept of charity obliges. It binds us to lay down our lives for the spiritual good of our brethren, after the example of the charity of Christ for us; and also to relieve his corporal wants out of our worldly substance (16, 17). In every case, our sympathy should be practically manifested in works of beneficence (18). It is by the possession of this beneficent charity, we can tranquillize our conscience against all fears, and feel confidence that God will rescue us from damnation on the day of judgment (19–21); and we shall merit to obtain all our requests, because we observe his commandments regarding our believing in Christ and loving our neighbour (23). He concludes, by showing the advantages of keeping God’s commandments.

Paraphrase

1. Reflect again and again, how great a proof of his unbounded love the Father has given us, by conferring upon us the exalted title of sons of God, and rendering us such in reality; and it is because the world neither knows nor loves this your bountiful Father, that it does not love you either; but on the contrary, persecutes you, and treats you with the greatest contempt.

2. Dearly beloved, we are even now in the midst of the persecution and contempt with which we are treated, the sons of God. But what we shall be, what glory we shall enjoy at a future day, hath not yet appeared. But when Christ shall come in majesty to judge the world, we know that our bodies, clad with all the properties of glorification, shall be assimilated to his, because we shall then see him, not as we see him now (“through a glass, in a dark manner,”) but, as he really is, “face to face.”—(1 Cor. 13)

3. And every one that hath a true and well grounded hope, through the merits of Christ, of thus seeing him, and of being, consequently, assimilated to him in glory, must, in this life, purify and sanctify himself, as Christ is pure and holy, as far as a creature can imitate God.

4. To this purity, which should characterize every Christian, sin is opposed; for, all who commit sin, or in any way grievously violate the moral law, or the dictates of right reason, are guilty of iniquity, and violate the law of God; since every grievous departure from the law of right reason is a violation of the law of God.

5. And you know from the principles of your faith that the object of Christ appearing on earth in his assumed nature, was, to take away or abolish sin, by offering a sufficient ransom to obtain pardon for our past, and to merit grace to prevent our future, transgressions; for, he was fit to make satisfaction for our sins, having been himself free from all sin.

6. And whosoever is united to him, by sanctifying grace, receives the spiritual influences which, as head, he imparts to his members, commits no grievous sin, and whosoever commits mortal sin, has not practically seen him, nor known him with a knowledge joined with love.

7. My dearly beloved children, let no one seduce or lead you astray (as is attempted by the heretics); he only, who does the works of justice, and no body else, is just before God, possessing the true justice similar to the justice of Christ.

8. Whosoever commits grievous and deadly sins is of the devil; for, the devil sinned soon after his creation, or, was the first to commit sin, in which he still perseveres, and tempts others thereto. It was for the purpose of destroying sin, or the works of the devil, that Christ assumed human flesh, wherein he could offer atonement for our sins, and merit grace to prevent our future relapse into them.

9. But every one who receives of God a new birth, through sanctifying grace, commits no grievous sin; for, the seed of this new generation, which is sanctifying grace, resides in him by way of a permanent habit, and he cannot sin mortally, and, at the same time, continue a son of God; the state of divine sonship and mortal sin, being perfectly incompatible.

10. It is by their committing or avoiding mortal sins, that the children of God, and the children of the devil, are manifested and distinguished, whosoever is not just by the justice of works, or whosoever does not perform good works, is not a son of God, and lie especially is not a son of God who does not love his fellow-creature.

11. For the precept which was announced to you from the beginning of your conversion to the gospel is, to love one another.

12. And not act as Cain did, who was a child of the devil, and killed his brother, Abel; and wherefore did he do so? Was it in self-defence? No, but from feelings of the blackest envy, because his own works were wicked, and those of his brother accepted by God.

13. Let it not be a subject of wonder to you, my brethren, if the corrupt votaries of the world, instead of respecting your virtues, hate and persecute you.

14. For, although they may persecute us, we can calculate with very great probability, from the fact of loving our brethren, that we have been translated from a state of sin and spiritual death, to a state of grace and spiritual life. The man who loves not his brother, still remains in a state of sin, and spiritual death.

15. But whosoever not only omits loving his brother, but positively hates him, is a murderer in heart and wish; and you know, from the principles of your faith, that no murderer can have the seed of eternal life, or sanctifying grace, abiding in him.

16. We have the clearest proof and manifestation of the charity and love of God for us in his having voluntarily and freely laid down his life for us; and we also, following the example of love which he, our predestined model, has set us, should lay down our lives for our brethren whenever the order of charity requires it.

17. (And we are still more bound, under pain of grievous sin, to contribute out of our substance to his temporal wants); for, how can that man preserve the charity and grace of God, who, having it in his power to administer, out of his temporal substance, to the wants of his brother, of which he is conscious, will still refuse, and show no practical sympathy or commiseration for him?

18. Dearly beloved children, this love which we are all bound to manifest for our neighbour, should not be confined to mere bland expressions and kind words of condolence and pity, it should be manifested in works of alleviation, and acts of beneficence, which alone are the real test of true feelings of compassion.

19. And it is by the exhibition of such practical love of our neighbour, in acts of benevolence we can be sure that we are true sons of God, and by the recollection of such deeds of charity we will, in the presence of God, the searcher of hearts, tranquillize our conscience against whatever fears or scruples may arise.

20. But if our heart or conscience reprehend us for not loving our neighbour sincerely, and for not exhibiting acts of beneficence, how can we hope to escape the censure and condemnation of the all-seeing eye of God, whose knowledge far excels the obscure knowledge of our heart, and extends to all things even to the most refined motive of our most secret actions?

21. Dearly beloved brethren, if our conscience do not reprehend us in this respect, we have a well grounded confidence of being heard by God in our petitions (verse 22); or, of being treated by him as genuine sons in the day of judgment.

22. And whatever we shall ask of him, with the proper conditions, we shall obtain; because, aided and assisted by divine grace, we observe his commandments, and do the things that are pleasing in his sight.

23. And this is his great commandment, or the summary of his commandments, both with regard to faith and morality, viz., that we believe in his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he has repeatedly enjoined upon all his followers.

24. And whosoever observeth his commandments with the proper dispositions, and from a proper motive, abideth in God by a union of charity, and God, or, the Blessed Trinity, abides in him as in a dwelling place, by a communication of sanctifying gifts and grace. And we can know, with a high degree of moral certainty, that God abides in us, and is united to us in friendship, from the spirit of grace and love which he has given us to keep his commandments.

Commentary

1. “Behold,” diligently consider, “what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us,” that is, how great is the love of God the Father for us, as manifested in this, viz., “that we should be called,” or, should receive the exalted appellation and epithet, of “sons of God,” and “should be,” in reality, such, viz., adopted sons of God, owing to our new spiritual birth by grace, and owing to his adopting us, as co-heirs of his Son. “Therefore, the world knows us not,” does not recognise, or love us as his sons; on the contrary, it contemns and persecutes us, “because it knew not him,” it is because the world, that is to say, worldly, carnal men, neither knew nor loved him, that, therefore, they prize not your exalted privilege of divine filiation, through sanctifying grace. The words, “should be,” are not in the ordinary Greek copies, but they are implied in “should be called,” and are found και εσμεν, in the chief manuscripts and ancient versions.

2. Even at the present moment, in the midst of the opprobrium heaped upon us, by those who know not God, we enjoy the lofty prerogative of divine sonship; and “what we shall be, hath not yet appeared,” it is only at a future day it will be seen, to how great a degree of glory we are to be raised. “We know, that when he shall appear,” when Christ shall appear in majesty to judge the world, “we shall be like to him.” This is commonly understood to regard a likeness in the glorified bodies of the elect to Christ’s glorified body. Some interpreters translate the words, “when he shall appear,” εαν φανερωθῇ “when it shall appear,” namely, when it shall appear, what we will be, as if reference were made to the words immediately preceding. The other, however, is the far more common construction. The words have the same meaning, as in chap. 2 verse 28. “Because we shall see him as he is,” not obscurely, as now, but “face to face” (1 Cor. 12), the LUMEN GLORIÆ shall enable us to see, “face to face,” the glory of God; for this, the grace of the present life would be insufficient; and from the beatific vision of God, or the glory of our souls, shall flow the glorification of our bodies. Hence, the Apostle assigns our “seeing him as he is,” as the cause why we will be like him as to the glorification of our bodies, when he shall appear in judgment, “because we shall see him as he is.”

3. “And every one that hath this hope,” or, a well grounded confidence “in him,” through the merits of Christ, of seeing him as he is, and of consequently being assimilated to him in his glorified body. “Sanctifieth himself, as he also is holy.” The Greek for “sanctifieth,” αγνιζει, means, purifieth, and renders himself chaste, by imitating his purity and sanctity, as far as this imitation can be carried by creatures. The resemblance in glory between Christ and the elect, in order to be the object of solid and legitimate hope, must be commenced in this life by grace.

“He now shows, how opposed to this sanctity and purity, which should characterize every Christian, is the commission of sin,” “whosoever committeth sin committeth also iniquity, and” (i.e. for), “sin is iniquity.” The interpretation of the verse depends on the meaning of the words “sin” and “iniquity.” St. Ambrose and St. Augustine think that “sin” is more grievous than “iniquity.” Others, among whom is St. Gregory, understand them to mean the same thing, although there may be some difference in the signification of both words. It is, however, more probable, that “sin,” is employed to denote every grievous departure from the rule of right reason, or the dictates of the moral law, although not punishable with penalties by human law (v.g.), sins of uncleanness and impurity; and it is likely that the followers of Simon Magus, and the Nicolaites, regarded sins of impurity, and other sins, not punished by human laws, as trifling, and thus indulged in them freely. Hence, St. John says, that all such sins are violations of God’s law, and are opposed to the sanctity of the Christian state. The Greek word for iniquity is, ανομια, that is, the transgression, or prevarication of a law. Of course, St. John, when calling “sin” iniquity, speaks of grievous violations of the natural or moral law.

5. The Apostle gives, in this verse, a reason, grounded on the very economy and plan of the incarnation, why we should not sin; “to take away our sins,” is understood by some to mean, to carry or take upon him our sins, as to their imputability, in the sense of the prophet, “vere languores nostros ipse tulit et dolores portavit; ipse peccata multorum tulit” The interpretation of abolishing sin, adopted in the Paraphrase, is the most probable. The words, “and in him there is no sin,” are understood causatively, by some—he made atonement for sin; because, being a victim free from all sin, his atonement should be accepted. Others make these words have reference to the preceding words, “our sins,” he took away our sins; for, he had no sins of his own to atone for.

6. “Whosoever abideth in him,” or, is united to him by sanctifying grace, “sinneth not.” How can this be reconciled with the doctrine of the Church, viz., that without an extraordinary privilege of grace, every person will fall into venial sins? Some Expositors, with St. Augustine (lib 2do de Bap. Parvul. ch. viii., et Epistola 95), say, the words mean, that such a person, inasmuch, as he received the grace of Christ, and shares in the influence of his headship on his members, does not commit any sin whatever although, as a son of the world, he may often fall into sins. This interpretation, they contend, best accords with the scope of the Apostle in this verse, which is to prove the foregoing assertion, viz., that “in him (Christ) there is no sin;” for, if his members, deriving the vital influence of his grace from him, do not commit any sin whatsoever; therefore, in him there can be no sin. Others, with St. Jerome (lib. 2do contra Jovinianum, ch. 1, et libr. 1 contra Pelagianos, ch. 1.), say, the words, “sinneth not.” refer to mortal sin, on account of which, alone, a person ceases to be a living member of Christ; and, it is clear from the following verses, that the Apostle is referring to the sin which makes us “children of the devil,” and that is mortal sin only. And, moreover, it is only of a person sinning mortally, that the words could be verified in the next member of the sentence, “whosoever sinneth, hath not seen him nor known him” practically, with an affective vision, a knowledge joined with love, he knows God, as if he knew him not; for, had he known God as he ought, had he considered his love and goodness, and the rewards and punishments which he holds out, such a knowledge would have restrained him from the commission of sin. The words, “seen” and “known,” mean the same thing. Oh! that men had known God, how ardently would they love him, how zealously would they fulfil his holy law, and run in the way of his holy commandments!

7. “Little children,” a term of endearment, “let no one deceive you,” as the heretics of the day were attempting to do, viz., the Nicolaites and Simonians, whose fundamental error, as is also the case with modern heretics, was, that faith, without good works, confers justification. “He that doth justice,” i.e., performs the works of justice or good works, “is just, even as he is just,” i.e., as far as a comparison can be instituted between the Creator and the creature.

But, it may be asked, how can this be? May not a catechumen, before baptism, or a penitent, before the reception of the Sacrament of Penance, “do justice,” i.e., perform good works, observe the commandments, have faith, hope, initial love, sorrow, such as is insufficient to remit sin without the sacrament, and still not be just before God, his sins being yet unremitted?

Some interpreters say, the word “just” does not here imply the state of sanctifying grace or friendship with God. The word, according to them, means, the man who does the works of justice, is just, as far as the justice of works is concerned, as far as they can confer justice; and they confer initial justice, which serves as a disposition for consummate justice, or sanctifying grace; or, if there be question of persons already in the state of sanctifying grace, then, these works of justice will preserve that state in the soul; for, by the contrary works, the state of justice would be lost. So, then, the words mean, according to them, such a person is in perfect justice, if a state of sanctifying grace be united to his good works; in imperfect justice, unless sanctifying grace be added.

It is, however, far more probable, that the proposition is to be understood in an exclusive sense, (as in Paraphrase). HE ONLY, who doth the works of justice, and nobody else, is just, and one of the sons of God; as contradistinguished from the children of the devil, in the following verses. This is what the Apostle intended to convey, when he employed the words, “let no one deceive you,” with reference to the sufficiency of faith only; nobody will be justified, except he do the works of justice. In this interpretation, there is not a shadow of ground for the preceding objection; for, according to it, the Apostle does not say, that every one, who does good works, is, eo ipso, justified, but only that good works are indispensably necessary conditions for justification, the point he intended to prove against the heretics.

8. “He that committeth sin is of the devil,” i.e., whosoever commits mortal sin is one of “the children of the devil” (as in verse 10). Similar are the words of our Redeemer to the Jews (John. chap. 7), “you do the works of your father;” “you are of your father the devil.” It is the devil that tempts to sin, and even in cases where the temptation proceeds immediately from our own concupiscence, it proceeds, still, from the devil, as its remote cause; for, it was owing to the sin, to which he first tempted man, that we are troubled with this corrupt concupiscence, this FOMES PECCATI

“For the devil sinneth from the beginning,” or, soon after, but not at his creation, having been created just; or, the words may mean, the devil was the first who sinned. “He was a murderer from the beginning” (John, 8:44). He says, the devil “sinneth,” rather than, sinned: because, now he tempts and impels men to sin, and is himself obdurate and hardened in his hatred of God. “For this purpose the Son of God,” &c. So far is such a person from being a son of God, when he commits sin, that it was to destroy and abolish his sins, which are the works of the devil, that Christ assumed human flesh.

9. “Whosoever is born of God,” that is, receives of him the new nativity of sanctifying grace, “committeth not sin”—mortal sin—for, it alone destroys the divine sonship resulting from sanctifying grace. “For his seed abideth in him;” “his seed” is commonly understood to refer to sanctifying grace, which is the seed of future glory and the principle of our new spiritual nativity; and this grace abideth, PERMANENTLY in the soul. This is a point of faith. That it abides, or adheres, by WAY OF HABIT, is not defined as a matter of faith; but, it is a most probable theological opinion. “And he cannot sin, because he is born of God;” the words “cannot sin” are to be understood, as logicians say, in sensu composito, in the sense, that he cannot continue in mortal sin, and be at the same time, a son of God, both being as incompatible as “the association of light with darkness, or of Christ with Belial.”—(2 Cor. chap. 6 verse 14, &c.) This verse, however, by no means conveys that grace is inamissible; for, if so, that is to say, if men could not fall away from the state of divine sonship, why should St. John so often exhort the sons of God not to sin? Did not David, although a son of God, fall into sin, as he himself humbly confesses and deplores in his Psalms?

10. “In this,” viz., in their committing sin (verse 8), and their not committing sin (verse 9), the children of the devil, and the children of God, are manifested; such is the mark for distinguishing them. “Whosoever is not just,” that is, does not perform the works of justice or good works. That such is the meaning of “just,” is clear from the following words, “for he that loveth not his brother,” in which is specified a particular instance of the injustice to which he refers in the words, “not just,” which must, therefore, refer to not doing good works, or to doing evil works. The words of this verse also throw an additional light on the exclusive or negatively exceptive meaning of the proposition, “he that doth justice,” &c. (verse 7).

11. One of the leading precepts which was announced to you from the very beginning of the gospel—a precept which was to be the great test of your love of God, and a sign, that you were his true disciples—is, that “you should love one another.” And hence, the man who fails to love, or who hates his brother, transgresses in a particular way, the most important and the most stringent of God’s commandments.

12. We should love one another, and not act as Cain acted, who was a son of the devil, and slew his brother, Abel. According to the Greek, ου καθως Κάιν εκ του πονηρου ην, the construction runs thus: “not as Cain was of the wicked one,” that is, we should not be of the devil, as Cain was, who killed his brother; and to prove that the murder of Abel by Cain was at the instigation of the devil, the Apostle assigns the motive or impulsive cause of the act. Did he kill him from necessity or in self-defence? No, but he did so from the feelings of the blackest jealousy and envy. “Because his own works”—the offering which he made—“were wicked,” and not pleasing to God, “and his brother’s just,” their acceptance by God publicly and visibly attested. It is commonly believed, that God showed his approval of Abel’s sacrifice, by sending fire from heaven to burn it; whereas, in Cain’s case, no such approval was manifested. It is likely that either his intention was not pure, or that the fruits of the earth, presented by him, were not of the choicest kind, whereas Abel offered up the firstlings of his flocks.

13. The hatred of the good, by the wicked, is almost as old as creation, as is seen in the foregoing example. In these words of St. John, is contained an allusion to the saying of our Redeemer, “if the world hate you, know that it first hated me.”—(John, 15:13). Several reasons are assigned by Commentators, why the wicked hate the just: 1st, dissimilarity of morals; “He is grievous unto us even to behold; for, his life is not like other men’s, and his ways are very different,” (Wisdom, 2:15, 16, &c.); 2ndly, envy at their superior virtues; 3rd, their avoidance of worldly society and intercourse; “because you are not of the world … therefore, the world hateth you,” (John 15:19); 4th, the censure which their morals reflect, by the contrast, on the corruption of worldlings, “contrarius est operibus nostris.”—(Wisdom, 2:12).

14. “We know … because we love the brethren;” the love of our brethren is the sign whereby we may know that we are in this happy state of spiritual translation. Of course, it can be no more than a probable sign or conjecture in any individual case; for, as no one can know with an absolute certainty that he has this love of his brethren in the required degree, so, neither can he be absolutely certain that he is in the state of grace. He cannot have a greater certainty of the existence of the thing signified, than he has of the existence of the sign itself. “He that loveth not, abideth in death;” remains in the state of mortal sin and spiritual death, which involves a liability to eternal death, from which the others have been translated Hence, the man who neglects to fulfil the positive precept of loving his neighbour, and fails to succour him in his necessities, lives in the state of mortal sin. After the words “loveth not,” are added in the ordinary Greek, his brother. But these words are wanting in the chief manuscripts, the Vatican and Alexandrian.

15. The Apostle in this verse compares the man who hates his brother, to Cain the murderer of Abel; “whosoever hates his brother is a murderer.” The hatred of which he speaks is a grievous hatred, containing a wish for the death and destruction of our neighbour; the man who entertains such a hatred is a murderer in heart and wish; the internal act derives its species and malignity from the external act to which it extends. Hence, our Redeemer says, that every one who looks after a woman, to covet her, has committed adultery with her in his heart.—(Matt. 5:28). “And you know,” from your knowledge of Faith, “that no murderer has eternal life,” that is, sanctifying grace, the pledge and seed of eternal life, “abiding in him.”

16. He points out the extent or degree to which we should love our neighbour, after the example of Christ, who assigns his love for us, as the model of our love for our neighbour: love one another, as I have loved you.—(John, 15) His charity has been manifested in his having so loved us, that, “he hath laid down his life for us;” and we, in turn, are bound by well regulated charity, “to lay down our lives for our brethren.” The order of well regulated charity requires, that we should expose our lives for the souls of our brethren, if they be placed in extreme spiritual necessity. A pastor, who has charge of souls, is bound to expose his life for the salvation of his people, even in case of grievous spiritual necessity. “The charity of God.” The Greek omits the words, “of God.”

17. Not only are we bound to expose our lives for the spiritual wants of our neighbour; but we are also bound to administer to his temporal wants out of our worldly substance. If we are bound to sacrifice our lives for him, we are obliged to relieve his wants, out of our temporal substance, when necessary. “He that hath the substance of this world;” the Greek word for “substance,” τον βιον, means, all the things required for the sustenance of human life, such as meat, drink, clothing, money, &c.; “and sees his brother in need,” is aware of his wants, “and shall put up his bowels from him,” steels his heart, against every feeling of pity for him, and refuses him all relief; “how doth the charity of God?” &c. The question is equivalent to a denial, that the charity or love of God, the common Father of all, for whom our neighbour is to be loved, can reside in the heart of the man, who neglects the precept of loving his neighbour. Hence, the obligation of the duty of almsdeeds, under pain of mortal sin, or of losing the charity and friendship of God. Two things are required to render us guilty of this mortal neglect—1st, that we have wherewith to relieve our neighbour, “he that hath the substance,” &c.; and 2ndly, a knowledge of his wants, “and shall see his brother in need.” Most likely, this extends to the common necessities of our brethren, as it is not probable, that the Apostle contemplates cases so rare as those of extreme necessity generally are. It is on the neglect of this duty, that our Redeemer will, on the day of judgment, ground the sentence of reprobation on the wicked, “because I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat,” &c.—(Matt. 25)

18. He points out the kind of charity we should show our neighbour—not the barren sympathy of bland words, like the man described by St. James (2:15, 16); but, we should evince the truth and sincerity of our professions of regard and pity, in actually relieving him by acts of practical benevolence.

19. “In this,” that is, in loving our neighbour, “in deed and truth,” we can have a moral certainty, or great probability, “that we are of the truth,” that is, true sons of God—himself the truth, the fountain from which all true love of our neighbour springs—abiding in him, and united to him. Some make “in this” refer to the following, but it is better refer it to the foregoing, as in Paraphrase. “And in his sight,” who unlike men, judges not by appearances, but searches the very heart; “we shall persuade our hearts,” that is, tranquillize and set at rest our consciences, by calling to mind the true charity of benevolence which we have shown our neighbour.

20. But if, on the other hand, “our heart reprehend us,” that is, if our conscience censure us, for mere hypocritical, simulated love of our neighbour, not exhibited in active beneficence, “God is greater than our heart;” we cannot expect that we will escape the keen and penetrating glance of divine omniscience, whose knowledge far exceeds the obscure knowledge of our blind hearts, “and knoweth all things,” even to our most secret actions and intentions.

21. “If our heart do not reprehend us,” in this matter of charity towards our neighbour, whom we love, “in deed and truth;” or, if it reprehend us in no respect, “we have confidence towards God;” we have probable, well founded grounds for hoping in God. This may regard the effects of our petitions, as in next verse, or, the saving of us, in the day of judgment (chap. 4:17). Of course, as the knowledge which we have, that we love our neighbour practically, as we should, is only a probable knowledge; so, neither can our confidence and knowledge of our being heard by God, or treated by him as sons, on the day of judgment, pass beyond the bounds of probability or moral certainty.

22. We will obtain the object of our petitions from him; of course, it is always implied, that the object sought for is good and conducive to our salvation, and that the prayer itself is accompanied with humility, confidence, and perseverance; then, we will obtain, whenever it may be pleasing to God, the objects of our petitions, should He see it expedient for our salvation to grant them. Sometimes, he refuses, for their greater good, to grant the just the object of their petitions, as in the case of St. Paul (2 Cor. 12:8); and sometimes, he grants the wicked their demands, for their greater ruin. From this verse it is clear, that the Apostle refers, in the foregoing verse, to the just and pious, whose conscience does not reprehend them; and, even in their case, this absence of the consciousness of sin, is not an infallible sign, that they are in the state of grace; for, St. Paul tells us (1 Cor. chap. 4), that although conscious to himself of no fault, he was still unable to discern the state of his soul before God, and could not regard himself as certain of his justification. We are assured here, that “God is greater than our heart,” (verse 20), and may, therefore, see in us, sins which escape ourselves. From this verse it follows, that the commandments of God are not impossible; as also the refutation of the heretical doctrine, that we sin in all our actions.

23. And his great commandment, or rather the sum of his commandments, is to “believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.” Believing “in the name,” is the same as, believing, in the person of Jesus Christ. Thus it is said: “there is no other name (i.e., person) under heaven,” &c. “Hallowed be thy name,” i.e., person. To believe in Jesus Christ, is to believe in his divine and human natures. This, of course, involves a belief in the Trinity. It is the great foundation of the Christian religion, and was attacked by the early heretics. This is his great precept as regards faith, and as regards morals, his great commandment is, “that we love one another;” for, this involves the love of God; and in these two points, the love of God and of our neighbour, depend “the entire law and the prophets.”—(Matthew, 22:30).

“As he hath given commandment unto us,” These words are added by the Apostle to show how repeatedly our Divine Redeemer inculcated this precept.

24. “And in this we know that he abideth in us,” which may refer to the faithful in general. Then, the moral evidence of his abiding in us is, “the spirit which he hath given us.” From the spirit of grace, which he has given us, to love one another, and observe his commandments, we know, that he resides in us, as in his friends. Or, if the words “abideth in us,” refer to the Apostles, the word “spirit” is to be understood of the visible gifts of the Holy Ghost, and the power of miracles, imparted to them to confirm their doctrine. From this, they were certain that they came from God; for, they had his seal. In this sense, the words may also be extended to the different members of the infant Church, founded by the Apostles, who, from the several “gratiæ gratis datæ,” imparted to them, and to the Apostles, were sure that they were in the true Church. In latter ages, these visible gifts are not abundantly imparted, being now unnecessary; moreover, the former miracles still morally continue and retain their full force, to prove the truth of the Christian doctrine, in favour of which they were originally wrought; the power of miracles, however, has never ceased in the Church, and may be brought into operation, whenever it becomes necessary.








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