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recurs. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us. The words of God are in italics; which shows that they were not in the copy of the original which was before our translators. They appear, however, in the first printed edition of the Greek Testament, (the Complutensian) but are not to be found in any of the old manuscripts now in existence. There is not much difference in the meaning, whether they be inserted or omitted; as the word He, which follows, evidently refers to our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the apostle often speaks in this abrupt manner. It was the love of God, as He Himself declared, which provided a Redeemer to lay down His life for us, and so to deliver us from the wrath to come.
Had not He laid down His life for us, we could have no hope of eternal life. What love was it that led Him to do this! The contemplation of the love of God our Saviour ought to lead us to imitate Him in our conduct; We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. Nothing can be too much for us to do for Christ's sake. The love of Christ ought to constrain us, so that we should be willing to give up our lives for Him; and if we truly love Him, we shall also love the members of His mystical body, and be desirous of promoting their benefit both in their souls and bodies. We see how the apostle Paul laid himself out from love to Christ to promote His cause, and benefit His people.
He speaks of rejoicing in his sufferings for them, and of filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, in his flesh, for His body's sake, which is the church ;46 or exposing himself to persecution for their benefit. But here the apostle St. John refers to the duty of endeavouring to alleviate the distresses of the poorer members of the flock of Christ; for he adds, Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? Christians should be willing to relieve the distresses of their poorer brethren, as far as they have it in their power. Being sensible of the goodness of God to themselves, that they have received mercy, and are debtors to Divine mercy continually, they will be compassionate to the distresses of others, and especially to those of the household of faith.
To enforce this more effectually, the apostle exhorts, My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth. Some professors are great talkers about religion. They ought to be so much the more doers of the word, 47 in order to adorn their profession. It is not by the fluency of our language on religious subjects, but by the production of the fruit of the Spirit, which is in all goodness and righteousness and truth98 that the unfeignedness of our faith will be ascertained. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. If the love of Christ possess our hearts, and influence our conduct, then we have evidence that we are Christians indeed; and shall have a comfortable persuasion of our acceptance with our heavenly Father in Christ Jesus.
46 Colossians i. 24.
47 James i. 22,
48 Ephesians v. 9.
But if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. If we are conscious that we are not actuated by the love of Christ, to give up ourselves to the service of God, and to live to His glory, we may be assured that this is known to the Searcher of hearts. We cannot deceive Him. It becomes us therefore to humble ourselves before Him, and to implore His pardoning mercy for the past, and His grace to enable us truly to turn to Him, and to do His will, or to live in obedience to what He has enjoined upon us in His holy word. The apostle addresses Christians, Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. This does not mean self-confidence, but liberty of speech in His presence, at His footstool; coming boldly to the
A consciousness that we are acting contrary to the will of God, makes us backward to come into His presence. But when we are desirous to do His will, we feel our need of His help to enable us to fulfil it, and therefore we present our supplications earnestly before
throne of grace.
Him. And then, whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. We are agreed with Him in the spirit of our minds, and therefore walk together with Him in humility, being assured of our acceptance with Him, not for our own merits, but for the sake of our Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the propitiation for our sins.49 The apostle then states, in the text,
First, The great commandment of God, to which His people have respect above all things.
Secondly, The consolation which is derived from it; and
Thirdly, The means whereby it is obeyed.
Let us now consider these topics more particularly, praying that the blessing of the Holy Spirit may be vouchsafed to us.
First, The great commandment of God is here referred to in both its parts. This is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ; and love one another, as He gave us commandment. The New Testament inculcates continually, that there can be no Christian practice without Christian faith. For this reason the apostle declares, in the first place, the need we have of faith in Christ. We must receive Him who was God manifest in the flesh as our Saviour, we must have our sins pardoned through faith in His redemption, we must be accepted in the presence of God through His merits, or we cannot look up to the God of heaven as our reconciled Father. What Christ did and suffered in human nature, must be our sole dependence for every blessing we need, or hope to obtain from the God of all grace. For in ourselves we are utterly unworthy of the least regard or notice of our Creator, because we have not answered the end of our creation, but have rebelled against Him.
49 1 John ii. 1, 2.
It is, however, with the heart that man believeth unto righteousness.50 A faith which does not influence the beart, or the affections, and does not govern the life and conduct, is worth nothing. It is a dead, and not a living faith. A heartfelt conviction of our sin and misery, of our need and helplessness, is absolutely necessary, in order to our fleeing for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before usi in the gospel of Christ. Without this our profession of religion will be merely an adopting of the sentiments of others, instead of partaking of a benefit for ourselves. And how much is this the case with the multitude of those who call themselves Christians. They take up the religion of their neighbours, instead of seeking to have a right understanding of Divine truth, that they may enjoy for themselves the blessings which Christ
50 Romans x. 10.
51 Hebrews vi. 18.