1 John 4

* Believers cautioned against giving heed to every one that

pretends to the Spirit. (1-6) Brotherly love enforced. (7-21)

1-6 Christians who are well acquainted with the Scriptures,

may, in humble dependence on Divine teaching, discern those who

set forth doctrines according to the apostles, and those who

contradict them. The sum of revealed religion is in the doctrine

concerning Christ, his person and office. The false teachers

spake of the world according to its maxims and tastes, so as not

to offend carnal men. The world approved them, they made rapid

progress, and had many followers such as themselves; the world

will love its own, and its own will love it. The true doctrine

as to the Saviour's person, as leading men from the world to

God, is a mark of the spirit of truth in opposition to the

spirit of error. The more pure and holy any doctrine is, the

more likely to be of God; nor can we by any other rules try the

spirits whether they are of God or not. And what wonder is it,

that people of a worldly spirit should cleave to those who are

like themselves, and suit their schemes and discourses to their

corrupt taste?
7-13 The Spirit of God is the Spirit of love. He that does not

love the image of God in his people, has no saving knowledge of

God. For it is God's nature to be kind, and to give happiness.

The law of God is love; and all would have been perfectly happy,

had all obeyed it. The provision of the gospel, for the

forgiveness of sin, and the salvation of sinners, consistently

with God's glory and justice, shows that God is love. Mystery

and darkness rest upon many things yet. God has so shown himself

to be love, that we cannot come short of eternal happiness,

unless through unbelief and impenitence, although strict justice

would condemn us to hopeless misery, because we break our

Creator's laws. None of our words or thoughts can do justice to

the free, astonishing love of a holy God towards sinners, who

could not profit or harm him, whom he might justly crush in a

moment, and whose deserving of his vengeance was shown in the

method by which they were saved, though he could by his almighty

Word have created other worlds, with more perfect beings, if he

had seen fit. Search we the whole universe for love in its most

glorious displays? It is to be found in the person and the cross

of Christ. Does love exist between God and sinners? Here was the

origin, not that we loved God, but that he freely loved us. His

love could not be designed to be fruitless upon us, and when its

proper end and issue are gained and produced, it may be said to

be perfected. So faith is perfected by its works. Thus it will

appear that God dwells in us by his new-creating Spirit. A

loving Christian is a perfect Christian; set him to any good

duty, and he is perfect to it, he is expert at it. Love oils the

wheels of his affections, and sets him on that which is helpful

to his brethren. A man that goes about a business with ill will,

always does it badly. That God dwells in us and we in him, were

words too high for mortals to use, had not God put them before

us. But how may it be known whether the testimony to this does

proceed from the Holy Ghost? Those who are truly persuaded that

they are the sons of God, cannot but call him Abba, Father. From

love to him, they hate sin, and whatever disagrees with his

will, and they have a sound and hearty desire to do his will.

Such testimony is the testimony of the Holy Ghost.
14-21 The Father sent the Son, he willed his coming into this

world. The apostle attests this. And whosoever shall confess

that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in

God. This confession includes faith in the heart as the

foundation; makes acknowledgment with the mouth to the glory of

God and Christ, and profession in the life and conduct, against

the flatteries and frowns of the world. There must be a day of

universal judgment. Happy those who shall have holy boldness

before the Judge at that day; knowing he is their Friend and

Advocate! Happy those who have holy boldness in the prospect of

that day, who look and wait for it, and for the Judge's

appearance! True love to God assures believers of God's love to

them. Love teaches us to suffer for him and with him; therefore

we may trust that we shall also be glorified with him, #2Ti

2:12|. We must distinguish between the fear of God and being

afraid of him; the fear of God imports high regard and

veneration for God. Obedience and good works, done from the

principle of love, are not like the servile toil of one who

unwillingly labours from dread of a master's anger. They are

like that of a dutiful child, who does services to a beloved

father, which benefit his brethren, and are done willingly. It

is a sign that our love is far from perfect, when our doubts,

fears, and apprehensions of God, are many. Let heaven and earth

stand amazed at his love. He sent his word to invite sinners to

partake of this great salvation. Let them take the comfort of

the happy change wrought in them, while they give him the glory.

The love of God in Christ, in the hearts of Christians from the

Spirit of adoption, is the great proof of conversion. This must

be tried by its effects on their temper, and their conduct to

their brethren. If a man professes to love God, and yet indulges

anger or revenge, or shows a selfish disposition, he gives his

profession the lie. But if it is plain that our natural enmity

is changed into affection and gratitude, let us bless the name

of our God for this seal and earnest of eternal happiness. Then

we differ from the false professors, who pretend to love God,

whom they have not seen, yet hate their brethren, whom they have

seen.

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