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1 John iv. 20.
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother,
he is a liar : for be that loveth not his brother whom he bath seen, bow can be love God whom he bath not seen ?
His epistle, written by the favourite disciple of our Lord, shows us how very soon some men began to corrupt the purity and simplicity of his religion.
For it is very generally agreed, that the main design of the apostle therein is to confute and check the progress of a doctrine, brought in, most probably, by some of the learned converts from among the heathens, who, being offended with the common account of Christ as too degrading to him, would not allow him to have come in flesh: to have been really a man as others : one who actually
suffered and died; but, that all this was done in appearance only.
And not content with this gross deviation from the doctrine of the apostles, they scrupled not to behave haughtily and contemptuously towards other christians, because they did not approve and fall in with their novel opinions.
For it will appear to any one who attends to the connexion of the apostle's discourse, that he continues to speak here of those he had mentioned in the beginning of the chapter, who denied that Christ was come in the flesh; and that he goes on to characterize them, as persons whose doctrine was very fashionable, (ver. 5.) because many did not like the thought that the founder of their religion should have suffered upon the ignominious cross like a slave and malefactor; and he also hints at their Gnostic pretensions (ver. 6, 7, 8.) to superior knowledge to that of all other christians; from which they were called Gnostics; and it was the name of a large sect of heathen philosophers at that time, some of whom had embraced christianity, but had much disfigured and corrupted it by their
philosophy; (ver. 5.) “ They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth then.” They were the
in their own opinions, who knew God more than others ; they also pretended to love him better and to be his favourites.
But with that authority which became an apostle who was intimately and personally acquainted with the blessed Jesus, his master, and knew his true character, he claims their regards and assent to what he delivered.
Ver. 6. “ We are of God," proceeds he. “ He that knoweth God, heareth us. He that is not of God, heareth not us. Hereby we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error;" that is, according as men received or rejected his doctrine concerning the person of Christ being truly a man, in which it was not possible for him to be deceived or mistaken. The apostle here speaks boldly and without reserve. He then turns himself to exhort to mutual love and candour one towards another, in which those conceited heathen christians were so defective, holding all, but those of their own opinion, beneath their notice, and unworthy of their regards.
“ Beloved, let us love one another : for love is of God: and every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God: for God is love."
For this haughty pretence of superior knowledge of God, the apostle here rebuked them by declaring that it was a vain boast, whilst they cherished a contempt .of, or entertained -hatred and ill-will to, other christians.
The subject leads us to treat of the necessary connexion between the love of God and of our fellow-creatures : and in doing this, I shall not enter into any abstract reasoning upon it, but confine myself chiefly to those grounds of it laid forth by our apostle in this part of his epistle, and in the words before
The apostle asserts that it is owing to a total ignorance of God, if we pretend to love him, and do not, at the same time, love and show kindness to our brethren of mankind.
And he declares, in the most express terms, (ver. 8.)
" He that loveth not, knoweth not God : for God is love." And it will be proper and edifying to us to consider the sharacter