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Christ. But through hime the believer has a glorious hope; 1. That he is a child of God
(Christ, having purchased us with his own blood, has reconciled us to God, and made us his children. He teaches his followers to consider themselves as standing in this relation to God, not merely like the angels who are his sons by creation, but in a more exalted manner by regeneration and adoption: and he teaches them to expect from him throughout their whole lives the blessing suited to that high dignity".
Now the true Christian hopes that he is brought into this happy state, and that he shall receive from God all those endearing tokens of affection which the relation of sonship emboldens him to expect. This hope of his is founded partly on the merits of his Saviour, and partly on the internal evidence which he has, that he is interested in the Saviour. The mere circumstance of Christ having laid down his life for him, would not be a sufficient ground for him to number himself among the family of God: but when he has the testimony of his own conscience that he has sought acceptance with God through the death of Christ, then he is enabled to indulge a hope that the privileges annexed to such a state belong to him.]
2. That he shall be with God, and like him, for ever
[The blessings which the saints enjoy are not confined to this life: “Being sons of God, they are also heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.' “ Though they know not yet what they shall be, they know that, when they shall see him, they shall be like him; for they shall see him as he is.” The time is coming, when they shall all be introduced into his immediate presence, and be with him and like him for ever. This also is an object of the Christian's hope He believes that this is the heritage of the saints; and that “ what God hath promised, he is able, and willing, to fulfil.")
That this is no barren hope, will appear from, II. The effect it produces in him-
Every Christian will endeavour to purify himself to the uttermost
[The Christian cannot wilfully live in any known sin: he will search out his corruptions, in order to subdue them; and
a The text does not say, év lavtý, in himself, but én' avrõ, in him, that is, in Christ.
b ver. 1. John i. 12, 13. Matt. vi. 6, 8, 9, 31–33. c Rom. viii. 15–17.
his duties, in order to fulfil them He will propose to himself the Lord Jesus Christ as his pattern: and though he can never hope to attain absolute perfection in this life, he will not rest satisfied with any thing short of that. He would gladly
holy as God is holy, and perfect, even as his Father in heaven is perfect.” He considers how the Lord Jesus acted in reference to God: how in reference to man; and what tempers he manifested in the whole of his deportment;
then he labours to follow his example, and to “ walk in all things as he walked.”]
To these endeavours he will be stimulated by his hope in Christ:
[He cannot endure to think himself a child of God, and yet act like a child of the devil: he cannot please himself with a prospect of enjoying and resembling God in a future life, without seeking communion with him and a resemblance to him in the present world. He will feel himself impelled to holiness by a sense of dutye; by a sense of gratitude'; yea, moreover, by a love of holiness itself !
We must not however imagine that it is by any power of his own that he thus “ purifies himself;" the duty and the exertion are hish: but the power, both to will and to do, proceeds from God alone'.]
We shall improve this subject, 1. For conviction
[All profess to have a hope in Christ : but before we conclude that to be well-founded, we must examine what fruits it produces : Are we seeking after universal holiness? Are we contented with no measure of holiness short of perfection itself? Are we setting the Lord Jesus before us, and taking him for our pattern in all our tempers, and in our conduct towards God and man? This is the criterion by which St. John himself teaches us to judge of our hopek: and St. James confirms it—by declaring, that, if in any one point (the not bridling of our tongue, for instance) we allowedly deviate from this path, “our religion is vain!.” O consider this, lest your hope be only as the spider's web, that will be swept away with the besom of destruction!]
2. For encouragement
e He knows he cannot be saved in any other way. Ps. xxiv. 3, 4. Matt. v. 8. Heb. xii. 14. Rev. xxi. 27. f 1 Thess. ii. 12. 2 Cor. v. 14, 15.
& Ps. cxix. 128, h Jam. iv. 8. i Phil. ii. 13.
ver. 6-10. i Jam. i. 26.
[Though we must not think our hope well founded, unless it produce in us the fruits of righteousness, yet we must not imagine that our righteousness is to be the ground of our hope, or even our warrant to hope in Christ. The only ground of our hope must be found in Christ, and in the promises which God has made to those who believe in him. We must go to Christ as sinners; and then he will enable us to live as saints. This distinction is clearly marked in the text: our hope in Christ is to precede, not to follow, the purification of our hearts: and our holiness is to be the fruit, not the root, of our hope. The same distinction is made by St. Paul also, who, having spoken of our sonship with God, says, “ Having therefore these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of Godm.” We must not wait till we are cleansed, and then embrace the promises: but first embrace the promises; and then make use of them for the cleansing of our souls
. What encouragement does this afford to those who feel the corruption of their hearts, and who, if their own purity were to be the foundation of their hope, would be in utter despair ! Go then, how polluted soever ye are, and seek pardon and sanctification at the hands of Jesus; and you shall find him “ faithful and just to forgive you your sins, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness"."]
m 2 Cor. vii. 1. See the same also by St. Peter, 2 Pet. i. 4. n 1 John i. 9.
CHRIST MANIFESTED TO TAKE AWAY SIN.
1 John iii. 5. Ye know that he was manifested to take away
our sins; and in him is no sin. AMONGST the numberless advantages which the light of revelation has conferred upon us, one of particular importance is, the strength of the motives which it suggests to us for the mortification of sin. A heathen could devise no argument beyond what related to our own welfare, and that of society at large. But Christianity discovers to us wonders, of which unassisted reason could form no conception : it declares to us, that Almighty God himself assumed our nature for the express purpose of counteracting the effects of sin, and of destroying its power.
power. To those therefore who have embraced Christianity, here is an argument that is wholly irresistible, if once it be admitted into the mind, and suffered to have its due operation upon the soul. St. John avails himself of it in the passage before us.
He is shewing to the Christian world that they must aspire after universal holiness, and purify themselves “ even as their incarnate God was pure :” and the more effectually to enforce his exhortations, he makes this unanswerable appeal to all of them without exception: “Ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him was no sin.”
The destruction of sin being the great scope and end of our ministry also, we will, I. Open to you his appeal
The great end of our Saviour's incarnation was to take away sin
[Sin has separated man from God, and God from mana : nor was it possible that they should be re-united in mutual love and amity, unless this evil were removed. But removed it could not be, either as to its guilt or power, by any efforts of man: nor could all the angels in heaven render to him any effectual aid. God therefore of his own love and mercy“ laid help for us upon one that was mighty b,” even upon his coequal, co-eternal Son, whom he sent into the world on this benevolent errand, to "put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself,” and to "subdue our iniquities" by the efficacy of his grace
For this the Lord Jesus Christ was well fitted, by reason of his own spotless character. This I conceive to be particularly intimated in our text. The connexion between the two clauses of the text does not at first sight appear; but we apprehend, that the mention of the spotless character of Jesus is intended to convey this idea, namely, that, being himself without sin, he was fitted for the work assigned him; and could present to God such an offering as our necessities required. Under the law it was especially appointed, that the sacrifices should be without spot or blemish. The Paschal lamb was set apart four days before it was offered, on purpose that it might be scrutinized to the uttermost, and thus be proved fit for its destined use @ The Lord Jesus too went up to Jerusalem four days before his crucifixion, and underwent the strictest examination at different tribunals, and was declared innocent, by Pilate his judge, by his fellow-sufferer on the cross, by the Centurion who presided at his execution: all his enemies thus unwittingly attesting, that he was indeed “a Lamb without blemish and without spot," and that, being “just himself," he was every way fit to "suffer in the place of us the unjust."
c Heb. ix. 26.
a Isai. lix. 2.
b Ps. lxxxix. 19.
In another view too his spotless character subserves this great end of his mission : for, “ being without guile himself, he has set us a perfect example:” and the best possible way of avoiding sin is, to imitate his example, and to “ tread in his steps h."]
This was known and acknowledged through the whole Christian world
[No one who believed in Christ was ignorant of the end for which he had come into the world. Hence the Apostle could appeal to all without exception, and could say, " Ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins." The whole Scriptures bore testimony to this. All the types of the Mosaic law shadowed it forth. All the prophecies from the beginning of the world attested it. It was in this way that “the Se of the woman was to bruise the serpent's head.” - To finish transgression, to make an end of sin," and to establish universal righteousness, this was to be the work which should distinguish his reign: “A sceptre of righteousness was to be the sceptre of his kingdom." The very name that was given to him imported this : " he was called Jesus, because he was to save his people from their sins.") This truth being acknowledged by all at this time,
no less than in the apostolic age, we shall make
the same APPEAL to you; and, II. Found upon it a particular address,
As Christians you all “ know” that Christ came to deliver you from sin : but do you all consider it, as you ought? 1. Ye who live in wilful and habitual sin
[Do you consider what has been done to rescue you from your bondage? Do you consider that the Son of the living God, “ Jehovah's fellow," the Creator of the universe, has come down from heaven, and assumed your nature, and died upon the cross for your redemption? Ask yourselves then, whether he would have done this, if sin had been so small an
11 Pet. i. 19.
8 1 Pet. ii. 18.
h 1 Pet. ii. 21, 22.