Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that eternal life does not reside in a murderer.
I. THE GREAT CHANGE HERE SPOKEN OF. "We have passed out of death into life." Consider:
1. The state from which the Christian has passed. It is here spoken of as "death." The death is not physical, or intellectual, or social, but moral and spiritual. "Ye were dead through your trespasses and sins;" "alienated from the life of God." God is the Life of the soul. In union with him the soul lives; separated from him the soul dies. Sin separates from him. "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God ;" "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Sin is fatal to all that constitutes the life of the soul - to truth and trust, to reverence and love, etc. A state of sin is a state of death.
2. The state upon which the Christian has entered. He has "passed out of death into life." He is united to God by faith in Jesus Christ, and thus participates in the Divine life. He has passed over from the sphere of the darkness into that of the light; from the dreary realm of death into the blessed kingdom of life. "He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life" (John 5:24). "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17); "And you, being dead through your trespasses... he quickened together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses" (Colossians 2:13). This great and blessed change is effected
(1) through the mediation of Jesus Christ (John 6:40, 47; John 10:10; John 14:6);
(2) by the agency of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5, 6, 8); and
(3) by the instrumentality of the sacred Word (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23).
II. THE EVIDENCE OF THIS GREAT CHANGE. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren." There may he a reference in the term "brethren" to the common brotherhood of all men; but it seems to us that its chief meaning is the Christian brethren. The love spoken of is not simply natural affection, as the love of parent for child, child for parent, husband for wife, wife for husband, etc. Again, there may be certain social qualities in a Christian which are attractive to others, yet not distinctively Christian. He may be a useful man; in society he may be interesting and agreeable, and therefore he is admired and loved; but such love does not prove that they who exercise it "have passed out of death into life." Again, we may love Christians, not because they are Christians, but because they belong to our ecclesiastical party or share our theological opinions; but this affection is not to be taken as an evidence that we have experienced the great and saving change. The love of which St. John writes is a love of the brethren, not because they belong to us or to our party, but because they belong to the Lord Jesus. The affection which is a proof that we have passed from death unto life is a love of the brethren:
1. Because of their relation to Christ and God. They are one with Christ by faith and love. Through the Saviour they are children of the Divine Father. They are regarded by him with complacency. They are loved by him with the love of approbation. And they possess the filial spirit in relation to him (Romans 8:14-16). If we love God we shall love them, because they are his. "Whosoever loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him" (1 John 5:1). And such love is an evidence "that we have passed out of death into life."
2. Because of their resemblance to God in Christ. Our Lord and Saviour is the Supreme Revelation of God the Father to our race; and his character, "as he lived upon earth," as Hooper has said, "is like a perfect, many-sided crystal. Whichever way you look at it, it is without flaw. Whichever way you turn it, some new beauty of colour is reflected from the rays of light shining through it. The character of the Christian is like a crystal too, but a small one, full of cracks and flaws, which break up and disfigure the brilliant gleams reflected from the sunlight.... The Christian must be like Christ, or he is nothing; but it is a likeness with a vast distance between - the likeness of the infant to the strong man; the likeness of a feeble sapling to the full-grown giant oak." To love Christians because we discover in them this moral resemblance to God in Christ is an evidence "that we bare passed out of death into life."
1. If we have this holy, fraternal affection, let us draw from it the assurance which our text warrants. "We know that we have passed," etc.
2. Let us cultivate more and more of this Christian love. - W.J.
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in himMatthew 5:28). But besides this, our feeling that we are incapable of this or that sin is not to be entirely trusted (2 Kings 8:13-15). So too our great poet portrays to us a man, loyal, upright hitherto, conscious of no secret treachery, into whose mind the infernal powers sent the thought, that he, now Thane of Cawdor, should be king hereafter. The thought ripened into a wish, the wish into a plan: he murdered his king, when asleep and a guest under the protection of the rights of hospitality, and from this dark beginning he waded on through blood, to retain what he had grasped, until he worked out his own ruin. The apostle says not that all hatred will end in murder — far from it — nor that all hatred is equally intense and equally reckless, nor that hatred which bursts out into great crime may not imply a worse state of soul than such as remains within, and does no obvious harm to others. Nor does he intend to confine the murderous quality to positive hatred. Want of love, hardened selfishness, acting on calculation with no rage or wrath in it, may be as deadly, as murderous, as malignity or revenge. The apostle teaches us in these words that evil lies in the heart, and that the evil there, which meets with some temporary or some lasting hindrance, differs not in kind from that which is ripened by opportunity. It may be forever dormant as far as the notice of man is concerned. It may never burst forth into the poisonous flower of wicked action, yet the hatred within and the hatred in the wicked action are one and the same, one quality runs through both. The powder that is explosive and the powder that explodes do not differ. It is just as we measure the power of a flood by its breaking down a dam or transporting heavy masses to a distance. There are restraining influences which secure human society from the explosion of injurious passions, so that such a crime as murder, common enough, if you gather up all the instances of it in a year, will excite wonder and awe in the place where it is committed. We know that fear of consequences, conscience, respect for public opinion, pity, are as permanent and universal as sin itself is, and that they are the dam and banks which keep the stream of unregulated selfishness from sweeping over society. Yet though we call the crime extraordinary, whenever it occurs we trace it back to some principle or habit. The man who committed homicide was subject to great fits of rage which he took no pains to restrain, or his natural heat was increased by strong drink, or he had such a covetous temper that he was tempted by it into robbery and murder. All this is obviously just. But with all this, we have a right to say, that the limit to which a passion, such as hatred or lust, leads, is a fair measure of its general power. We apply to the strength of hatred, or some other evil passion, the same measurement which we apply to the capacities of the mind. A man of genius seems at one time to be inert and without, creative power: at another, he will produce a poem or a picture that the world admires. We measure his genius by his best productions, by what he does in the most favourable circumstances, not by the vacancy of his dreamy or inactive hours, where thought is gathering strength for a new flight. Why not judge of sin, and especially of hatred, after the same fashion? The justness of the apostle's words is shown by the awful quickness with which resolutions are sometimes taken to commit great crimes. We flee into crime as if the dogs of sinful desire were on us, and we sought the outward act as a relief from the agitation and war within the soul. So strange do some such historical crimes appear, that they look like the sway of destiny. A divine Nemesis, or Ate, urged the man into self-ruin. The tragedy of life was not accomplished by his own free will. And when the deed is done, unthinking men will ascribe it to the force of circumstances, as if circumstances could have any effect, independently of the passion or selfish desire itself. And the criminal himself may think that he was hardly a moral agent in the deed; that his own power of resistance was destroyed by temptation against his will; or, that others, the most respectable men in his society, would do the same. To all of which, we reply, that the consent of his soul was his sin; that his sin was weakness; that if he had wanted strength really, and prayed for it, it would have come down out of heaven, and that whether others would have acted like him or not is a point of no importance. There was in London, a few years since, a German tailor, who was, probably, not more dissolute than hundreds of others in such a vast city, a mild, inoffensive man, whom nobody thought capable of dark deeds of wickedness. He found himself in a car of an underground railroad in company with a wealthy man. They were alone, and yet, as the cars had a number of stopping places in their five or six miles' course, every few minutes a new passenger might come into their compartment. They were alone, I say, for a passenger had left them, and the door was shut. Now, in the interval of three or four minutes, this man had murdered the wealthy man by his side, had seized his purse and watch, and in the hurry taken his hat by mistake, and had left the train the instant it reached the next station. He fled to America, was seized on his landing, was found to have the dead man's hat and watch, was handed over to the English authorities, carried back, tried, and sent to his execution. How terrible was this speed of crime! No whirlwind or waterspout, no thunder cloud flying through mid-heaven could represent its swiftness, and yet here there was nothing unaccountable, nothing monstrous. He himself had been no prodigy of sin, nor was he now. The crime was an epitome of his life, a condensed extract of his character. And again, the apostle's principle is vindicated by the rapid deterioration which we often observe in the lives of particular men. It seems as if they had only covered up their sins before, as if an evil life could not begin, all of a sudden, but the habits of sin must have been suppressed, perhaps, for a long period. But it is not so. They have not grown suddenly worse, but some natural motives, which swayed them before, have given way to other natural motives which were for a time counteracted. Self-indulgence was counteracted by prudence or by conscience, hatred was kept down or shut up in the breast by public opinion. Meanwhile changes of life, more liberty of action, greater means of self-gratification, new forms of society, new sentiments and opinions, make the road of temptation leading to outward sin easier. According to this view of man, there is nothing strange when hatred culminates in murder, there is no new principle injected, there is, in reality, no sudden worsening of the character. It is natural, not monstrous or morbid, that he who indulges hatred in his heart should yield, when he is tempted to manifest it in the life. The deed is the expression of the feeling, as words are of thoughts. I add, again, that if in any given case it were certain that sinful affections would be suppressed and be prevented from going out into sinful deeds, the apostle's principle would still be true. The spirit of the extreme crime is in the unblamed malice or the unobserved envy. It is neutralised, as the oxygen of air is by nitrogen. The two in mechanical union form an innocuous atmosphere, and yet we know that oxygen alone would be a principle of death. So hate in the heart is a deadly affection though counteracted, and although it may be always counteracted.
1. I wish to remark, first, that sin deceives us until it comes into manifestation. Men are apt to think that they are good enough, because no indications of a corrupt character are shown in their lives. And then, when the time of trial comes and they yield, they excuse themselves because temptation is so strong and so sudden. In neither case does their moral judgment conform to the true state of things. Principle means that which will stand the test, when native characteristics which were on its side have turned against it. The measure of principle is the strength of resistance to attacks of temptation, and if hatred or lust is a cherished feeling of the heart, there is no possibility of resistance when circumstances turn so as to favour sin.
2. Sins committed by others may fairly suggest to us what we ourselves can do, and so in a certain sense we may be humbled by them, when we apply them as the measuring line of the deep possibilities of sin within ourselves. It was no cant when John Bradford said, as he saw a man going to Tyburn to be hanged for crime, "There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford." He did not magnify his sins, and liability to great sins, in order to magnify the grace of God, but he magnified the grace of God, because he felt and found within himself the same sinful nature which he saw in the unworthiest. He read himself in the history of his fallen and guilty brother.
3. Finally, we see what an uncompromising principle love is. One may say with truth love hates malevolence, hates all that is opposed to itself in the feelings or the manifestations of the inner life. Love is an element of a strong character which views men as they are in all their sins, which feels no favour towards the principles by which the worldly, the selfish, the proud are governed. And thus as it looks on moral evil in all its deformity, it can feel intense pity towards the blind in sin, the misguided, the fallen, the unworthy, and is ever ready to sacrifice its own interests for their good.
(T. D. Woolsey.)
1. That crime is not to be removed by external remedies alone. The house may be swept and garnished, and the evil spirit apparently expelled; but if another and a better occupant do not take his place, and keep him out, he will return, as the parable tells us, and the last state will be worse than the first.
2. But if something more drastic than external remedies are needful, what is to be done? Will the spread of education and enlightenment so refine the taste, that it will reject the grosser forms of indulgence? Alas! experience proves that some of the most brilliant periods of history have been the most corrupt, and that the seat of the disease lies too deep to be reached by such a cure. The truth is, that all our earthborn experiments carry with them the defect attaching to their source. They are short sighted, or one sided, and where they see most clearly and impartially they only confess their impotence, and give up the problem in despair. But while Christianity has so unerringly detected the spring of all human misery, and exposed it in its undisguised malignity, it has also revealed an effectual cure. It brings with it a salvation which is no mere experiment or assault upon the outworks of our foe, but which goes straight to the root of the matter. It embraces our whole nature — spirit, soul, and body — and advances from this centre to claim and occupy every province of life. And to apply this to ourselves. If you do not feel that you need a Divine power brought to bear upon your heart, have you ever really examined the true moral character of your daily life? Have you considered what the unforgiving and uncharitable temper, the selfish and impure desire, really mean — that they are straws which show how the wind blows, symptoms of a fatal disorder, which is not to be banished by passing moods of penitence, or the postures of worship? Be assured there is only one thing that can save a man, and that is that grace of Christ which, where sin has abounded, has much more abounded, which forgives us when we come to Him, and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, shedding abroad within us that love which is the fulfilling of the law.
(C. Moinet, M. A.)
TopicsAbiding, Age-during, Ages, Anyone, Brother, Continuing, Eternal, Hate, Hates, Hateth, Hating, Man-killer, Murderer, Remaining, Taker
Outline1. He declares the singular love of God toward us, in making us his sons;
3. who therefore ought obediently to keep his commandments;
11. as also to love one another as brothers.
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 John 3:15
LibraryThe Purifying Hope
Eversley, 1869. Windsor Castle, 1869. 1 John iii. 2. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." Let us consider this noble text, and see something, at least, of what it has to tell us. It is, like all God's messages, all God's laws, ay, like God's world in which we live and breathe, …
Charles Kingsley—All Saints' Day and Other Sermons
Second Sunday after Trinity Exhortation to Brotherly Love.
The Growth and Power of Sin
The Love that Calls us Sons
The Unrevealed Future of the Sons of God
The Purifying Influence of Hope
The Meaning of Sin, and the Revelation of the True Self
How to Fertilize Love
Vanity of Human Glory.
The First Fruits of the Spirit
The End of Christ's Coming
The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God
The Beatific vision
A Present Religion
The Death of Christ for his People
The Warrant of Faith
The Way of Life.
"But Ye have Received the Spirit of Adoption, Whereby we Cry, Abba, Father. "
"Whereby we Cry, Abba, Father. "
"And for Sin Condemned Sin in the Flesh. "
What is Sanctification?
The Sinner Arraigned and Convicted.
The Solidarity of the Human Family
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