1 JOHN 4
1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
TRY THE SPIRITS
This excellent rule has long since fallen into desuetude, because antichrist is now paramount. The controversy about Jesus coming in "the flesh" has been decided against the apostles; and he that affirms with them that the body of Jesus was no better flesh than the "flesh of sin" common to all Adam's race, is denounced for a heretic.
As to ascertaining who is and who is not of God, by the hearing or not hearing what the apostles say, such a thing is scarcely thought of. The criterion now is, "the sentiments of all Christendom." If you speak in accordance with these, then you are of God, and the world heareth you; if in opposition to them, then you are of the devil, and the world heareth you not! Such is the rule in the nineteenth century, which has supplanted that of the apostles in the first!
The spirit of error and the spirit of the antichrist being the same spirit, and this opposed to the doctrine of the apostles, it is not difficult to discern it; and discerning it, to detect the Antichrist.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Dec 1857
A paper from J.C.H., reverting to the subject of the Holy Spirit, concerning which he insists that though the Scriptures are the work of men moved by the Holy Spirit, they can only be discerned by the "Divine Spirit in ourselves (in degree more or less)."
We are sorry we cannot agree. We only wish the state of modern facts admitted of it. We have no "Divine Spirit in ourselves" in the sense of a directly illuminating "dynamic energy." Those who claim to have this show the complete disproof of their claim by their rejection of what the Holy Spirit has taught by prophet and apostle.
"Granted," says J.C.H.: "We have to try the spirits."-By what? By the written word. If so, the written word is practically made the only authoritative form of the Spirit in our age. A working of "the Divine Spirit in ourselves," that has to be rejected if out of harmony with the voice of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures, is obviously of no practical power or consideration.
To contend for it is to contend for words-It would be an unspeakable comfort to have the Comforter as the first century believers had, but it is worse than vain to imagine the possession of it in its manifest absence.
God will yet pour floods upon the thirsty ground, but meanwhile the ground is parched.
3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
The Antichrist is a combination of persons and power, not a single man.
There will, doubtless, be a last man of the power, through whom that power will find expression; but it does not, therefore, follow that the Antichrist power does not exist till that last man is enthroned. Spirit precedes matter.
The spirit of the thing exists as the germ thereof previous to its manifestation. Hence, the spirit of Antichrist worked in the apostolic age, in which there were many Antichrists-1 Jno., 2:18; and by which it was then known that it was "the last hour" of the Mosaic dispensation.
The spirit of Antichrist was the denial that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh, that is, that he had immaculate flesh, a holier flesh than falls to the common lot of man-1 John 4:3.
This spirit has become material or corporate in "the church" termed "Christendom," but properly Antichristendom, or the Dominion of Antichrist, and has inspired the late decree affirming the Immaculate Conception of the mother of Jesus, that a clean nature, or something else than "the flesh" might be born of her!
We see, then, that Antichrist exists, for the co-apostolic spirit thereof is in vigorous and corporate activity in "the powers that be." Antichrist, however, we admit readily, has not attained to his full manifestation. His power awaits its consolidation in the giving of the power and strength of the ten-horn kingdoms to the eighth head of the beast (Rev. 17:13-17) which will be the development of "the devil and his angels" in full.
This is a future event, and must, of course, occur under the sovereignty of some one man who may then happen to be enthroned. This one man is not the Antichrist, but the representative, for the time being, of the power which already exists, and has existed for ages, in the world.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Oct 1857
6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
Shall we admit that profession and principle are the same? That a man has the Holy Spirit in his heart because he talks piously, while he is ignorant of the apostles' doctrine, and consequently without true faith, and disobedient?
We do not believe in the holiness of a spirit that dwells in such hearts. The Holy Spirit dwells not in those who "get religion" apart from the word of reconciliation ministered in the writings of prophets and apostles.
The religion they get in this way comes not from the Spirit of God, but from the spirit of error, which reigns in the schools, colleges, and "sacred desks" of Anti-Christendom-the phrenal sentiments, mesmerically excited by the traditions of the Apostasy
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Dec 1856
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
The writings of John are an unequaled epitome of divine expression on this subject. He tells us that God is Love, that He dwells in Love, and that Love is of God.
All the inspired writings testify to this. Even as God in all His works was motivated by Love, so do we find it the keynote of His messages to man.
It is, perhaps, difficult to realize and appreciate, to the extent which we should, the great Love that God has demonstrated. We may not easily regard our all-powerful Author from this point of view. We see Him as great Jehovah-omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent -- creating and sustaining all.
But let us dwell on the marvelous extent of the affection He bears His children. Through His Love, in the beginning, He made man in His own glorious likeness, placed him in pleasant and beautiful surroundings, gave him dominion over the whole earth and provided him with all he could reasonably desire, and more than he proved himself worthy of, for it was not long before he manifested both disobedience and ingratitude.
He fell, but in administering the forewarned punishment, God's Love was again evidenced by tempering the sentence of death with a ray of Hope and the assurance of the ultimate extinction of sin.
But man fell again, and so the history follows. God, with Love and patience inconceivable, repeatedly returned to him as repentance was manifested, and led him anew to the way which, if faithfully pursued, would bring him life.
This Divine affection led Noah into the Ark, and called forth Abraham to become a great nation. It guided this same nation, rarely appreciative or obedient, into the promised land, and watched over them there. They were assured of His protection and Love, but it did not inspire them to obedience.
"Because God loved you,"
-- Moses was told to tell them --
"He hath brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of bondmen."
But even before they had reached the land, and while miraculously sustained by food from above, they murmured against their divine Deliverer.
We cannot but marvel at the infinite patience that the Lord revealed -- humoring them, comforting them, and ever protecting them, when in a moment, He could have destroyed them all, but did not for the Love He bore their fathers.
And, continuing on, His Love completely pervades their subsequent history throughout the Old Testament, in which, too, is apparent a continuous and beautiful foreshadowing of the greatest manifestation of that all-embracing Love, the fulfilment of which is reserved for the New -- *
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
"God is love;" but not "all love." He is also "light," "jealous," "a Man of war," "a Consuming Fire," &c... Mr. P. presuming that "God is all love," and confounding what God permits with what he wills and approves; and being unacquainted with his purpose and plan; and supposing also that the present is a finality-jumps to the conclusion, that God has been overreached, as it were, or frustrated. But, he says, his reasoning "may be sophistry."
Doubtless, it is, for the reasonings of the flesh in ignorance of the system of truth the Bible teaches, are always sophistic; for right reason is only that which brings the mind to conclusions in harmony with the written testimony of God.
"To the law and the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."-Isai.8:20.
This is as true of logicians, as it is of all the "Spirituals," whether they be clergymen, or the rapping-ghosts and hobgoblins of "the Spirit-world."
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, June 1857.
And it is the apostle John whose name is most closely linked with the powerful agent that is to accomplish this transformation. That agent, of which John speaks so fully, is love. The greatest danger, it would seem, in regard to this subject, is misunderstanding, or not fully comprehending, what is scripturally meant by love.
It is not an emotion. It is a far bigger, better thing than that. It is a principle of life. It is the adoption, as the determining influence of every action, of the revealed divine viewpoint. God is love. Love is God. No definition of love is true which limits this conception. Love is godliness of character and action. Love is the enlightened expression of the mind of God. It is divinity. It is the antithesis of everything human, carnal and earthy.
Love is an expanding, uplifting influence, wholly pleasing and wholly satisfying, based on broad and eternal principles, with all the smallness and pettiness of human nature put away.
How does love transform us? We know that every thought leaves within us a permanent effect for good or evil. As individuals, we are merely the sum totals of all our thoughts. We cannot separate ourselves from them, because we are them-
"As he thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Prov. 23: 7).
Every thought leaves its actual, physical effect upon our constitution. Thoughts are the small units of construction of which our characters consists. Every good thought is beneficial and works toward the final desired result; every distracting thought is a useless impediment; every evil thought is a ruthless breaking down of what faith is laboring to build. Therefore we are told-
"Bring into captivity every thought" (2 Cor. 10:5).
Our thoughts, and consequently our speech and actions, are influenced by many things-our nature, people, and circumstances, among others. Slowly we are molded by these influences, and upon them our character depends. Of all the influences which bear upon us and form our character, there is only one which can benefit and improve us to any extent and that is the influence of God.
We cannot create goodness or holiness within ourselves. We become what we are made. But we can, to a determining extent, choose the influences which are to make us. That is our responsibility. We cannot be free. In the nature of things, we must serve some master. If we choose sin or the world, we become its servants, its slaves, and it gradually shapes us to its hideous pattern of death.
But this is where love can play its saving part, and if submitted to, can mold us to the beauty of everlasting life. Love cannot be separated from God. Love is divinity and godliness-wisdom, holiness, purity, kindness and patience combined.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.25
16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
Our duties of practical holiness and godliness toward others apply in intensive degree to the Brotherhood. Here above all else it is essential that all things be done in love. How long must it be before we will learn that love is sufficient for all things?-that NO circumstance ever justifies the setting aside or violating of this basic characteristic of godliness?
True, indeed, we must be faithful to the Truth, we must be firm, we must testify against error, we must speak out clearly against wrong doing, we must stand aside when faithfulness demands. But all these things must be done in love, and sorrow, and compassion, and never-despairing hope-never in bitterness, condemnation, anger or self-righteousness-
"God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God" - 1 Jn. 4:16.
"He that loveth not his brother dwelleth in death" - 1 Jn. 3:14.
John says further-
"Herein is love, that we keep His commandments'- 1 Jn. 5:3.
And Jesus said-
"This is my commandment that ye love one another" - Jn. l5:12.
There are two common misapplications of these teachings and we must avoid both of them. One is the old conception that all that matters is technical obedience, and that this
constitutes what the Scriptures call "love". If we will meditate with open heart upon all the Scriptures say about love, we shall realize more and more how shallow this view is.
The other is the flabby, sentimental notion that all that matters is "love", and that making an issue over specific obedience is being "righteous overmuch".
Both LOVE-the power of holiness, and painstaking OBEDIENCE- the divinely-prescribed shape and framework of holiness, are essential and inseparable.
Love is a gentle, sympathetic, humble, kindly way and spirit of doing what obedience requires to be done. In our weak mortal fleshly nature it is perhaps the most pressing issue
before us-our most serious problem and concern. Soon we must stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and let us clearly realize that we shall come face to face with the basic divine truth that-
"He that loveth not his brother abideth in death"
-and that this essential love is a far greater and transforming thing than most of us realize. And it does not just mean love when love is easy. John says-
"Hereby perceive we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (Jn. 3:16).
If we are not willing to do this, we have not the living Truth that Jesus and the apostles preached. And if we are willing to do it, we WILL do it, because there are many ways in which we CAN do it. If we do not give our whole lives for the brethren, it is because we are not willing to do it. We have not caught the transforming spirit of this command.
Bro Growcott - Our call to holiness