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stronger than all with which the world can tempt us, than if we resolutely maintain this faith as our comforter under distress, and as our warning guide when urged by pleasure, or by interest, there is no distress, no pleasure, no interest, which can be sufficient to separate us from our duty and from our love which is in Christ. It is always thus, when a stronger motive is offered to the mind, and so offered that the mind is really made sensible of it, those weaker objects which before impelled or attracted us, lose their effect on our will, and give place to the more powerful hope or apprehension. When the sun is absent from the earth, and the Heaven is obscured with clouds, a candle from a cottage window shines far and wide like a star through the darkness. But let the moon rise and the stars of Heaven? appear, the candle is seen no longer, and both the moon and the stars grow dim when the glorious light of day walks forth from his eastern chamber. Exactly so, in the natural state of man, the meanest trifles are sufficient to entice or agitate us ; one man seeks for happiness in pleasure and sensuality; another gives his whole mind and care to the gathering together of wealth, all which in a few years he must leave behind; with a third, ambition is the ruling passion. But if an angel were to lift up one of these men, as St. Paul was caught up in vision, if he were to hold bim by the hair of his head between hell and Paradise, if he were to show him from the middle of that great gulf whereby the seats of pain and blessing are divided, the tormenting flames, the bitter tears, the hopeless agony which dwell in the first; and the trees of life, the groves of palm, the golden city, with its gates of pearl, and crystal streets, which God hath prepared for them that love Him ;* if he were told, “ from those torments Christ hath died to save thee, and to these habitations of blessing His grace will bring thee if thou dost not cast away thy soul:” and if, while the man yet saw these opposite prospects, he were at that very moment to be tempted by the choicest of the things which he had followed after, do you think that they would have power to move him? Oh no; his heart
• Rev. xxi. 21.
would be full of other thoughts, of Heaven and hell, of blessing and cursing, of his natural danger and his hope in Jesus Christ, and all that once could rouse his passion most would fall as idly on his senses, as inusic on the deaf ear, or beauty on the blinded eye. But that effect which the actual sight of Heaven and hell is supposed to produce on a man so circumstanced, the faith that Heaven and hell are really what they are represented in Scripture, will be able, if we keep it constantly in mind, to produce on our hearts and behaviour. By this we are more than conquerors, and by this we shall triumph not only over the world, but over the devil and ourselves, if we continue to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and to receive the Gospel, which He hath given us, and to bear by His grace this faith in our souls, and to recall it to our minds wheneyer temptation comes upon us.
In the former verses, then, of this portion of St. John's Epistle, we are taught the necessity of good works, and the manner in which faith, if sincere and constant, will produce the answerable fruit of good works in our life and conversation. And the apostle then continues to explain in very few and somewhat mysterious words, the nature of that faith which we are to maintain respecting the person and office of our Saviour. We are to believe that "Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” that “He came by water and by
ood, not by water only, but by water and blood," and we are to believe this on the testimony of God's infallible Spirit. “It is the Spirit that beareth witness, and the Spirit is truth.”
It is not my intention to enter on the long controverted subject of the authenticity of that particular verse which follows, in which mention is made of the Three Heavenly Witnesses; that verse, undoubtedly, teaches nothing which a trinitarian can admit to be at variance with the general tenor of Scripture. I am, however, little inclined to seek support for an awful truth from materials of suspected soundness, or (while the doctrine of a Trinity in unity is taught in so many other texts of Scripture) to lay a stress on one of which it is not ascertained that it is in Scripture. And I am, in the present instance, yet more disposed to avoid en
tering into the discussion, since the particular verse in question, so far as the main purpose and connexion of the apostle's argument are concerned, is illustrative and ornamental only. The number and unity of the Celestial Witnesses are only alluded to on account of their analogy, in these particulars, with the triple and accordant evidence of the spirit, the water, and the blood.". It is to these last, then, and to the testimony which they bear, that I am anxious to direct your attention; and, in so doing, it shall be my endeavour, first, to ascertain what doctrine that is for which St. John is here contending ; secondly, who those witnesses are which he describes as effectually supporting it; and, thirdly, in what manner it becomes us to lay their tesa timony to heart, and apply to ourselves, our hopes, our fears, and the conduct of our mental and external habits, those awful and comfortable truths which the inspired reasoner enforces with so much earnestness.
It is obvious, in the first place, that the doctrine refers to some peculiarity in the person of Christ, and in the mission which He came to execute on the part of His Heavenly Father. In the preceding verses of the chapter, which, together with my text, have been read to you this morning from the altar, St. John had been establishing the necessity of good works, as an evidence of our love for God, and the necessity and efficacy of that faith without which a life of consistent holiness is impossible.
“ This is the love of God that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not grievous ; for whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world : and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God ?"*
As if he had said, “ It is vain and worse than vain for men to pretend to love God, unless they do those things which they know to be well-pleasing to Him. Nor, for the neglect of such things, is the weakness of our human nature an apology. Weak as we are in ourselves, there is, in our regenerate nature, a principle which enables us to be more
• St. John, v. 3, 4, 5.
than conquerors over the most terrible of our spiritual enemies, and the shield by which we may quench their darts is the faith which we cherish that Jesus is the Son of God.”
But then, as if apprehensive of our resting in this bare and general confession, he proceeds to explain who that Christ is, in whom he would have us firmly to believe, and what grounds are afforded to us for receiving the peculiarities which he here ascribes to Him. " This is He, (that he is speaking of Christ the Son of God there can, I conceive, be no controversy) “ This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood, and it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth; and there are three that bear witness in earth,” (I pass the controverted clause,) “ There are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one." It remains, then, that I should prove to you what the peculiarity is which St. John asserts of Christ, and to which he represents these three as witnesses.
There are three remarkable events in the history of our Saviour while among men, to some or all of which the apostle may be thought to have alluded. They are, first, His own baptism in the river Jordan, in which, as He commenced His mission and public ministry, so He may be fairly said to have come to us, in His official character, by water. Secondly, that violent death in which only, so far as we know, he was, in any sense, implicated with blood. And, thirdly, that remarkable effusion, after death, of both blood and water from His side, which St. John has thought fit, in its proper place, to record with such solemnity of asseveration, and to which he here again recurs with an earnestness so remarkable as to convince us that he regarded it as something far more than a natural pheno
Now, if we were asked why these things were so 80lemnly and circumstantially recorded of Christ; why it was decreed in the counsels of God, that Christ should undergo these things; that He should submit to a baptism for which, in His innocence, He had no need; that He should
endure a most painful death, to which, in His perfect righteousness, he was not justly liable; or that, lastly, a miracle should be wrought after His death, to produce a stream of blood first, and afterwards water from His body? I apprehend no answer could be so reasonably given, as that these things had some further and some mysterious meaning, that they were done for our advantage or for our instruction. And when we find these things so accurately and solemnly recorded, when our attention through the whole New Testament is so often called to them, and when, as in the present passage, we find an inspired apostle insisting on a faith in these things and in all of them, “not the water only, but the water and blood,” as essential to "the victory which overcometh the world;" we must be still more confirmed in the opinion, that this meaning, whatever it be, must be one extremely important to us all, and that the actions thus recorded are something more than merely curious and interesting as proofs of our Saviour's humility, His fortitude, or the sincerity of His preaching.
But further, and as a probable guide to the import of such circumstances in the Messiah's life, it must be remarked that the Messiah was a Jew, that the prophecies, and the ceremonies of the ancient covenant were all in a strange and preordained analogy with His life and character; that in Him the laws of Moses were fulfilled, inasmuch as of Him they were only shadows; that His mission, though its benefits were to include all nations, was, in the first instance, addressed to the Jews; and that all which He taught, and all which He performed had, as its primary motive, their instruction, their conversion, their reconciliation with His Almighty Father. Whatever meaning then attached to these actions and circumstances of His life, it was one, in all probability, conformable to the ancient Jewish laws, and such as was obvious to a Jewish understanding; and there is, therefore, no way so likely to arrive at the truth, as to examine what sort of impression they were likely to make on a follower of Moses and the prophets.
And here it is very remarkable that water and blood were, in the religion of Moses, the two necessary tokens