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manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us ;) that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.'
Do not suppose that I expect you to take in the meaning of these sentences all at once. If I did, I should not have thought it necessary to examine carefully into this letter. I hope, next Sunday, to go with you into the meaning of the principal words in these sentences, and to consider them in their connexion. But I think you can hardly hear them read to you without feeling that they have something to do with those questions which I said that a Heathen had taught me I must engage in, and those in which I have endeavoured to interest you by recalling to you different portions of your own experience. The very language which perhaps puzzles some persons on first taking up the book, about the Life and the manifestation of the Life, fits in with our previous thoughts and difficulties. Something like this is what we were asking for. The writer clearly means to tell us of a Person whom he has seen and handled, in whom he believes a divine and perfect life was shown forth, with which life, he says, he himself and those to whom he is writing, may have fellowship. I do not care who holds out to me this kind of promise. It so exactly answers to what I am looking for, that I must perforce give heed, I must beg the speaker to tell me what he means; I must look further into the account he gives of this matter, to see whether it is consistent with itself, whether it only seems to meet the demands of my spirit, or does actually meet
THE WRITER OF THE EPISTLE.
them. Let the writer be who he will, I have a right to examine his words, not for his sake, but for my own. And if he brings a message to me from God Himself, I believe God will make it evident to me that he does.
I am glad, however, to hear anything I can hear about the speaker and about those to whom he spoke. If he were, as we in England believe him to have been, a fisherman who once mended his nets by the Lake of Galilee, and who was now dwelling, a grey-haired man, in the commercial city of Ephesus, it may be strange that he has anything to tell us who live in this far country of the west-anything to tell refined men and scholars, as well as working men, whose customs and whose language are altogether different from his, who belong to a world which is eighteen hundred years older than it was in his day. But if we shall find that what he spoke to the fathers and young men and children in Ephesus, who had been worshippers of the goddess Diana, or worshippers in the Jewish synagogue, and who had come to think that there was a Person who bound Jews and Gentiles into one; if, I say, we should find that what he told them has some deep interest for us-does make known to us secrets which we need to be acquainted with-we, at least, shall not care less for him because he was a fisherman or a Jewish fisherman. We shall hope that he will not, at all events, speak of accidents that belong to rich and comfortable people, when we want to know of principles which are for all equally, We shall hope that, as he was a Jew, he may be able to explain to us what the law and history of his own people had to do with mankind, and how he himself, being born a Jew, had been led to seek fellowship with men of other
tribes. We shall hope that he may tell us how we are bound to our forefathers, and how we shall be bound to those who may dwell upon the earth when we have left it. We shall hope that he may have proved us and our children to be of the same family with the Ephesians to whom he wrote,-not to have a different Father from them or from him.
THE GROUND OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS.
sonhet Selfrihnen, 234
1 JOHN I. 1-6.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen
with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us : and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.
WE call this book an Epistle, and I do not know that we have any right to say that it is not one. But it does not open like a letter. It is not addressed to any body of men, or to any one man. The author does not speak of himself. He does not introduce any greetings, such as you would expect of one who is at a distance from his friends. In all these respects it differs from the other Epistles in the New Testament, specially differs from those which St. Paul sent to the Gentile Churches which he had founded. The words "These things we write to you,' and others of the same kind which occur afterwards, do not permit us to suppose that it was a discourse delivered with the lips. Otherwise we might have fancied an aged man standing up in an assembly of men among
whom he had dwelt a long time, to remind them what lessons he had taught them, and for what end he had lived. And that I doubt not was his design. He may have been too feeble to speak what was in his heart, or he may have been away from Ephesus for a while, in his exile at Patmos. Anyhow, it was ordered that his words should be committed to enduring letters, and that we should profit by them as much as those who lived in his day.
The absence of a special superscription has led people to call this Epistle a catholic or universal one.
It well deserves the name. Its words, I think we shall find, are as good for London as Ephesus ; for the nineteenth century as the first. And we shall understand better how fitly the opening words apply to us, if we consider for a moment what a peculiar fitness they had for the men who had sat by the old Apostle ; who remembered that he had talked with our Lord on earth, and had been with him at the last supper; who had listened to him while he recalled the words which had fallen from his Master's lips, the acts which had been done by his Master's hand. Do you not think this thought must have often come into their minds ?Shall we not be terrible losers when he is taken from us?
- losers, not merely as all are who part with a dear friend ' and guide, but in this sense—that henceforth we shall only have the lessons of Christ at second-hand; we shall only have scattered and broken memorials of His works and His life. And will it not be worse for our children than it is for us? Will not the tradition become fainter and fainter in each new generation ? Will it not become ' more mixed with reports that are not true? To be sure, they may have gone on, we have books which contain