FIRST EPISTLE OF S. JOHN,
This epistle was always acknowledged for canonical, and written by S. John, the apostle and evangelist. At what time and place, is uncertain. It is sometimes called the Epistle to the Parthians, or Persians. The chief design is to set forth the mystery of Christ's incarnation against Cerinthus, who denied Christ's divinity, and against Basilides, who denied that Christ had a true body; with zealous exhortations to love God and our neighbour. Wi.
--- The same vein of divine love and charity towards our neighbour which runs throughout the gospel, written by the beloved disciple and evangelist, S. John, is found also in his epistles. He confirms the two principal mysteries of our faith: the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The sublimity and excellence of the evangelical doctrine he declares: "And this commandment we have from God, that he who loveth God love also his brother;" (C. iv. 21.) and again, "For this is the charity of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not heavy." C. v. 3. He shews how to distinguish the children of God from those of the devil; marks out those who should be called antichrists; describes the turpitude and gravity of sin. Finally, he shews how the sinner may hope for pardon. It was written, according to Baronius's account, sixty-six years after our Lord's ascension. Ch.
--- The effect of all is to prove the certainty of the Catholic faith, and to renounce all heretics and schismatics, who entice persons from the true saving faith.
Ver. 1. The first two verses and part of the third have a great conformity with the beginning of S. John's gospel. The construction is somewhat obscure, unless we observe that the second verse is to be taken by way of a parenthesis, and the sense is not complete till these words, we declare to you, &c. The whole may be expressed in this literal paraphrase: We declare and preach to you the eternal and always living word, which was from the† beginning, (for this word which was with the Father from eternity, hath appeared,†† and manifested himself to us, when he took upon him our human nature, and was made flesh). This word I say, incarnate, we have seen with our eyes, we have heard him preach his gospel, we have touched his true body with our hands, as we witness and declare to you, that you may have fellowship with us, and be made partakers of the graces which God came from heaven to bestow upon mankind, to make us his adoptive sons and heirs of heaven. Wi.
[†] V. 1. Quod fuit ab initio; in Greek, qoud erat, o hn ap archV. This answers to, in principio erat verbum.
[††] Ibid. Et vita manifesta est. This corresponds to, in ipso vita erat, and apparuit nobis to Verbum Caro Factum est. And it was true to say that they had seen the eternal word, not as God, but under the veil of human nature.
Ver. 5. God is light,† &c. We cannot have this fellowship with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, if we walk in the darkness of sin: we must walk as the children of light. Wi.
[†] V. 5. Deus lux est; (John i.) erat lux vera.
Ver. 8. Not that we say or pretend we have no sin;† thus truth would not be in us, and we should even make God a liar, who has declared all mankind guilty of sin. We were all born guilty of original sin; we have fallen, and still frequently fall into lesser sins and failings. We can only except from this number our Saviour Christ, who, even as man, never sinned, and his blessed Virgin Mother, by a special privilege, preserved from all kind of sin: and of whom S. Aug.†† says, "that for the honour of our Lord, when we speak of the holy Virgin Mary, he will have no mention at all made of any sin." Wi.
[†] V. 8. Quoniam peccatum non habemus, &c. By which are confuted the errors of the Pelagian heretics, who denied original sin, and pretended that men by their natural strength could and did live free from all sins.
[††] Ibid. S. Aug. l. de Nat. et Gra. c. xxxvii. Exceptâ S. V. Mariâ, de quâ propter honorem Domini, nullam prorsus, cum de peccato agitur, haberi volo mentionem.