Ver. 1. That you may not sin, or not lose the grace of God by any considerable sin.
--- But if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the Father, who being made man to redeem us from sin, is our great Advocate, our chief Mediator, and only Redeemer, by whose merits and grace we have been reconciled, after we had lost and forfeited the grace and favour of God by our offences. He is the only propitiation for the sins of the whole world; for, as S. Paul says, (Heb. x. 14.) Christ, for one oblation on the cross, hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. All remission of sins, all sanctification, is derived from the merits and satisfaction of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ; not but that the Angels and saints in heaven, and virtuous persons upon earth, when they pray to God for us, may be called advocates, mediators, and intercessors (though not redeemers) in a different sense, and in an inferior manner, without any injury, but on the contrary with an honour done to Christ; because what they pray and ask for us, is only begged and hoped for through Christ, and by his merits. S. Aug.† in his commentary on this epistle, on these very words, we have an advocate, &c. prevents and answers this very objection of the late pretended reformers: (tom. iii, part 2. p. 831. Nov. Edit.) "Some one will say: therefore the saints do not ask for us, therefore the bishops and governors of the Church do not ask for the people." He denies that this follows, the saints being advocates in a different sense. Though God be our protector and defender from dangers, this does not hinder us from owning the Angels to be our defenders in an inferior manner under God, as the Church of England acknowledges in the common prayer book on the feast of S. Michael, and all Angels, which runs thus: "mercifully grant, that as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so by thy appointment they may succour and defend us on earth through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen." Wi.
--- The calling and office of an advocate is in many things proper to Christ, and in every condition more singularly and excellently applying to him than to any Angel, saint, or living creature, though these also may be truly so called without any derogation from Christ. To him solely it belongs to procure us mercy before God, by the general ransom of his blood for our delivery; hence he is our only advocate of redemption, though others may be and are advocates of intercession. Hence S. Irenæus (l. iii. c. 33. et l. v. post med.) says: "the obedient Virgin Mary is made the advocate of the disobedient Eve." Our Saviour declares that Angels are deputed for the protection of infants; (Mat. xviii.) and frequent are the examples we find in the old Scripture, such as Gen. xlviii. 16. Tob v. 27. and xii. 12. Dan. x. See also the common prayer book, in the collect of Michaelmas day.
[†] V. 1. Sed dicet aliquis, says S. Aug. on this place, ergo sancti non petunt pro nobis. Ergo episcopi et præpositi non petunt pro populo; sed attendite scripturas, &c.
Ver. 3. We have known him, if we keep his commandments. He speaks of that practical knowledge by love and affection, which can be only proved by our keeping his commandments; and without which we cannot be said to know God, as we should. Ch.
Ver. 4. He that says he knoweth him, &c. To know, in this and many other places, is not taken for a speculative knowledge alone, but is joined with a love of God, and an earnest desire of serving him and keeping his commandments. Wi.
Ver. 5. The charity of God is truly perfect.† Notwithstanding his lesser failings, he retains the habit of charity and grace, by which he remains united to God.
--- And by this we know that we are in him; i.e. we are morally, though not absolutely, certain that we are in the state of grace. Wi.
[†] V. 5. Perfecta est, teteleiwtai. This must only be understood of charity so perfected as to be true charity, but not a perfect degree of charity.
Ver. 7-8. An old commandment . . . . and again, a new commandment. He means the commandment of charity, or of the love of God and the love of our neighbour. This he calls both an old and a new precept. It may be called old, not only as being a precept of the law of nature, and always obligatory, but because S. John and the other apostles had delivered it to them long ago, i.e. when these persons were first converted. It may also be called a new precept, S. John recommending it anew to them in this epistle, and declaring it to be enjoined in a particular manner by our Saviour Christ, after it had been misconstrued and neglected, especially as it regards our neighbour, that is, every one without exception; so that if any one hate another, it is in vain that he pretends to walk in the light of the gospel. Wi.
--- A new commandment; viz. the commandment of love, which was given in the old law, but was renewed and extended by Christ. See John xiii. 33. Ch.
Ver. 12. I write to you, little children, &c. S. Aug. and divers others think that by these different words, he only means Christians more or less instructed and advanced in the knowledge and practice of the Christian faith. Others expound it with a regard also to their different ages and advancement in years. Wi.
Ver. 15. If any man love the world, this wicked world, or any thing in it, as pleasures, riches, honours, so that his affections be more upon these then upon God, the charity of the Father (or of God) is not in him. Wi.
Ver. 16-17. All that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, under which is comprehended all that pleaseth the senses, or the concupiscence of the eyes; i.e. a longing after such things which enter by the eyes, as of riches in gold and silver, in apparel, in houses and palaces, train and equipage, &c. curiosity as to vain arts and sciences; or, the pride of life, as to honours, dignities, and preferments. But the world passeth away, and all these things that belong to it.
--- He that doth the will of God, abideth for ever, with God in heaven. Wi.
Ver. 18. It is the last hour. That is, according to the common interpretation, the last age of the world, from the coming of Christ to the day of judgment, and the end of the world, which S. Paul calls the end and consummation of ages. Heb. ix. 26.
--- And as you have heard that antichrist (the great antichrist) cometh, or is to come in this last age: now there are already many antichrists; i.e. as the word signifies, many adversaries to Christ, who are forerunners of the great and last antichrist. Wi.
--- Many antichrists; that is, many heretics, enemies of Christ and his Church, and forerunners of the great antichrist. Ch.
--- S. Cyprian says all are called antichrists that have divided themselves from the charity and unity of the Catholic Church. Ep. lxxvii. ad Magnum.
--- Whereby we know that it is the last hour, it being foretold that many false prophets should rise in the latter days. Mat. xxiv. 11. &c. Wi.
Ver. 19. They were not of us, true and profitable members; though it can scarce be doubted but that some of them, at least for some time, truly believed: and by their going off, God was pleased to make it manifest that they were not of his faithful members. Such were Simon Magus, Cerinthus, Ebion, Nicolas of Antioch, &c. Wi.
--- They, &c. That is, they were not solid, steadfast, genuine Christians, otherwise they would have remained in the Church. Ch.
--- The true note or mark of heresy, is the going out of or leaving the Catholic Church. God permitteth some to go out, that the true and tried faithful may be known.
Ver. 20. You have an unction from the holy one. You are sufficiently instructed by the grace and spirit of God against such false teachers. Wi.
--- An unction, &c. That is, grace and wisdom from the Holy Ghost. Ch.
--- And you know all things, as to what you ought to believe and practise, and therefore I have not written to you as to ignorant persons. Wi.
--- The true children of God's Church, remaining in unity, under the guidance of their lawful pastors, partake of the grace of the Holy Ghost, promised to the Church and her pastors; and have in the Catholic Church all necessary knowledge and instruction, so as to have no need to seek it elsewhere, since it can be only found in that society of which they are members. Ch.
Ver. 22-23. He who denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist: is in a special manner an adversary of Christ and the Christian religion, when he denies Jesus to be the Messias, or to have been from eternity the true Son of God.
--- He who denieth him to be the Son, neither hath he the Father. He who denies either of these truths denieth both. He who denies the Son of God to be the eternal Son, denies the Father to be the eternal Father. Wi.
Ver. 24. Let that (faith) which you have heard from the beginning, abide in you: when you received the Christian faith, and were baptized in the name of the three divine Persons. The promise which was then made to you, was life everlasting. Wi.
Ver. 27. You have no need, &c. You want not to be taught by any of these men, who, under pretence of imparting more knowledge to you, seek to seduce you, (v. 26) since you are sufficiently taught already, and have all knowledge and grace in the Church, with the unction of the Holy Ghost, which these new teachers have no share in. Ch.
--- His unction teacheth you concerning all things. Unction here signifies the doctrine which they received together with the Holy Ghost or Spirit of God; in which he exhorts them to remain, as being sufficient for their instruction, and to make them avoid the new teachers of false doctrine. Wi.