Ver. 1. That Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messias, the Redeemer of the world, is born of God, is made his adoptive son by his grace in baptism. Wi.
--- Is born of God; that is, is justified, and become a child of God by baptism; which is also to be understood, provided the belief of this fundamental article of the Christian faith be accompanied with all the other conditions, which, by the word of God and his appointment, are also required for justification; such as a general belief of all that God has revealed and promised; hope, love, repentance, and a sincere disposition to keep God's holy law and commandments. Ch.
--- Loveth him† that begot; i.e. the eternal Father.
--- Loveth him also who was born of him; i.e. loveth him who is his only begotten and eternal Son. Wi.
[†] V. 1. Eum qui genuit, ton gennhsanta, generantem; which, in English, may be translated, the Father.
Ver. 2. In this we know that we love the children of God, (that is, all men, and especially the faithful, who are made his adoptive children) when we love God, and keep his commandments, for these two branches of charity, the love of God and of our neighbour, are inseparable: the one is known and proved by the other. Wi.
Ver. 3. And his commandments are not heavy; not burdensome. Not but that they comprehend what seems hard to human frailty, and especially to men carried away with the love of vanities in this world, who think it hard to comply with Christ's doctrine of self-denials, of renouncing their inclinations, of suffering death, sooner than to sin against God, or to renounce their faith: but the love of God, and the promises of an eternal happiness in the next life, with the assistances which God gives them, make the yoke of Christ sweet, and his burden light. See Mat. xi. 30. How different is this doctrine from that of those late heretics, who pretend that God's commandments are impossible, even to just men, when they employ all their endeavours. See the first proposition of Jansenius, and this heresy of Calvin condemned by the council of Trent, sess. 6, cap. xi. can. 18. Wi.
Ver. 4. This is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith. That is, a lively faith, working by charity, makes a man victorious over the greatest temptations, and over all the adversaries of his salvation. Wi.
--- Our faith; Not a bare speculative or dead faith, but a faith working by charity. Gal. v. 6. Ch.
Ver. 6. Came by water and blood. The sense seems to be, by water, with which he ordered every one to be baptized and made Christians; 2ndly, by his blood shed on the cross for our redemption. Wi.
--- Blood: not only to wash away our sins by the water of baptism, but by his own blood. Ch.
--- And it is the Spirit that testifieth that Christ† is the truth. By the Spirit, which is not here called the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Ghost, as in the next verse, is either meant the Spirit or soul of Christ, which dying he recommended into the hands of his Father, and which shewed that he was truly man, against Cerinthus, and some heretics of those times; or else it may signify the spirit of grace, given in this world to the faithful, in the same sense as S. Paul says, (Rom. viii. 16.) that the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our Spirit, that we are the sons of God: and of which may be understood what is said here, (v. 10.) He that believeth in the Son of God, hath the testimony of God in himself. Wi.
[†] V. 6. Quoniam Christus est veritas; in most Greek copies is now read, oti to pneuma esti h alhqeia, quoniam Spiritus est veritas.
Ver. 7. There are three that give testimony in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one: i.e. one in nature, in substance, and in all perfections, in the same sense as when Christ himself said, (Jo. x. 30.) I and the Father are one, or one thing. The Socinians object that this verse is wanting in many Greek manuscripts; and even Erasmus in one edition, and Mr. Simon in his Critics, have questioned it, or rejected it, as a false reading, but without any sufficient proofs and grounds, as hath been shewn by many learned Catholics, and also by Protestant writers, who receive in their translations this verse as canonical. It is easy to account for the omission of this verse; for as both the seventh and eighth verse begin and end with the same words, this gave occasion to the oversight and omission of the transcribers, whereas it is not credible that such a whole verse could be added. And that it was only by the mistake and oversight of transcribers may further appear, because we find part of the seventh verse, to wit, and these three are one, cited by Tertul. l. cont. Praxeam. c. xxiii. p. 515. Ed. Rig. and twice by Cyprian, Epist. 73. ad Jubaianum. p. 125. Ed. Rig. in the Oxford Edition, p. 310. and in his Treatise de Unit. Ecclesiæ, p. 181. Ed. Rigal. and in the Oxford Ed. p. 79, where also Dr. Fell defends this verse of S. John to be genuine. Tertul. and Cyp. wrote long before the dispute with the Arians. The Socinians also object that this passage is not brought by S. Athanasius and some other fathers against the Arians, which they could scarce have omitted had they read this verse, but this only proves that this omission had happened in some MSS. in their time, or, as some conjecture, that the Arians had corrupted some copies. S. Fulgentius made use of it against the Arians, and also others about that time. See the Benedictines of S. Maur against Mr. Simon, in the first tome of S. Jerom, p. 1670. Both Catholics and Protestants, after a diligent examination, have received this verse, which is found in the best MSS. See Greek Test. at Amsterdam, an. 1711. The three divine Persons, who are present everywhere, though said to be in heaven, gave testimony concerning Christ. The Father by a voice from heaven, both at his baptism (Mat. iii. 17.) and at his transfiguration, (Mat. xvii. 5.) saying: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him:" and also by all the miracles wrought by the same power of all the three divine Persons. 2. The Son testified to the Jews on many occasions, that he was sent from God, that he was the only Son of God, that he and his Father were one, &c. as in the annot. on John iii. The Holy Ghost confirmed the same, particularly by coming down upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost, and inspiring them to teach the same doctrine concerning Jesus Christ. Wi.
--- An express proof of the three distinct persons and unity of nature and essence in the blessed Trinity.
Ver. 8. And there are three that give testimony on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three are one.† This is a repetition of what was before said, v. 6, to be expounded in the same manner. But when it is added, these three are one, the sense is, that they witness one and the same truth. Wi.
--- As the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, all bear witness to Christ's divinity; so the spirit, which he yielded up, crying out with a loud voice upon the cross, and the water and blood that issued from his side, bear witness to his humanity, and are one; that is, all agree in one testimony. Ch.
[†] V. 8. Hi tres unum sunt. Divers Greek copies, eiV en eisin, in unum sunt: and so the Prot. translation hath, and these three agree in one; though in the seventh verse they follow the MSS. which there have, are one, kai oi treiV en eisi.
Ver. 10. He that believeth not the Son, maketh him (God) a liar, by refusing to believe the testimonies given by the three divine Persons, that Jesus was the Messias and the true Son of God, by whom eternal life is obtained and promised to all that comply with his doctrine. In him we have also this lively confidence, that we shall obtain whatever we ask, according to his will, when we ask what is for our good with perseverance and in the manner we ought. And this we know and have experience of, by having obtained the petitions that we have made. Wi.
Ver. 16. A sin which is not unto death . . . . and life shall be given to him. It is hard to determine what S. John here calls a sin which is not unto death, and a sin which is unto death. The difference cannot be the same as betwixt sins that are called venial and mortal; for he says, that if a man pray for his brother who commits a sin that is not unto death, life shall be given to him: therefore such a one had before lost the life of grace, and been guilty of what is commonly called a mortal sin. And when he speaks of a sin that is unto death, and adds these words, I do not say that any one should ask for that sin, it cannot be supposed that S. John would say this of every mortal sin, but only of some heinous sins which are very seldom remitted, because such sinners very seldom repent. By a sin therefore which is not unto death, interpreters commonly understand a wilful apostacy from the faith, and from the known truth, when a sinner hardened by his own ingratitude becomes deaf to all admonitions, will do nothing for himself, but runs on to final impenitence. Nor yet does S. John say that such a sin is never remitted, or cannot be remitted, but only has these words, I do not say that any one should ask for the remission of that sin; that is, though we must pray for all sinners whatsoever, yet man cannot pray for such sinners with such a confidence of obtaining always their petitions, as S. John said before, v. 14. Whatever exposition we follow on this verse, our faith teaches us from the holy Scriptures, that God desires not the death of any sinner, but that he be converted and live. See Ezech. xxxiii. 11. Though men's "sins be as the scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow." Isaias i. 18. It is the will of God that every one come to the knowledge of truth and be saved. See John vi. 40. There is no sin so great but which God is willing to forgive, and has left power in his Church to remit the most enormous sins; so that no sinner need despair of pardon, nor will any sinner perish but by his own fault. Wi.
--- A sin unto death. Some understand this of final impenitence, or of dying in mortal sin, which is the only sin that never can be remitted; but, it is probable, he may also comprise under this name the sin of apostacy from the faith, and some other such henious sins as are seldom and hardly remitted: and therefore he gives little encouragement to such as pray for these sinners, to expect what they ask. Ch.
Ver. 17. All iniquity† is sin. The sense here is, that sin is always an injury or an injustice done to God; but though every sin implies such an injury and an offence against God, yet there are different degrees in such injuries, which are not always such an injustice as S. John calls the sin unto death. Wi.
[†] V. 17. Omnis iniquitas, pasa adikia, properly injustitia. It is not here anomia, as C. iii. 4.
Ver. 18. Sinneth not. See the annotation on chap. iii. 6. &c. Ch.
--- The generation† of God preserveth him, (i.e. the grace of adoption, as long as it remains in the soul; see C. iii. 9.) and the wicked one (i.e. the devil) toucheth him not. Wi.
[†] V. 18. Sed generatio Dei: Some MSS. genesiV; others, o gennhqeiV ek tou Qeou. qui genitus est ex Deo.
Ver. 19. And the whole world is seated in wickedness;† i.e. a great part of the world. It may also signify, is under the wicked one; meaning the devil, who is elsewhere called the prince of this world, that is, of all the wicked. Jo. xii. 31. Wi.
[†] V. 19. In maligno positus est, en tw ponhrw keitai.
Ver. 20. And may be in his true Son.† This is the true God, and eternal life. Which words are a clear proof of Christ's divinity, and as such made use of by the ancient Fathers.
[†] V. 20. In vero Filio ejus, hic est verus Deus, en tw aleqinw uiw autou, outoV estin o aleqinoV QeoV, with the Greek article. S. Athan. S. Amb. S. Hilar. S. Aug. S. Cyr. by this sentence prove Christ truly God. See Petavius, l. 2. de Trin. c. ix. num. 8.
Ver. 21. Keep yourselves from idols. An admonition to the new converted Christians, lest, conversing with heathens and idolaters, they might fall back into the sin of idolatry, which may be the sin unto death here mentioned by S. John. Wi.