Ernst Hermann von Dryander.

A commentary on the first epistle of St. John in the form of addresses online

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blossomed in the heart, and when the supremest
pledge of that love has been realized in the vision
of the Cross of His Son, Jesus Christ.

' He that acknowledgeth the Son hath the
Father also.' Whosoever has learned to recognise
in the holy example of Jesus Christ the ideal of
his life, whose conscience strikes in harmonious
accord with the Word of God, and whose heart is
intent upon obedience to His will— to him is
revealed a new relationship to God ; he gains ' the
promise that He hath promised us, even eternal
life.' But this man knows too that if he silenced
the voice of conscience and suppressed the yearn-
ings of his heart he would be fighting against the
truth — he would be making Jesus Christ ' a liar.'
Hence the impressiveness of the apostolic admoni-
tion : ' Let that therefore abide in you which ye
have heard from the beginning ' ! And let it
therefore be for us all a call to holy resolution !
We must know definitely how we stand, under
whose banner we are fighting. Just as Moses
cried to the undecided ones among the people,
' Who is on the Lord's side ? let him come unto
me,'^ so let those be ranged together who are

^ Exod. xxxii. 26,

6—2



84 The Last Hour

Christ's, and who seek their salvation in Him.
Whether the ancient Greeks were right, when they
insisted that every citizen should belong to one or
other of the political parties, may be a matter
open to question ; but an undecided neutrality in
the presence of Jesus Christ is an impossibility.

* He that is not with Me is against Me.'^ Let
us then abide faithfully in Him. Greater than
all worldly wisdom is that of the Catechism,
where belief is expressed in ' God the Son, who
redeemed me and all mankind.'- Let us continue
true to Him, following in His footsteps, guided
by His Word, lifting up our eyes to Him who is
the Author and Finisher of our Faith.

' Little children, it is the last hour !' Is it thy
last hour ? Who can tell ? He who leaves
undone the duty of to-day may not have the
chance of doing it to-morrow ! We may not
dally with time. Up, then ! make choice to-day
with firm resolve.

^ St. Luke xi. 23.

- In the original the Lutheran catechism is quoted : ' Mein Herr,
der mich verlorenen und verdammlen Menschen erloset hat.'



VII.

ABIDE IN HIM.

' And now, little children, abide in Him ; that, when He shall
appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him
at His coming. If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that
everyone that doeth righteousness is born of Him. Behold, what
manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should
be called the sons of God : therefore the world knoweth us not,
because it knew not Him. Beloved, now are we the sons of God,
and it doth not yet appear what we shall be : but we know that,
when He shall appear, we shall be like Him ; for we shall see Him
as He is. And everyone that hath this hope in Him purifieth
himself, even as He is pure.' — i John ii. 28-iii. 3.

THE Apostle's words carry us into the pure
atmosphere of the sanctuary ; contrast
herewith the restlessness of the outer
world, the rush of work, the anxiety of business,
the whirl of society and its incessant clash of
opposing interests ! The Apostle sees before him
in his mind's eye his little flock, which has for-
gotten the outside world, in order to devote itself
wholly to the worship of the Father, Who in His
inexpressible love has made them His children,
and they abide in the blessed hope of His promise,
and prepare themselves for the day of Jesus Christ,
by severing all carnal ties whereby they are
attached to the world. And in order that nothing



86 Abide in Him

be lost of the grace and gifts of God, St. John,
urged by holy love, and convinced of the near
approach of the last hour, cries out : ' And now,
little children, abide in Him!'

I can fully realize the feelings of the man who
understands these words to mean that he is to be
transported into another world, into a world
which has no connection, no point of contact
with his world, wherein he lives and moves. I
can also realize his feelings when he comes to
the conclusion that such a pure, supramundane
religion cannot be of any use to him, cannot give
him strength and help in his daily trials and
troubles. It causes me no surprise when the
world scoffs and shrugs its shoulders at a gather-
ing such as we can imagine St. John to have been
addressing, for did not St. John himself say,
' The world knoweth you not, for it knoweth not
Him ' ?

And yet, dear readers, let us not deceive our-
selves, for it is just in this essential supramundane
character of the Gospel that its whole strength
lies. Only that faith which recognises another,
a better world can aid us in resisting this. Only
that religion can give us strength, and exercise an
influence over our lives, which seeks its inspiration
from the holy sanctuary of God on high. The
only real protection we have from the world and
its ever-changing scenes is in withdrawing our-
selves into the secret stillness of God's presence,
far from the world and its noisy crowd. And He



Abide in Him 87

in Whom this holier world has become visible,
and Who reveals it to us, is just that Saviour,
Jesus Christ, of whom St. John says, ' Abide in
Him !' If that higher world is not to be closed to
us, if that sanctuary yonder is to give us strength
for our daily task, to transfigure us, to keep us in
the fellowship of God, then let us take heed to the
Apostle's cry :

* Little children, abide in Him !'

I.

There are certain verses in the Bible which
have become especially endeared to all Christians.
This is one of them : ' Behold, what manner of
love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we
should be called the sons of God.'

What is it which makes these words so soul-
stirring that, for example, native Africans have
described the Bible simply as the book which con-
tains them ; that a Hindoo, so touched by them,
wished the translation into his own tongue to
run : ' Behold what manner of love the Father
hath bestowed upon us, that we should be per-
mitted to kiss His feet ' ?

The reason is, that the actual fact of which the
Apostle here speaks is of the most vital import-
ance to every single human being, without any
exception. St. John does not merely utter the
dictum of a sage, nor merely the great thought of
a thinker, nor merely a profound axiom which the
seeker after truth has with infinite pains brought



88 Abide in Him

to light, but a blessed experience, so stupendous,
so overwhelming, that his venerable hand seems
to tremble as he writes it.

And then, again, how did St. John gain this
holy experience ? Not while pursuing his voca-
tion on the beach at Bethsaida, not during those
days when he followed the Baptist along Jordan's
banks. He learned it at the side of his Saviour,
from whom he heard the words : ' He that hath
seen me hath seen the Father.'^ Yes, he realized
it when he himself wrote : * But as many as
received Him, to them gave He power to become
the sons of God.'^

Christians, the privilege of being ' children of
God,' concerning which St. John speaks here,
does not rest upon the fact of creation, by means
of which our heavenly Father gave us life and
breath. We only see these children as those who
have marred the divine image which was im-
pressed on them at creation, as those who quarrel
and fight among themselves — worse, who in mad
rebellion raise their impotent hand against the
Father who called them into being. No, the
privilege of being the children of God rests upon
the fact of Redemption. God does not forsake
those whom He has once created in His own
image.

But since even the Divine counsels could not
stem the course of human sin, therefore God, in
His infinite love for this apostate, ungrateful, sin-

1 St. John xiv. 9. - St. John i. 12.



Abide in Him 89

ful, perishing world, spared not His only-begotten
Son. The eternal Word became incarnate and
dwelt among us, in order that humanity, born in
sin, might partake of a new birth through the
Spirit of God !

We are called the children of God ; thus does
St. John emphasize the truth that this is the free
gift of the grace of God, for He has raised us from
the depth of misery and woe to the glorious height
of Divine childhood. But God gives no name,
no privilege without its essential reality. ' We
are the sons of God,' adds St. John. Truly, not
only are we ' called ' so, but we ' are ' the sons of
God : ' Of His own will begat He us with the
word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-
fruits of His creatures,'^ writes St. James. By
the power of His grace, the sign and impress of
God's children is given to us. Just as Christ,
' the firstborn among many brethren,''-' bears in
Himself the exact image of the Father, so should
we, born by His power and through the fellowship
of the Father's Spirit, bear in ourselves the
Father's form and likeness.

An alteration is to be brought about in us, a
change, whereby new powers, new love, new
motives, will be called into being. Just for this
reason the Apostle continues : ' Therefore the
world knoweth us not, because it knew not Him.'
How should the world discover the likeness of
God in His children when they know not God

^ St. Jas. i. 18. 2 Rom. viii. 29.



90 Abide in Him

whom they resemble ? How should the world
have an eye for the beauty of God's children when
they are blind to the glory of God Himself ? And
how can the children of God expect recognition,
admiration, or success in a world which can
neither understand nor appreciate the glorious
ideal, the heavenly goal, to which they press
forward ?

But if the world knows not these children, thank
God He knows them ; they are life of His life ;
they are fashioned by His hand ; the most insig-
nificant of them is the object of the Father's
thoughts, of His redeeming love in Christ Jesus.
They are called the ' children of God,' they are
the children of God. Oh, heavenly love ! This
is the unspeakable act of mercy, in presence of
which St. John bows his head in holy worship ;
this is the blessed experience of that venerable
centenarian !

And the more deeply this blessed thought stirs
his soul, the more fervently, earnestly, does he
urge, admonish, and plead : ' And now, little
children, abide in Him!' For without this abiding
in Him, His love will be in vain. Only if we
willingly suffer ourselves to abide in Him can His
supreme act of love attain the great object of its
agonizing endeavour.

Why, even in the world ingratitude is con-
demned ; but what ingratitude is it if we refuse
that Divine mercy which was bestowed on us



Abide in Him 91

before we were born, which is enthroned in the
heart of Jesus Christ, which came to seek us
through inexpressible humihation, and raised us
to the holy dignity of His children ? Abide in
Him ! The branch cannot bear fruit if severed
from the tree ; only if we abide in Him, who
opened for us the way to the Father, Who imparts
power to those who believe in Him to become
children of God ; only if we abide in Him, can we
understand, can we realize, these words : ' Behold
what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on
us, that we should be called the sons of God.'

II.

And there is yet more ; only if we abide in Him
will that Hope be ours which God has revealed
to His children.

For if we are children — and of this we can have
no doubt — ' it doth not yet appear what we shall
be,' i.e., it has not yet been made apparent. The
children of God still wander about on earth in
alien garb ; they are like the prince's son who
travels incognito. And not that alone. Every
day do they receive fresh wounds, the result of
their unceasing battle with sin and the world.
In their own persons they bear the scars of sin ;
again and again they sink down, faint through the
unending strife. And though the blessed certainty
of Divine childhood flashes upon them with
renewed brilliance during holy hours, as they
kneel at God's altar, and when they bow their



92 Abide in Him

head in earnest prayer, yet, who has not felt
tormenting doubts, who has not Hved through
dark and weary hours, who has not experienced
the power of the world's allurements, that sudden
slackening of the will in presence of overpowering
temptation ? Who among us has not suffered
acute humiliation in realizing the painful incon-
gruity between the dignity of Divine childhood and
the weak waywardness of the child?

So the Apostle lifts up our eyes to the picture
of a beautiful, dazzling hope : ' it doth not yet
appear what we shall be.' We dare not seek to
portray the form or figure of those in the world of
the hereafter. Is it not said, ' it doth not yet
appear '? But one thing the Apostle proclaims,
clearly and without hesitation : ' we know that
when He shall appear, we shall be like Him ; for
we shall see Him as He is.'

We shall see Him ! Ah, fellow-Christians, we
see Him now ; in spirit we see Him as He appears
in the holy Gospels, in the writings of His dis-
ciples ; we see Him — in spirit — among the ' two
or three gathered together in His name ';^ we see
Him in spirit among us in the Blessed Sacrament.
But what we see on this earth — alas ! what is it
but a mere shadow ? — is a reflection in a clouded
mirror ; we see only the faint glimmer of a far-
distant light, as it plays upon the dusky features
of weak, sinful man. But if we abide in Him, in
His word, in His footsteps, believing, though faint

^ St. Matt, xviii. 20.



Abide in Him 93

and poor, touching though it be but the hem of
His garment, then ' we shall see Him as He is.'
Canst thou conceive, though but distantly, what
this means ? Picture to thyself a man — I know not
whether thou hast ever met such an one — whose
earnestness, prayerfulness, peace, unselfishness,
yes, whose very cheerfulness, forced upon thee
the conviction, ' This man is truly a Christian !'
Think of this man ever at thy side, and thou thy-
self ever under his watchful care ; would not un-
ceasing light and peace flow out from him, would
not a holy influence hallow thy life ? And yet
this man would be but a sinner, like thyself!

And now imagine thy Lord Himself at thy side,
encircled with the halo of the Father's glory, and
picture thine own heart opened wide to receive
the ocean of light and love which are inseparably
His. Oh, how thy whole being would yearn to
receive within itself His holiness and His love,
and the hungering and thirsting heart would be
satiated with the stream of Divine love. The
vision of this should of itself bring the Apostle's
words to fulfilment : ' we know that when He
shall appear we shall be like Him.'

And how otherwise shall this hope lift up the
heart of man, how otherwise can it fill our life —
not merely as a passing emotion, but as a lasting
power — except in actual obedience to the Apostle's
admonition : ' Little children, abide in Him '?

Only the man who finds in another's society



94 Abide in Him

the real happiness of his Hfe will care to continue
in his company. Only he who has found susten-
ance for his inner life in the fellowship of Christ,
in His words, and in following His footsteps — that
is, only he who 'abides in Him,' will recognise the
sum of his delight in the hope that ' we shall be
like Him.'

And would ye have a certain sign that this is
your hope too ? Then mark this : no fleeting
pious mood, no passing wish born of mere emo-
tion, will be a pledge thereof, but only the lasting,
enduring, unending, ' abiding in Him.'

Here is the question upon which all depends :
Are our shortcomings, our faults, our sins, a
matter of sorrow and shame to us, or do we
lightly regard them, and even take secret pleasure
in committing them ? As long as a man plays
with sin, this hope has no meaning for him ; as
long as his sins are a matter of indifference to
him, the thought of abiding in Christ cannot
move his heart, for Christ is pure, and that which
is otherwise cannot abide in Him. When living
hope abounds, when man * abides in Him,' then
there is the power which sanctifies and glorifies
hfe.

III.

' And everyone that hath this hope in him
purifieth himself, even as he (Christ) is pure.' It
is not exactly a command which the Apostle here
gives, it is more ; it is the necessary consequence



Abide in Him 95

of what has gone before. Whosoever does not
experience this inevitable result of abiding in
Christ has formed a false hope. If thou art not
in earnest in the daily purifying of thyself, then
thou hast no right to comfort thyself with the
hope just spoken of. Christianity is above all
things a religion of holiness — sanctification.

Whoever does not accept and realize a high
ideal of morality, because it is too hard, may not
look for comfort or promises ; and if he, never-
theless, still counts upon these, as many do, he
is deceiving himself. * If ye know that He is
righteous, ye know that everyone that doeth
righteousness is born of Him,' says St. John.^
Only he can be a child of God in whom, no
matter how feebly and faintly, the traces of the
Divine likeness glimmer, in whose outer and inner
life is reflected the goodness and purity of God.
And no appeal to grace can relieve us of this
duty ; much rather, the greater the love which
uplifted us, the greater is the obligation to cleanse
ourselves from all which would inevitably separate
us from it.

My brother, thou who wouldst live by the grace
of God, who called thee to be His child, thou who
desirest to die in the blessed hope of seeing Him
as He is, I ask thee in His presence : Dost thou
purify thyself, ' even as He is pure '?

That is the simple issue upon which all depends.
However many questions may rise to the lips as

^ I John ii. 29.



96 Abide in Him



to what He is like in Whom we hope, how His
appearing will be brought about, how our own
being will become altered, how our soul will
develop in its increase of knowledge — to all these
there is no answer. * It hath not yet appeared,'
says the Apostle. One thing, however, is abso-
lutely certain : ' He is pure,' and we must become
pure if we would abide in Him. Only the pure
in heart can behold Him.^ Without sanctification
shall no man see the Lord. Every impurity that
cleaves to us, every delight in the unclean, carnal
world of sin, is of necessity an insurmountable
barrier which separates us from Him.

So again let it be asked : Thou that hast this
hope, dost thou purify thyself? Or does the
thought terrify thee that thou shouldest be wholly
pure as He is pure ? Art thou affrighted at the
thought of what it will cost thee to ' cut off' thy
sin — thy sin to which thy soul clings — ambition,
avarice, lust, hate, whatsoever it may be ? Dost
thou daily purify thyself in the presence of Him
Who did no sin, 'Who, when He was reviled,
reviled not again, when He suffered. He threatened
not'?^ Dost thou purify thy lips from lying and
slander, whether by word or deed, thine eyes from
every lustful look, thine ears from taking a delight
in hearing whatever is hateful and uncharitable ?
Dost thou daily and with penitence examine thy
heart, that seat of all uncleanness ? Dost thou
take for thy help and guide that which is indis-

1 St. Matt. V. 8. - I St. Pet. ii. 23.



Abide in Him 97

pensable for a thorough purifying of self, namely,
the necessary time to see thyself in the infallible
mirror of Holy Writ, that thou mayest learn to
know thyself, thou who in the whirl of life art
become a stranger to thyself? And dost thou
pray in holy single-heartedness : ' Make me a
clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit
within me '?^

Oh, my friends, whatever the answer may be
to these questions — and few there are who can
reply otherwise than : ' Enter not into judgment
with Thy servant ''^ — this much is certain : such
purification can only really take place if we abide
in Him. Who is it that makes the conscience
sensitive ? Who holds the world, with its desires
and strivings, in holy restraint ? Who is it that
cleanses the heart from its stain day by day ?
Who is it that opens wide His sanctuary for us
to enter ? Who is it that teaches us to pray as
we ought ? Who is it that spreads His holy
table, whence grace and pardon flow ? Who is
it that vouchsafes to the weak will power to resist
the evil ? None other than our Saviour, in Whom
we must abide, and Who would impress His image
upon us, and make us pure as children, so that
we may become like our Father.

These thoughts impart new meaning, new sig-
nificance, to the words of the Apostle : ' And now,
little children, abide in Him ; that when He shall
appear, ye may have confidence, and not be
1 rs. li. 10, P.B.V. - Ps. cxliii. 2, P.B.V.



98 Abide in Him



ashamed before Him at His coming.' And which,
of us knows how near the hour of this ' coming '
is?

I return, for one moment, to the opening
thought of this chapter. Can it really be that
those who have forsaken the world, and dedicated
their lives to God, should thereby become useless
to the world, with its practical ideas and everyday
business ? Might it not rather be that these are
just the firm and strong personalities which this
inconstant, unstable world requires ? Men who
have their conscience clear and are faithful to
God, who, fearless of what the world may say,
call vulgarity, impurity, and iniquity by their
right names — men who, with pure unselfishness,
bring into this wrangling, quarrelling world the
power of love, and who by so doing are preaching
Christianity to those who know nothing of it, and
who yet cannot do without it — such men may the
God of grace make us all !

Let us walk through the world, watching, as
wise servants, for the approach of their Lord ;
* that when He shall appear, we may have con-
fidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His
coming.'



VIII.

•WHOSOEVER ABIDETH IN HIM SINNETH NOT.'

' Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law : for sin
is the transgression of the law. And ye know that He was mani-
fested to take away our sins ; and in Him is no sin. Whosoever
abideth in Him sinneth not : whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him,
neither known Him. Little children, let no man deceive you : he
that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. He
that committeth sin is of the devil ; for the devil sinneth from the
beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that
He might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of
God doth not commit sin ; for His seed remaineth in him : and he
cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God
are manifest, and the children of the devil.' — i John iii. 4-10".

DO Christians, in their view of Hfe, in their
moral excellence, and in the unselfish-
ness of their love, stand on a higher level
than those who are not Christians ? Is their
ethical standard a more exalted one, not only as
compared with that decaying paganism which
St. John saw around him in Ephesus, but also in
face of the more refined state of society of to-day —
albeit that society is indebted to Christianity for
all that is good in it ?

It is well-known that this question is not only
actively discussed, but is also frequently answered
in the negative. The world delights in pointing

7—2



loo 'Whosoever abideth in Him

out the shortcomings and weaknesses of which
Christians are often guilty ; it instances, with ill-
concealed glee, cases of gross misdemeanour
which from time to time stain the lives of the
pious. It is denied that the moral action of a
man has anything to do with his belief, or — as it
is sometimes expressed — that morality depends
upon religion, or religion on morality. And, as a
natural consequence, it is also denied that the
Christian faith can exercise any moral influence
u_pon those who do not believe in it. We may
gladly concede this much, that it is exceedingly
difficult to decide a question of this kind upon
the uncertain data supplied by isolated cases of
misdemeanour. As a matter of fact, however,
the question has long since been withdrawn from
the domain of argument and doubt. It is
answ ered, and for us who believe the Apostle and
his words, it is definitely and finally answered by
the pronouncement which forms the central
point of our passage : ' Whosoever abideth in
Him [i.e. Christ] sinneth not.' For surely this
is the aim and object of the whole work of
Redemption, that Christ may overcome sin in
them that are His. The revelation of God's
glory and power is consummated in this, that


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Online LibraryErnst Hermann von DryanderA commentary on the first epistle of St. John in the form of addresses → online text (page 6 of 16)