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The First Epistle Of John by Augustus Neander

1 John ii. 10

Hence John says on the other hand: |He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him.| This characteristic token of brotherly love, must show whether we are abiding in the light. He who manifests in his life such a self-sacrificing love, reveals therein the power of divine light, whereby he has been made free from the former darkness of selfishness. As the life of Christ was the essence of all-sacrificing love, so fellowship with him is reflected in a similar life of love. We learn from the testimony of the Church Fathers, the Apologists of Christianity in the first centuries, that even the heathen saw in this fellowship of brotherly love the unmistakeable characteristic of the new christian life. |They love one another, even before they know each other!| were the words applied to christians, distinguishing them from the heathen world as governed by hate. Of one in whom. brotherly love thus prevails John says, that with him there is no stumbling. This might be understood as follows, -- a view which seems clearly to be at the basis of Luther's translation, -- |he who is so heavenly-minded, gives to another no cause of stumbling, no offence.| And this is without doubt true, that the love which has only the best good of others in view, and is willing to sacrifice all rather than subject another to what is hurtful, will avoid everything which might in any way offend his moral feeling as a religious being, and thus become a means of spiritual injury to him. We need only call to mind what Paul, in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, says of christian love towards the weak. But although the words, taken by themselves, might be so understood, yet the consistency of the figurative representation, and the contrast with the following verse, requires another sense. The image is that of a man walking in the light, who is therefore safe from all danger of stumbling or falling. Accordingly it means: There is with him no stumbling, he himself stumbles not. As one who walks in the light of day sees his path clearly, and avoids everything over which he might stumble and fall; so does he who walks in the light of the spirit, pass with secure step along life's way. In this divine light he beholds the goal of his course, and the path which leads thither, clearly before him; and he is able to avoid everything which might be prejudicial to the interests of his christian life, to his salvation. Love, in John's view, is that which gives this security to the believer; Love is the soul of this walking in the light. Love bestows that true clearness of spiritual vision, by which the believer pursues his way securely to the goal; the circumspection, the true wisdom, necessary to shun every obstacle and danger in the accomplishment of the life-task which God has set before him. Love bestows that ready instinct, which knows at every instant how to turn circumstances to their right use, to distinguish in all cases between right and wrong. Love imparts true repose, wards off the influence of passion which would disturb the calm judgment of the spirit, keeps the soul steadily towards its one object, and secures it from all distracting influences. Thus, in every respect, is verified the Apostle's assertion, that he who loves his brother cannot stumble.

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