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9. SOME SPECIAL IDEAS OF ABIDING VALUE.

What we have said may have suggested that the Fourth Gospel with the Epistles of Jn. met the needs of its age in a very successful way, but hardly gives us anything that is of value for all times. Certainly, the abiding worth of the Gospel is not to be found where people seek it, and where the claim of the book itself, that it is a history of the life and work of Jesus, implies that they must seek it. Nevertheless, it is seen to be all the greater in other respects.

If the authors of the Gospel and the First Epistle were not thinkers in the strict sense of the term, but have taken up philosophical ideas simply in order to defend their own religion, yet by their declarations, “God is Spirit” (Jn. iv. 24: that is to say, God is of spiritual nature; not, God is a spirit) and “God is Love” (1 Jn. iv. 8, 16), they have expressed the nature of God with a precision which cannot be surpassed. Their leaning towards Gnosticism has given them other ideas of abiding value: a deep-rooted feeling of dependence upon God (Jn. iii. 27; pp. 149 f., 159 f.), and that interest in knowledge and truth which no religion can ever dispense with. And yet, at the same time, the onesidedness to which this might lead is obviated by the fact that what is made the test of knowing God is the keeping of his commandments (1 Jn. ii. 3).

Equally deep is the truth hidden in the saying of Jesus (Jn. vii. 17): “If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God, or whether I speak from myself.” The context shows that by the will of God, which is to be kept, is meant, not the command to live a moral life, but nothing else than that teaching of 245Jesus which consists in declaring that people must believe in his divine origin. They will find this to be true as soon as they humbly accept it. Whether this statement is correct is another question. But it carries us farther than its application in this passage. It contains a criterion which is true in all cases and will show how man, to whom the knowledge whether a thing is of God has been made so difficult, can learn in another way, by trial, by a provisional submission of his will, whether it will satisfy him to such an extent that he can rest assured that it is divine.

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