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The First Epistle of John speaks in most beautiful language of what is at the heart of religion, communion with God. In the Gospel, since it is assumed that God is separated from the world, this communion is always effected through Jesus, who says, for example, in xvii. 23, “I in them, and thou in me”; according to the Epistle, man himself, without a mediator, feels that God is in him and that he is in God (p. 209 f.). This mysticism, the intenseness of which remains, whether it consist in a feeling of union with God, or with Christ, is something peculiar to the Johannine Writings. Nowhere else in the New Testament has it so profound a meaning; in most cases, indeed, the gap between man and God, and man and Christ, is represented as being so great that the writers cannot imagine any such union. In the Johannine Writings the idea at the same time serves in a valuable way to counter balance the emphasis laid on knowledge, and thus assigns the feelings the place that rightfully belongs to them in religion.

The actualisation of this close communion with God, 246however, is found in love of God to man and of man to God, and from these in turn flows the love of the brethren for one another. Not even Paul in the thirteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians has written anything more profound about love than that found in the First Epistle of John (iii. 13-18; iv. 7-21). The original source of love, it tells us, is God. Our love for Him and for the brethren only flow from His love; but it should do so for the very reason that God first loved us. It is of the very essence of love for God that we should keep those commandments of His which are not hard when they are obeyed from love, and that all fear of Him should vanish. In fact, though God is originally unknown, through our love to the brethren, he becomes perceptible as one who is present in our souls. And the Fourth Evangelist could not have summarised the life-work of Jesus more appropriately than he does when he makes him say (xiii. 34 f .): “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another. . . . By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” In this way, as a matter of fact, he turns from his great doctrines about Jesus dignity and his derivation from God, to the simplest fact which the Synoptics tell us about him.

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