"And If Any Man Sin, We Have An Advocate With The Father, Jesus Christ The Righteous."—1 Jn 2:1.
THAT the apostle might obtain due regard from those to whom he wrote, touching the things about which he wrote, he tells them that he received not his message to them at second or third hand, but was himself an eye and ear witness thereof—That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life, (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you.
Having thus told them of his ground for what he said, he proceeds to tell them also the matter contained in his errand-to wit, that he brought them news of eternal life, as freely offered in the word of the gospel to them; or rather, that that gospel which they had received would certainly usher them in at the gates of the kingdom of heaven, were their reception of it sincere and in truth—for, saith he, then "the blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God cleanseth you from all sin."
Having thus far told them what was his errand, he sets upon an explication of what he had said, especially touching our being cleansed from all sin—"Not," saith he, "from a being of sin; for should we say so, we should deceive ourselves," and should prove that we have no truth of God in us, but by cleansing, I mean a being delivered from all sin, so as that none at all shall have the dominion over you, to bring you down to hell; for that, for the sake of the blood of Christ, all trespasses are forgiven you.
This done, he exhorts them to shun or fly sin, and not to consent to the motions, workings, enticings, or allurements thereof, saying, "I write unto you that ye sin not." Let not forgiveness have so bad an effect upon you as to cause you to be remiss in Christian duties, or as to tempt you to give, way to evil. Shall we sin because we are forgiven? or shall we not much matter what manner of lives we live, because we are set free from the law of sin and death? God forbid. Let grace teach us another lesson, and lay other obligations upon our spirits. "My little children," saith he, "these things write I unto you, that ye sin not." What things? Why, tidings of pardon and salvation, and of that nearness to God, to which you are brought by the precious blood of Christ. Now, lest also by this last exhortation he should yet be misunderstood, he adds, "And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the rather, Jesus Christ the righteous." I say, he addeth this to prevent desponding in those weak and sensible Christians that are so quick of feeling and of discerning the corruptions of their natures; for these cry out continually that there is nothing that they do but it is attended with sinful weaknesses.
Wherefore, in the words we are presented with two great truths—
Now there lieth in these two truths two things to be inquired into, as—
There is ground to inquire after the first of these, because, though here he saith, they that sin have an advocate, yet in the very next chapter he saith, "Such are of the devil, have not seen God, neither know him, nor are of him." There is ground also to inquire after the second, because an advocate is supposed in the text to be of use to them that sin—, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate."
First, For the first of these—to wit, what the apostle should here mean by sin—, "If any man sin."
I answer, since there is a difference in the persons, there must be a difference in the sin. That there is a difference in the persons is showed before; one is called a child of God, the other is said to be of the wicked one. Their sins differ also, in their degree at least; for no child of God sins to that degree as to make himself incapable of forgiveness; "for he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not" (1 Jn 5:18). Hence, the apostle says, "There is a sin unto death" (v. 16). See also Mt 12:32. Which is the sin from which he that is born of God is kept. The sins therefore are thus distinguished: The sins of the people of God are said to be sins that men commit, the others are counted those which are the sins of devils.
Second, But what is it for Jesus to be an Advocate for these?
"If any man sin, we have an Advocate."
An advocate is one who pleadeth for another at any bar, or before any court of judicature; but of this more in its place. So, then, we have in the text a Christian, as supposed, committing sin, and a declaration of an Advocate prepared to plead for him—"If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father."
And this leads me first to inquire into what, by these words the apostle must, of necessity, presuppose? For making use here of the similitude or office of an advocate, thereby to show the preservation of the sinning Christian, he must,
These things, I say, we readily think of, and forget them not. Our conscience puts us in mind of these, our guilt puts us in mind of these, the devil puts us in mind of these, and our reason and sense hold the knowledge and remembrance of these close to us. All that we forget is, that we have an Advocate, "an Advocate with the Father"—that is, one that is appointed to take in hand in open court, before all the angels of heaven, my cause, and to plead it by such law and arguments as will certainly fetch me off, though I am clothed with filthy garments; but this, I say, we are apt to forget, as Job when he said, "O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour!" (Job 16:21). Such an one Job had, but he had almost at this time forgot it; as he seems to intimate also where he wisheth for a daysman that might lay his hand upon them both (Job 9:33). But our mercy is, we have one to plead our cause, "an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous," who will not suffer our soul to be spilt and spoiled before the throne, but will surely plead our cause.
But he is able to do this. The apostle says so, in that he supposes a man has sinned, as any man among the godly ever did; for we may understand it; and if he giveth us not leave to understand it so, he saith nothing to the purpose neither, for it will be objected by some—But can he fetch me off, though I have done as David, as Solomon, as Peter, or the like? It must be answered, Yes. The openness of the terms ANY MAN, the indefiniteness of the word SIN, doth naturally allow us to take him in the largest sense; besides, he brings in this saying as the chief, most apt, and fittest to relieve one crushed down to death and hell by the guilt of sin and a wounded conscience.
Further, methinks by these words the apostle seems to triumph in his Christ, saying, My brethren, I would have you study to be holy; but if your adversary the devil should get the advantage of you, and besmear you with the filth of sin, you have yet, besides all that you have heard already, "an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous," who is as to his person, in interest with God, his wisdom and worth, able to bring you off, to the comforting of your souls.
Let me, therefore, for a conclusion as to this, give you an exhortation to believe, to hope, and expect, that though you have sinned, (for now I speak to the fallen saint) that Jesus Christ will make a good end with the—"Trust," I say, "in him, and he shall bring it to pass." I know I put thee upon a hard and difficult task for believing and expecting good, when my guilty conscience doth nothing but clog, burden, and terrify me with the justice of God, the greatness of thy sins, and the burning torments is hard and sweating work. But it must be; the text calls for it, thy case calls for it, and thou must do it, if thou wouldst glorify Christ; and this is the way to hasten the issue of thy cause in hand, for believing daunts the devil, pleaseth Christ, and will help thee beforehand to sing that song of the church, saying, "O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life" (La 3:58). Yea, believe, and hear thy pleading Lord say to thee,
"Thus saith thy Lord the Lord, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again" (Isa 51:22).
I am not here discoursing of the sweetness of Christ's nature, but of the excellency of his offices, and of his office of advocateship in particular, which, as a lawyer for his client, he is to execute in the presence of God for us. Love may be where there is no office, and so where no power is to do us good; but now, when love and office shall meet, they will surely both combine in Christ to do the fallen Christian good. But of his love we have treated elsewhere; we will here discourse of the office of this loving one. And for thy further information, let me tell thee that God thy Father counteth that thou wilt be, when compared with his law, but a poor one all thy days; yea, the apostle tells thee so, in that he saith there is an Advocate provide�