The

CAUSE OF GOD AND TRUTH.

Part 2 Chapter 6

Section 10—1 John 2:19.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued with us. But they went out, that they might be made manifest, that they were not all of us.


The meaning of these words is, that there were some persons in the apostle John's time, who had made a profession, of religion, were members of the church, and some of them, perhaps, preachers; and yet departed from the faith they professed, withdrew themselves from the church or churches, to which they belonged, and set up separate assemblies of their own. These, the apostle says, were not of us;that is, they were not regenerated by the grace of God, and so apparently were not of the number of God's chosen ones; for had they been born again of the incorruptible seed, had they had that anointing which abides, and from which persons are truly denominated Christians; as they would have appeared to have been chosen, so they would have continued in the faith, and have remained with the churches of Christ, and not have fallen into such errors and heresies, into which it is impossible that God's elect, or true believers, should ever fall. But the defection of these persons was permitted by God, that they might be made manifest,that they had never received the grace of God in truth. It follows, therefore, that as such who so fall were never true believers, so such who are true believers, shall never totally and finally fall away. To which is answered,[1]

1. "That these words, they were not of us,cannot signify they were not of the number of the elect; but only they were not of the church in general, and of the mind of the apostles, and the church that adhered to them." But surely the apostle would never deny that these persons were of the church, and of the same mind with it, at least in profession, antecedent to their going out; for had they not been in communion with the church, they could not be properly said to go out of it; and if they had not been of the same mind and faith and profession, they could not be said to depart from it. The reason this author gives, as an evidence of their not being of the church, "that from them they went out, and with them they might have remained," is a reason invincibly proving that they were of them, as a church otherwise they could not have went out from them; with whom they not only might but would have remained, had their hearts been right with God. And whereas it is farther observed, that "they could not go out from the elect only, who are not visible, nor could they have remained with them, who were never of them;" it may be replied, that though they were never of them as elect, yet they were of them as a church, become visible by a profession of faith; and therefore could, as they did, go out from them as such; though had they been true believers in Christ, they would have appeared to have been elect likewise, and would have continued and remained with them both as elect and as a church. It is moreover added,[2] that "their going out from them for a season, was no certain argument that they were not of the elect; since it is confessed, that they may fall totally, though not finally." Who they are that have made this confession, I shall not inquire; for my own part, I affirm that God's elect, or true believers in Christ, cannot totally fall, that is, wholly and entirely lose the grace of God bestowed on them, or wrought in them. However, the going out of these persons was in such a mariner, that it was a certain argument that they were not of the elect; since they became antichrists (v. 18), the forerunners of the man of sin, avowed enemies to Christ, who denied him to be the Christ (v. 22), or that he was come in the flesh (1 John 4:3), and therefore said to be of the world, and not of God (vv. 4-6).

2. It is said,[3] that "the true sense of the words seems plainly to be this: these antichrists, or deceivers, went out from the apostles and churches of Judea (Acts 15:1,24), to preach destructive doctrines to the Gentiles, which both the church of Judea, and the apostles assembled for that purpose, flatly disowned and censured; by which it sufficiently appeared, that all the preachers of these doctrines were not of them." But this sense of the words confines them to preachers only; whereas, though many of these antichrists might be preachers, yet not all; whoever denied the Father and the Son, or that Christ was come in the flesh, was an antichrist, whether he was in a public or private capacity. Besides, not the true and faithful ministers of the word, but private believers, are opposed to these persons in the following verse, But ye have an unction from the Holy One, etc. This sense of the words also makes the us to be the apostles, and churches of Judea; whereas, when the apostle John wrote this epistle, the rest of the apostles were all dead; and he speaks of these antichrists as men that were, in that last time, risen up among them, and went out from them; and, therefore, could not, with any propriety, say that they went out from the apostles. Besides, whenever this pronoun us is used elsewhere, in this epistle, it is never restrained to the apostles; but the apostle John in it includes, with himself, all true believers. Nor is there any reason to conclude, that he had in view the church of Judea, and a case in which that was concerned near forty years ago, but rather the churches of Asia, among whom he was, and particularly the church at Ephesus, where he is generally thought to have resided. Now the apostle Paul, many years before this, had told (Acts 20:29,30) the elders of the church, that after his departure, not only grievous wolves should enter in among them, but also of their own selves should men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them:and the apostle John lived to see these predictions fulfilled. Add to all this, that this sense of the words makes their going out to be merely local and corporal. —Now to go out from the apostles, in this sense, was not criminal; the persons that went down from Judea to Antioch (Acts 15:1, 24), are not blamed for going thither, nor for going out from the apostles thither, but for troubling the disciples with words to the subverting of their souls.Nor was a corporal departure from the apostles any evidence of not being of the same mind with them, for they often departed one from another, and yet continued of the same mind and faith. The departure here spoken of was of men from the true church of Christ, both in doctrine and in affection; and that not of preachers only, but of others who were only nominal Christians, and was so understood by the ancient fathers, particularly Tertullian[4] and Cyprian.[5]


ENDNOTES:

[1] Whitby, p. 463, 464; ed. 2.443, 444.

[2] Ibid., p. 465; ed. 2.445.

[3] Ibid., Remonstr. Coll Hag. art. 5: p. 96.

[4] De Prescript. Haevet. p. 231.

[5] Epist. 55. p. 116, and 76. p. 208. De Unitate Ecclesiae, p. 256.


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