The author of this epistle was John, the son of Zebedee, the
disciple whom Jesus loved: he was the youngest of the apostles, and
survived them all. He does not indeed put his name to this epistle,
as the Apostles Paul, Peter, James, and Jude do to theirs; and it is
easy to observe, that when this disciple, in his writings, had any
occasion to speak of himself, it was usually by such a
circumlocution, as the disciple whom Jesus loved, or the other
disciple, studiously concealing his name: so that his not putting
his name to this epistle need not create any scruple about his being
the author of it, which everywhere breathes the temper and spirit of
this great apostle; and whoever compares this epistle, and the
Gospel written by him, together, will easily conclude it to be his,
both from the style and subject matter of it: besides, as Eusebius
asserts {a}, this epistle was generally received without scruple,
both by ancient and modern writers. It is called "general", because
it was not written and sent to any particular church, or person, and
not because it was for the general use of the churches, for so are
all the particular epistles but because it was written to the
Christians in general, or to the believing Jews in general wherever
they were; for that it was written to the Jews seems evident from
\\#1Jo 2:2\\. It was called, by some of the ancients, the epistle of
John to the Parthians {b}; by whom must be meant not the natives of
Parthia but the Jews professing to believe in Christ, who dwelt in
that empire. We read of Parthian Jews a the feast of Pentecost,
\\#Ac 2:9\\, who at that time might be converted, and, upon their return
to their own country, lay the foundation of a Gospel church state there
Dr. Lightfoot {c} conjectures from a passage in \\#3Jo 1:9\\ that this
epistle was written to the Corinthians; but there does not seem to
be any sufficient reason for it. As for the time when, and place
where, this epistle was written, it is not easy to say: some think
it was written at Patmos, whither the apostle was banished in the
reign of Domitian, and where he wrote the book of the Revelations;
see \\#Re 1:9\\; and here some say he wrote his Gospel, and this
epistle, and that a little before the destruction of Jerusalem, and
which he calls the last time or hour; and that his design in writing
it was to exhort the believing Jews, either in Parthia, or scattered
about in other countries, to brotherly love, and to warn them
against false Christs and false prophets, which were now gone forth
into the world to deceive men; see \\#1Jo 2:18 4:1\\. Others think that
it was written by him, when a very old man, after his return from
his exile to Ephesus, where he resided during his life, and where he
died, and was buried. It is called his "first" epistle general, not
that it is the first general epistle, for the other two are written
to particular persons, but is the first he wrote, and which is
general: the occasion, and manifest design of it, is to promote
brotherly love, which he enforces upon the best principles, and with
the strongest arguments, taken from the love of God and Christ, from
the commandment of Christ, and its being an evidence of
regeneration, and the truth and glory of a profession of religion:
and also to oppose and stop the growth of licentious principles, and
practices, and heretical doctrines. The licentious principles and
practices he condemns are these, that believers had no sin in them,
or need not be concerned about it, nor about their outward
conversation, so be they had but knowledge; and these men boasted of
their communion with God, notwithstanding their impieties; and which
were the sentiments and practices of the Nicolaitans, Gnostics, and
Carpocratians. The heresies he sets himself against, and refutes,
are such as regard the doctrine of the Trinity, and the person and
office of Christ. There were some who denied a distinction, of
persons in the Trinity, and asserted there was but one person; that
the Father was not distinct from the Son, nor the Son from the Father;
and, by confounding both, tacitly denied there was either, as Simon
Magus, and his followers; regard is had to these in \\#1Jo 2:22 5:7\\
and others, as the unbelieving Jews, denied that Jesus was the Messiah,
or that Christ was come in the flesh; these are taken notice of in
\\#1Jo 2:22 4:2,3 5:1\\. Others, that professed to believe in Jesus
Christ, denied his proper deity, and asserted he was a mere man, and
did not exist before he took flesh, of the virgin, as Ebion and
Cerinthus; these are opposed in \\#1Jo 1:1,2 3:16 5:20\\. And others
denied his real humanity, and affirmed that he was a mere phantom; that
he only had the appearance of a man, and assumed human nature, and
suffered, and died, and rose again in show only, and not in reality; of
which sort were the followers of Saturninus and Basilides, and which
are confuted in \\#1Jo 1:1-3\\. This epistle is, by Clemens
Alexandrinus {d}, called his "greater" or "larger epistle", it being so
in comparison of the other two that follow.

{a} Eccl. Hist. l. 3. c. 24.
{b} Augustin. apud Grotium.
{c} Hor. Hebr. in 1 Cor. i. 14.
{d} Stromat. l. 2. p. 389.


In this chapter the apostle gives a summary of the Gospel, and the
evidence of it, and from thence presses to a holy life and
conversation, The sum of the Gospel is Jesus Christ, who is
described both as God and man; his deity is expressed by being that
which was from the beginning, the Word of life, life, and eternal
life; his humanity by being the life manifested in the flesh, of
which the apostles had full evidence by the several senses of
seeing, hearing, and handling, and so were capable of bearing
witness to the truth thereof, \\#1Jo 1:1,2\\. And the ends had in view
in giving this summary, evidence, and testimony, were, that the
saints wrote unto might have fellowship with the apostles, whose
fellowship was with the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ, and that
their joy on hearing these things might be full, \\#1Jo 1:3,4\\. And
the amount of the message declared by them was, that God is light,
or a pure and holy Being, and that there is no darkness of sin, or
unholiness in him; wherefore all such that pretend to communion with
him, and live a sinful course of life, are liars; only such have
fellowship with him, and with his Son, whose blood cleanses them
from all sin, who live holy lives and conversations, \\#1Jo 1:5-7\\,
not, that it is to be expected that men should be clear of the being
of sin in this life, only that they should, as often as they sin, be
humbled for it, and confess it before God, who will forgive them,
and cleanse them from all unrighteousness; but as for those who
affirm they have no sin in them, or any done by them, they are
self-deceivers, the truth of grace is not in them, nor the word of
God, and they make him a liar, \\#1Jo 1:8-10\\.

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