Early Piety, the Cause of Joy
William Nicholson, 1862
"It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us." 2 John 1:4
It appears from verse 1, that this epistle was addressed by John to a pious female and her family. It appears that her piety was very exemplary and commanding: "Unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all those who have known the truth."
Her piety, too, was influential. God had blessed her, and made her a blessing to some of her children, who had embraced the truth. See text. What a delightful thing it is for a parent to see his children consecrating themselves to God! Every parent will say, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth!" 3 John 1:4
He does not say all her children, but some of them.
"Walking in the truth."
I. The Character of Their Piety:
1. What are we to understand by the TRUTH?
It is not mere HISTORICAL truth. A person may be well versed in Biblical truth; it may interest him, and by it he may interest others; but "walking in the truth" is a very different thing. He may understand the nature of the Gospel, its doctrines, etc.; but walking in the truth is very different from mere theory.
It is not PHILOSOPHIC or SCIENTIFIC truth. A person may understand the nature of vegetation, the nature of minerals, etc.; he may be able to analyze various chemicals; to ascertain the respective magnitude and distances of the planets — and what does it all amount to? To very little, when compared with an experimental knowledge of the truth.
It is not mere MORAL truth. Moral truth consists in integrity, uprightness, and the corresponding virtues — and this is highly useful to society. Moral truth to be acceptable to God, must be in combination with Gospel truth — as an effect is connected with its cause.
Moral truth has nothing to do with the way of salvation; a man may possess much morality, and yet be a stranger to the truth as it is in Jesus.
But, positively, the word truth is a term by which the Gospel, or the evangelical system is denoted, namely, "That Jesus of Nazareth is the true Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of sinners; that he was delivered unto death for the offences of the guilty, and was raised, etc.; and that in him the Father is well pleased; that all who believe in him are saved." This is the truth to which he himself bore witness, John 14:6; the truth which was attested, Matthew 3:17. Hence, it is called "the truth," "the word of truth," "the word of the truth of the Gospel."
Hence the truth, or the Gospel, is summed up in such terms as these:
"By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" 1 Corinthians 15:2-4
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!" 1 Timothy 1:15
"And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life!" 1 John 5:11-12
2. What is implied in WALKING in the truth?
(1.) A conviction of the gospel's adaptation to the needs of the sinner, and of its superiority to every other system. It has been examined, and the verdict of the soul is, "This is the salvation I need!"
(2.) A reception of the truth. This is by the exercise of faith. John
1:12. It is by faith that the soul comes in contact with Christ, and then he feels the power of the truth in the pardon of his sins, etc. etc. 2 Thessalonians 2:13.
(3.) An experimental acquaintance with it. Hence, a Christian does not merely profess Christ; he enjoys him — the sweetness of his love — his grace — his promises — his Heaven. "We have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things;" all that is essential to his safety and welfare; he is made "wise unto salvation;" he is "wise towards God;" he knows himself; and he knows the Savior of sinners. He who is ignorant of Christ knows nothing; he who knows him knows everything. "I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart." Jeremiah 24:7
(4.) A practical regard to the precepts of the truth. "Walking" implies activity; it is opposed to indifference and inaction. "If you love me, keep my commandments." The text says, "Walking in the truth, as we have received a commandment," etc. He is a deceived man who loves the creed, and hates the commandment.
(5.) Their conduct was exemplary. "They were found walking," etc. Their religion was visible, as well as active; it was such as might be seen and observed by others. The seed had been sown; it had germinated; the plant came forth; it blossomed; it yielded its fruit; it was found; it was seen. True religion cannot long be concealed — it will be found. "When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God" Acts 11:23.
II. The Joy Which This Piety Produced.
Joy is especially produced on great occasions. Many things may yield pleasure, peace, and comfort — but very few things afford us joy; for that is the overflowing of the heart. Great was the joy . . .
at the second building of the temple;
at the coming of the Messiah;
at his resurrection;
at his ascension.
But these were unusual events, and of the highest importance.
John had great cause for joy; he properly estimated it, and "rejoiced greatly." He was exceedingly filled with joy, as if he had found an invaluable treasure. His joy was like that of the father of the prodigal. Luke 15:23,24. It was akin to the joy of angels. Luke 15:7, 10.
Why did he greatly rejoice?
1. On account of their state.
(1.) Because they were "children," or young people. People in the morning of life, who, on that account, were calculated for longer and more effective service, than one converted in middle or advanced life.
The conversion of any sinner is cause for joy, but the conversion of some is more especially so, and the amount of joy is also proportionate. The conversion of an aged sinner affords joy, chiefly on his own account; to see him plucked as a brand, etc.
But in an aged convert, there is nothing left for God but the mere dregs of life — the blind and the lame for sacrifice. The powers of his soul are wasted and destroyed. His body is a worn-out instrument in the service of sin.
But when "children" begin to walk in the truth, they consecrate to Christ the first-born of their days; the first-fruits of their reason and affections. They give him the prime of their being — the strength and energy of youth.
(2.) They were the children of a friend whom he loved. Verse 1. John "rejoiced with her that rejoiced." It is delightful to see the children of strangers converted; but peculiarly so when the children of our friends return to God — those with whom we have taken sweet counsel, etc. We think how it will minister to their comfort; how it will disappoint their fears; from what evils they will be preserved, etc.
What delight can equal that which a parent feels in seeing his children rising up intelligent and amiable, and pious and useful; approved of God, and useful to man! If there be a sight on earth sufficient to arrest the flight of an angel in his passage to Heaven! It is a father and mother surrounded with the pledges of their mutual affection, endeared by grace, as well as by nature, rising up, and calling them blessed!
2. On account of the blessedness which the truth confers. The soul is more valuable than millions of worlds. Sin has ruined it, and exposed it to perdition. The Gospel saves it, enriches it, and fills it with the hope of immortality. Those who walk in the truth enjoy all the privileges and promises which that truth records.
They are engaged in an honorable service — and they shall be honored by Christ. "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me!" John 12:26
3. It is an answer to numerous and importunate prayers. How often have parents prayed, "O that Ishmael might live before you!"
How painful is it to run in vain — to see an object of peculiar solicitude and attention, baffling every effort and disappointing every expectation! Some godly parents have warned and instructed their children, prayed for them, and perhaps departed to glory, and left them unconverted.
In many instances the dying bed has been made uneasy by the thought of leaving their children Christless in the world! Their hearts have been full of hope, with respect to themselves, but not so of their children. Sometimes however they see their prayers answered, and then their joy is great. Sometimes their supplications are answered long after their departure to Heaven, and others live to see their children converted; and to them it gives joy.
4. Because it is beneficial to both the Church and to the world. We see in such characters, the pillars of the Church, and in some of them the angel face of some future eminent minister of the Gospel, to save souls from death. They become the salt of the earth, and the lights of the world.
1. Some, instead of giving joy to parents — are a continual source of grief.
2. Let parents not be weary in well-doing; but still advise, warn, and pray for their children.
3. Ungodly parents need not be surprised at the impiety of their children, and their dreadful end!