DEAR BROTHER: - I see by the MESSENGER for February 1, 1856, that our brother Wm. M. Mitchell, requests my views on I John 3:15. The views I have I readily give. The text reads thus: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”

This has been a difficult text to me, as well as to others. The difficulty has arisen, I apprehend, from the idea we have attached to the term murderer as used in the text; that is, applying it as the word is commonly used among us as denoting one who had literally killed or caused the death of another. According to this sense of the word, every son and daughter of Adam must have been literal murderers; for the testimony which Paul bears concerning himself and others, {Titus 3:3,} that in times past they were hateful and hating one another, applies to all. Hence according to our text, if we give this sense to the word all must be shedders of human blood directly or indirectly. On the other hand, giving this sense to the word, and not only must we decide according to the text, that every person, without exception who commits self-murder was destitute of eternal life, but also that David had not eternal life abiding in him as he in this sense was evidently a murderer in the case of Uriah.

But I now understand John as drawing throughout this epistle a close and discriminating line of distinction between those who are the sons of God and those who are not, or who are as he calls them, the children of the devil. Hence his words are to be understood not as in the letter merely, but as in the spirit; that is, he is not speaking merely of outward acts, but of the whole character of the two classes, the natural man and the spiritual man, of the children of the devil, and the children of God. The natural man or the unregenerated having nothing but a carnal mind is as stated in Titus 3:3; hateful and hating, is enmity against God, not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Rom.8:7. Hence he is guilty of the whole law, and is therefore a murderer in view of the law as spiritual. But the “new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” is in its essence the very spirit of the law; it is love to God and to its neighbor. And “love is the fulfilling of the law;” hence, “Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” But what is it that he who is born of God, loves after the new man? Is it sin or depravity? No. Is it the flesh with its lusts? No. It is love to God, and therefore love to Christ, and to the image of Christ wherever it is seen; it is love to the new man or to the spirit and its fruits. Hence the declaration of our Lord to his disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.” The law required that we should love our neighbor; but this is a new command, it referred to the new man and his affinities, not to the natural man. The children of God will love one another. No one that is born again can see the fruits of the Spirit, or the evidence of the new birth in another without feeling his love drawn out to them and to him in whom he sees them, as a subject of grace. Hence if anyone who professes to belong to the brotherhood of Christ, can see the evidences of faith in another, and hate him for it, hate him as a brother, as Cain did Abel, he is a murderer, he has not eternal life abiding in him, and is therefore still under the law and held by it as a murderer or guilty of the whole law. And no one that is held under the condemnation of the law, or as a murderer, has eternal life abiding in him.

John in the context refers to Cain evidently as illustrating what he was expounding. He says {verse 11,} “For this is the message that ye have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” Referring evidently to the new command of the Lord. He then adds, “Not as Cain who was of that wicked one and slew his brother; and wherefore slew he him?” Was it for any mere fleshly or worldly advantage or lust? No, but, “because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” Because his brother offered in faith and was accepted, and he did not, and therefore was rejected. Here then we have an illustration of the murderer in our text – verse 15. And here we have a true illustration of the spirit of persecution in all after ages. And no one who can engage in persecution for righteousness sake, “hath eternal life abiding in him.” He is a murderer. Thus we see that David was not a murderer in John’s sense of the word, neither typically nor antitypically. Not typically, because Uriah was not an Israelite, but a Hittite, one of those nations whom God commanded Israel to destroy. And we have no reason to believe that it was for Uriah’s faith that he was killed. Yet David’s sin in the whole matter was great, yet repentance was given him and his sin forgiven before the Lord, notwithstanding according to the Sinai law he was made to suffer external retaliatory punishment. See II Sam.12:1-14.

I will here remark for the consideration of brethren who may be exercised on the subject, that from the view we have taken of the love which characterizes one who has passed from death unto life, it is not consistent with this love, that we should love every member of the church alike. It is a love of the Spirit of Christ, hence if we are influenced by this love in proportion as we discover this spirit in any member, we shall love him, and where we see a worldly spirit, or that which looks like pretence, or self-exaltation in religion we shall dislike it.

Although I have been already more lengthy than would have been necessary simply to give brother Mitchell my views of the text, yet there is one point more in it that I wish to notice. It is the expression, “Hath eternal life abiding in him.” The idea which appears to be entertained by many of our brethren concerning the eternal life which a believer hath, is that the soul is merely raised from a state of death to the privilege of living eternally. Hence the new birth is frequently spoken of as a resurrection, and as a quickening, &c., that is, by men. But John represents eternal life as something which abides in the new born person. If so, must it not be a real existence that dwells in the believer, distinct from anything that dwells in others, and therefore distinct from the human soul. This corresponds with the idea of a birth, which is a bringing into individual existence, that which had not before existed except seminally in its head or progenitor. This principle of eternal life as an incorruptible seed being thus implanted in the soul, it quickens the soul to a sense of its accountability to God and dependence on him, &c. But I will not now enlarge upon it.

I have thus given such views as are given to me of this text. If brother Mitchell thinks them not scriptural, I need not tell him to throw them by, for he will certainly do it. But in that case I think I have a right to insist on his giving his views of the passage.

With christian regards,
Fairfax C.H., Va., Feb.13, 1856.