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1 CORINTHIANS XIII. 1, 2, 3.
« Though I speak with the Tongues of Men and of Angels,
and have not Charity, I am become as sounding Brass,
or a tinkling Cymbal. « And though I have the Gift of Prophecy, and understand
all Mysteries, and all Knowledge ; and though I have all Faith, so as to remove Mountains, and have not Charity,
I am nothing « And though I bestow all my Goods to feed the Poor, and
give my Body to be burned, and have not Charity, it profiteth me nothing."
WE know, “All Scripture is given by. inspiration of God,” and is, therefore, true and right concerning all things. But we know, likewise, that there are some scriptures which more immediately commend themselves to every man's conscience. In this rank we may place the passage before us: there are scarcely any that object to it. On the contrary, the generality of men very readily appeal to it. Nothing is more common than to find even those who deny the authority of the Holy Scriptures, yet affirm ing, “This is my religion: that which is described in the thirteenth chapter of the Corinthians.” Nay, even a Jew, Dr. Nunes, a Spanish Physician, then settled at Savannah, in Georgia, used to say, with great earnestness, “ That Paul of Tarsus was one of the finest writers I have ever read. I wish the thirteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, were written in letters of gold. And I wish every Jew were to carry it with him wherever he went.” He judged, (and herein he certainly judged right,) that this single chapter contained the whole of true Religion. It contains “ whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely: if there be any virtue, if there be any praise,” it is all contained in this.
In order to see this in the clearest light, we may consider,
I. What the Charity here spoken of is :
II. What those Things are which are usually put in the place of it. We may then,
III. Observe, that neither of them, nor all of them put together, can supply the want of it.
I. 1. We are, first, to consider, What this Charity is? What is the Nature, and what are the Properties of it?
St. Paul's word is Ayann, exactly answering to the plain English word Love. And accordingly it is so rendered in all the old translations of the Bible. So it stood in William Tindal's Bible, which, I suppose, was the first English translation of the whole Bible. So it was also in the Bible published by the authority of King Henry VIII. So it was likewise, in all the editions of the Bible that were successively published in England during the reign of King Edward VI., Queen Elizabeth, and King James I. Nay, so it is found in the Bibles of King Charles the First's reign: I believe, to the period of it. The first Bibles I have seen wherein the word was changed, were those printed by Roger Daniel and John Field, Printers to the Parliament, in the year 1649. Hence it seems probable that the alteration was made during the sitting of the Long Parliament: probably it was then that the Latin word Charity was put in place of the English word Love. It was in an unhappy hour this alteration was made; the ill
effects of it remain to this day: and these may be observed, not only among the poor and illiterate : not only thousands of common men and women, no more understand the word Charity, than they do the original Greek; but the same miserable mistake has diffused itself among men of education and learning. Thousands of these are misled thereby, and imagine that the Charity treated of in this chapter refers chiefly, if not wholly, to outward actions, and to mean little more than Almsgiving! I have heard many Sermons preached upon this chapter: particularly before the University of Oxford. And I never heard more than one, wherein the meaning of it was not totally misrepresented. But had the old and proper word Love been retained, there would have been no room for misrepre. sentation.
2. But what kind of Love is that whereof the Apostle is speaking throughout the chapter? Many persons of eminent learning and piety, apprehend that it is the Love of God. But from reading the whole chapter numberless times, and considering it in every light, I am thoroughly persuaded that what St. Paul is here directly speaking of, is the Love of our Neighbour. I believe whoever carefully weighs the whole tenor of his discourse, will be fully convinced of this. But it must be allowed to be such a love of our neighbour, as can only spring from the love of God. And whence does this love of God flow? Only from that faith which is of the operation of God; which whoever has, has a direct evidence, that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” When this is particularly applied to his heart, so that he can say, with humble boldness, “ The life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me:" then, and not till then, the love of God is shed abroad in his heart." And this love sweetly constrains him to love every child of man with the love which is here spoken of: not with a love of esteem or of complacence; for this can have no place with regard to those, who are (if not his personal enemies, yet) enemies to God and their own souls; but with a love
of benevolence, of tender good-will to all the souls that God has made.
3. But it may be asked, “If there be no true love of our neighbour, but that which springs from the love of God; and if the love of God flows from no other fountain than faith in the Son of God: does it not follow that the whole heathen world is excluded from all possibility of salvation ? Seeing they are cut off from faith: for faith cometh by hearing. And how shall they hear without a Preacher?” I answer, St. Paul's words, spoken on another occasion, are applicable to this, “ What the law speaketh, it speaketh to them that are under the law.” Accordingly that sentence, “ He that believeth not shall be damned," is spoken of them to whom the gospel is preached. Others it does not concern : and we are not required to determine any thing touching their final state. How it will please God, the Judge of all, to deal with them, we may leave to God himself. But this we know, that he is not the God of the Christians only, but the God of the Heathens also: that he is “ rich in mercy to all that call upon him,” according to the light they have: and that in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him.”
4. But to return. This is the Nature of that Love, whereof the Apostle is here speaking. But what are the Properties of it, the Fruits which are inseparable from it? The Apostle reckons up many of them; but the principal of them are these.
First, Love is not puffed up. As is the measure of love, so is the measure of humility. Nothing humbles the soul so deeply as love: it casts out all “ high conceits, engendering pride,” all arrogance and over-weening, makes us little, and poor, and base, and vile in our own eyes. It abases us both before God and man; makes us willing to be the least of all, and the servants of all, and teaches us to say, “A mote in the sun-beam is little, but I am infinitely less in the presence of God.”
5. Secondly, Love is not provoked. Our present English translation renders it, is not easily provoked. But how did
the word easily come in? There is not a tittle of it in the text: the words of the Apostle are simply these, ou tapočuvetal. Is it not probable, it was inserted by the translators with a design to excuse St. Paul, for fear his practice should appear to contradict his doctrine? For we read, Acts xv. 36,
“ And some days after, Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city, where we have preached the Word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose sirname was Mark. But Paul thought not good, to take with them one who departed from the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other : and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus: and Paul chose Silas, and departed; being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the Churches.”
6. Would not any one think on reading these words, that they were both equally sharp? That Paul was just as hot as Barnabas, and as much wanting in love as he? But the text says no such thing, as will be plain, if we consider first the occasion. When St. Paul proposed, that they should “ again visit the brethren in every city, where they had preached the word,” so far they were agreed. “And Barnabas determined to take with them John,” because he was his sister's son, without receiving or asking St. Paul's advice. “But Paul thought not good to take him with them who had departed from them from Pamphylia,” (whether through sloth or cowardice,)“ and went not with them to the work.” And undoubtedly he thought right: he had reason on his side. The following words are rau EYEVETO Hapožuouos; literally, “ And there was a fit of anger.” It does not say, in St. Paul, probably it was in Barnabas alone, who thus supplied the want of reason with passion; 6 so that they parted asunder.” And Barnabas resolved to have his own way, did as his nephew had done before, “ departed from the work," “ took Mark with him, and sailed to Cyprus.” But Paul went on his work, “being