Pulpit Commentary - 1 Corinthians 13:1 - 13:13

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Pulpit Commentary - 1 Corinthians 13:1 - 13:13

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The supremely excellent way of Christian love. This chapter has been in all ages the object of the special admiration of the Church. Would that it had received in all ages the loftier and more valuable admiration which would have been expressed by an acceptance of its lessons! Tertullian says that it is uttered "with all the force of the Spirit" (totis Spiritus viribus). It is a glorious hymn or paean in honour of Christian love, in which St. Paul rises on the wings of inspiration to the most sunlit heights of Christian eloquence. Like the forty-fifth psalm, it may be entitled "A Psalm of Love." Valcknaer says that the "oratorical figures which illuminate the chapter have been born spontaneously in an heroic soul, burning with the love of Christ, and placing all things lower than this Divine love." In 1Co_13:1-3 he shows the absolute necessity for love; in 1Co_13:4-7 its characteristics; in 1Co_13:8-12 its eternal permanence; in 1Co_13:13 its absolute supremacy.


Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels
. The case is merely supposed. The tongues of men are human languages, including, perhaps, the peculiar utterance of ecstatic inspiration with which he is now dealing. It is, perhaps, with reference to this latter result of spiritual exultation, at any rate in its purest and loftiest developments, that he adds the words, "and of angels." It is unlikely that he is referring to the rabbinic notion that the angels only understood Hebrew, and not Aramaic or other languages. The words are meant to express the greatest possible climax. The most supreme powers of utterance, even of angelic utterance—if any of the Corinthians had or imagined that they had attained to such utterance—are nothing in comparison with the universally possible attainment of Christian love. It is remarkable that here again he places "tongues," even in their grandest conceivable development, on the lowest step in his climax. And have not charity. It is deeply to be regretted that the translators of the Authorized Version here introduced from the Vulgate a new translation for the sacred word "love," which dominates the whole New Testament as its Divine keynote. Greek possesses two words for "love." One of these, eros, implying as it did the love which springs from sensual passion, was dyed too deeply in pagan associations to be capable of redemption into holier usage. It is characteristic of the difference between paganism and Christianity, that Plato's eulogy in the 'Symposium' is in honour of eros, not of anything resembling agapē. The apostles, therefore, were compelled to describe the ideal of the gospel life by another word, which expressed the love of esteem and reverence and sacred tenderness—the word agapē. This word was not indeed classical. No heathen writer had used it. But the verb agapao, corresponding to the Latin diligo, and bring reserved for this loftier kind of love, suggested at once the substantive agapē, which, together with the similar substantive agapesis (Jer_31:3
, etc.), had already been adopted by the LXX. and by Philo and in Wis. 3:9. The word is thus, as Archbishop Trench says, "born in the bosom of revealed religion". The Vulgate chose caritas (whence our "charity") to express this love of reason and affection, the dearness which reigns between human beings, and between man and God. This word, like agapē, is absolutely unstained with any evil association. If "charity" had been exclusively used for agapē, no objection need have arisen, although "love" is English while "charity" is Latin. But it was an Unmixed evil that, by the use of two different words for the same Greek word, English readers should have been prevented from recognizing the unity of thought on this subject which prevails among all the books of the New Testament (Mat_22:37-40; 1Pe_1:22; 1Jn_3:14; 1Jn_4:7, 1Jn_4:8, etc.). To argue that the word "love" in English is not unmingled with unhallowed uses is absurd, because those uses of the word have never been supposed for a single moment to intrude into multitudes of other passages where love is used to render agapē. Who has ever dreamed of objecting on such grounds to the favourite hymn?—

"Faith and Hope and Love we see

Joining hand in hand agree;

But the greatest of the three

And the best is Love."

It is true that Lord Bacon admired "the discretion and tenderness of the Rhenish Version" in using the word "charitie," "because of the indifferencies and equivocation of the word [love] with impure love." But that objection, if it ever existed, has now been done away with by the use of "love" in such a multitude of other pure and lofty passages of Holy Writ. It is, therefore, a great gain that the Revised Version restored to this passage the word "love," which had been used by Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Geneva Bible. For in modern English usage the word "charity" is almost confined to "almsgiving," and that of a kind which is often made an excuse for shirking all real self denial, and for not acting up to the true spirit of love. Christian love is always and infinitely blessed, but the almsgiving which has usurped the name of "charity" often does more harm than good. I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal; more literally, I have become booming brass, or clanging cymbal. My "tongues" without "love" become a mere discordant, obtrusive, unintelligible dissonance. The Greek word for "clanging" (alalazon) is an onomatopoeia, like the Hebrew name for cymbals, tseltselim (Psa_150:5).


. The power of lofty utterance belonged to Balaam and Caiaphas; yet it availed them nothing without love. "Lord, Lord," exclaim the troubled souls at the left hand, "have we not prophesied in thy Name?" Yet he answers them," I never knew you." All mysteries. Though I can speak of the secrets of God once hidden but now revealed (Mat_13:11
; Rom_16:27; 1Co_2:7; Eph_3:3, etc.). And all knowledge. Insight into the deeper meanings of Scripture, etc. All faith. Not here meaning "justifying faith," or "saving faith," which can no more exist without showing itself in works than light can exist without heat; but fides miraculosa, reliance on the power to work wonders. Judas, for instance, must have possessed this kind of faith, and it was exercised by "many" who will yet be rejected because they also work iniquity (Mat_7:21-23). So that I could remove mountains. It has been supposed that this must be a reference to Mat_17:20; Mat_21:21. It is, however, much more probable that, if St. Paul derived the words from our Lord, they came to him by oral tradition. And the inference must in any case be precarious, for the phrase was so common among the rabbis that "remover of mountains" was one of their admiring titles for a great teacher. I am nothing. No expression could 'involve a more forcible rebuke to intellectual and spiritual pride.


And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor.
The five words, "bestow to feed the poor," represent the one Greek word psomiso, and after all do not give its force. It is derived from psomion, a mouthful, and so means "give away by mouthfuls," i.e. "dole away." It occurs in Rom_12:20
for "feed." Attention to this verse might have served as a warning against the often useless and sometimes even pernicious doles of mediaeval monasteries. Much of the "charity" of these days is even more uncharitable than this, and shows the most complete absence of true charity; as for instance the dropping of pennies to professional beggars, and so putting a premium on vice and imposture. To be burned. The reading is extremely uncertain. The change of a letter gives the reading, that I may glory ( καυχήσωμαι for καυθήσωμαι ). Perhaps the scribes thought that "death by burning" was as yet (A.D. 57) an unheard of form of martyrdom, though it became but too familiar ten or twelve years later in the Neronian persecution. St. Paul was, however, probably referring, not, as some have supposed, to branding, which would bare been expressed differently, but to the ease of the "three children," in Dan_3:23, where the LXX. has, "They gave their bodies into the fire;" or to the various tortures and deaths by fire in 2 Macc. 7. At the burning of Ridley and Latimer, Dr. Smith chose this verse for his text. Its applicability is on a par with millions of other instances in which Scripture has been grossly abused by employing its letter to murder its spirit, and by taking it from the God of love to give it to the devil of religious hatred. The burning of a saint was a singular specimen of the Church's "love." It profiteth me nothing; literally, I am nothing benefited. A consideration of this verse might have shown the Christians of the early centuries that there was nothing intrinsically redemptive in the martyrdom into which they often thrust themselves.


The attributes of love.


Suffereth long, and is kind.
Passively it endures; actively it does good. It endures evils; it confers blessings. Envieth not. Its negative characteristics are part of its positive perfection. Envy—"one shape of many names"—includes malice, grudge, jealousy, pique, an evil eye, etc., with all their base and numerous manifestations. Vaunteth not itself. The meaning would probably be most nearly expressed by the colloquialism, does not show off. It does not, for instance, "do its alms before men to be seen of them" (Mat_6:1
). The Latin perperus, which is from the same root as this word, means "a braggart," or "swaggerer." Cicero, speaking of a grand oratorical display of his own before Pompey, says to Atticus, "Good heavens! how I showed myself off ( ἐνεπερπερευσάμην ) before my new hearer, Pompeius!" ('Ad. Art.,' 1Co_1:14). Is not puffed up. Has no purse proud or inflated arrogance." Love, therefore, is free from the characteristic vice of the Corinthian Church (1Co_4:6, 1Co_4:18, 1Co_4:19; 1Co_5:2; 1Co_8:1).


Doth not behave itself unseemly
(see 1Co_12:23
; 1Co_14:40). Vulgar indecorum is alien from love, as having its root in selfishness and want of sympathy. "Noble manners" are ever the fruit of "noble minds." "Be courteous" (1Pe_3:8). Seeketh not her own. Self seeking is the root of All evil (1Co_10:24, 1Co_10:33; Php_2:4; Rom_15:1, Rom_15:2). Is not easily provoked. The word "easily" is here a gloss. The corresponding substantive (paroxusmos, whence our "paroxysm") is used of the sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas (Act_15:39). Love, when it is perfected, rises superior to all temptations to growing exasperated, although it may often be justly indignant. But, as St. Chrysostom says, "As a spark which falls into the sea hurts not the sea, but is itself extinguished, so an evil thing befalling a loving soul will be extinguished without disquietude." Thinketh no evil; literally, doth not reckon (or, impute) the evil. The phrase seems to be a very comprehensive one, implying that love is neither suspicious, nor implacable, nor retentive in her memory of evil done. Love writes our personal wrongs in ashes or in water.


Rejoiceth not in iniquity;
rather, at unrighteousness. The rejoicing at sin, the taking pleasure in them that commit sin, the exultation over the fall of others into sin, are among the worst forms of malignity (Rom_1:32
; 2Th_2:12). The Greeks had a word, ἐπιχαιρεκακία , to describe "rejoicing at the evil" (whether sin or misfortune) of others (Pro_24:17); Schadenfreude, "malignant joy" (Arist., 'Eth.,' 2.7, 15). It is the detestable feeling indicated by the remark of La Rochefoucald, "that there is something not altogether disagreeable to us in the misfortunes of our best friends." Rejoiceth in the truth; rather, with the truth. There are many who "resist the truth" (2Ti_3:8); or who "hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom_1:18); but love accepts it, keeps it pure, exults in all its triumphs (Act_11:23; 2Jn_1:4).


Beareth all things
(see on 1Co_9:12
). Endures wrongs and evils, and covers them with a beautiful reticence. Thus love "covereth all sins" (Pro_10:12; 1Pe_4:8). Believeth all things. Takes the best and kindest views of all men and all circumstances, as long as it is possible to do so. It is the opposite to the common spirit, which drags everything in deteriorem partem, paints it in the darkest colours, and makes the worst of it. Love is entirely alien from the spirit of the cynic, the pessimist, the ecclesiastical rival, the anonymous slanderer, the secret detractor. Hopeth all things. Christians seem to have lost sight altogether of the truth that hope is something more than the result of a sanguine temperament, that it is a gift and a grace. Hope is averse to sourness and gloom. It takes sunny and cheerful views of man, of the world, and of God, because it is a sister of love. Endureth all things. Whether the "seventy times seven" offences of a brother (Luk_17:4), or the wrongs of patient merit (2Ti_2:24), or the sufferings and self. denials and persecutions of the life spent in doing good (2Ti_2:10). The reader need hardly he reminded that in these verses he has a picture of the life and character of Christ.


The eternal permanence of love.


Never faileth.
The word "faileth" ( ἐκπίπτει ) has two technical meanings between which it is not easy to decide.

1. It means, technically, "is never hissed off the stage like a bad actor," i.e. it has its part to play even on the stage of eternity. This is its meaning in classic Greek.

2. it means "falls away" like the petals of a withered flower (as in Jas_1:11
; comp. Isa_28:4). Here, perhaps, the meaning is not technical, but general, as in Rom_9:6 and in the LXX. (Job_21:1-34 :43). But the reading may be simply πίπτει (falleth), as in à , A,B,C. They shall fail. This is not the same word as the one on which we have been commenting; it means "shall be annulled" or "done away;" and is the same verb as that rendered in the next clauses by "vanish away," "be done away" (Rom_9:10), and "put away" (Rom_9:11). Thus in two verses we have the same word rendered by four different phrases. No doubt the effect of the change sounds beautifully to ears accustomed to the "old familiar strain;" but it is the obvious duty of translators to represent, not to improve upon, the language of their author. In the Revised Version the stone word is rightly kept for the four recurrences of the verb. Tongues. Special charisms are enumerated to show the transcendence of love. Knowledge. This shall be only annulled in the sense of earthly knowledge, which shall be a star disappearing in the light of that heavenly knowledge which shall gradually broaden into the perfect day.


We know in part.
The expression applies directly to religious knowledge, and should be a rebuke to the pretence to infallibility and completeness which is sometimes usurped by religious men.


That which is in part shall be done away.
It will be lost in perfectness when we have at last attained to "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph_3:14


I understood as a child, I thought as a child;
I felt as a child, I reasoned as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things; now that I am become a man, I have done away with childish things. No specific time at which he put away childish things is alluded to, but he means that "manhood" is a state in which childishness should have become impossible.


Through a glass;
rather, through (or, by means of) a mirror. Our "glasses" were unknown in that age. The mirrors were of silver or some polished metal, giving, of course, a far dimmer image than "glasses" do. The rabbis said that "all the prophets saw through a dark mirror, but Moses through a bright one." St. Paul says that no human eye can see God at all except as an image seen as it were behind the mirror. Darkly; rather, in a riddle. God is said to have spoken to Moses "by means of riddles" (Num_12:8
; Authorized Version, "in dark speeches"), Human language, dealing with Divine facts, can only represent them indirectly, metaphorically, enigmatically, under human images, and as illustrated by visible phenomena. God can only be represented under the phrases of anthropomorphism and anthropopathy; and such phrases can only have a relative, not an absolute, truth. Then; i.e. "when the perfect is come." Face to face. Like the "mouth to mouth" of the Hebrew and the LXX. in Num_12:8. This is the beatific vision. "We know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1Jn_3:2). "Now we walk by faith, not by sight" (2Co_5:7). Then shall I know even as also I am known; rather, then shall I fully know even as also I was fully known, viz. when Christ took knowledge of me at my conversion. Now, we do not so much "know" God, but "rather are known of God".


And now.
The "now" is not temporal (as opposed to the "then" of the previous verse), but logical. It sums up the paragraph. Abideth. These three graces are fundamental and permanent; not transient, like the charisms, on which the Corinthians were priding themselves, but which should all be "annulled." Faith, hope, charity. It might be difficult to see how "hope" should be permanent. But if the future state be progressive throughout eternity and infinitude, hope will never quite be lost in fruition. Even "within the veil," it will still remain as "an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast" (Heb_6:19
). The greatest of these is charity; more literally, greater than these is love. St. Paul does not explain why love is the greatest and best of the three. Various reasons may be given.

1. Love is the greatest, because it is the root of the other two; "we believe only in that which we love; we hope only for that which we love.

2. And love is the greatest because love is for our neighbours; faith and hope mainly for ourselves.

3. And love is the greatest because faith and hope are human, but God is love.

4. And love is the greatest because faith and hope can only work by love, and only show themselves by love. Thus love is as the undivided perfection of sevenfold light. Faith and hope are precious stones of one colour, as a ruby and a sapphire; but love, as he has been showing us throughout the chapter, is a diamond of many facets.



Eloquence without charity.

"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." Two introductory truths are suggested by the context.

1. That there is great diversity in the talents with which Heaven has endowed mankind. There are "diversities" of gifts. Whilst it is true that the apostle refers especially to miraculous gifts, those very gifts have their equivalents amongst men now. True, we have no miraculous gifts of tongues; but we have great linguistical scholars, men who are the masters of many languages. Though we have no miraculous gifts of prophecy, we have men of such a far sighted sagacity as to discern the signs of the times, and. foretell events destined to occur on the earth. Though we have not the miraculous gifts of healing, modern medical science invests some men with a healing power in some respects approaching the miraculous. In sooth, the unmiraculous endowments of the present day, exhibited in the various evolutions of art, science, philosophy, are more than an adequate compensation for the loss of the miraculous endowments of apostolic times. Some men are distinguished by one faculty and some by another. Some by the faculty of creating thought, some by the faculty of combining thought, some by the faculty of oratorically presenting thought. These faculties exist in various degrees of strength; in some they are dwarfish, in some gigantic.

2. That without charity the highest kind and degree of talent is of little worth. Indeed, in this chapter Paul says, in relation to the highest faculties, and to the highest services, that without this charity man himself is nothing: "I am nothing." Now, the text directs attention to one particular faculty, and that is eloquence. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels." Angels speak. Perhaps Paul had heard their oratory when he was caught up into heaven. He means, though he had eloquence of the highest type, without charity, it would be utterly worthless. Two thoughts are suggested.

I. That it is POSSIBLE FOR ELOQUENCE OF THE HIGHEST TYPE TO EXIST WITHOUT CHARITY. Why say, "possible"? It has ever existed and still exists, dissociated from this charity, this queen of virtues, or rather this root of all moral excellence.

1. We find it in party politics. Read the party speeches delivered at the hustings or in the House of Commons. Some of those speeches are fashioned after the highest models of oratory, and delivered with all the graces of the art, but utterly destitute of charity. They beat with selfish ambition and burn with envious spleen.

2. We find it in party theology. Some of the discourses on polemic theology are, in all the attributes of true eloquence, unexcelled if not unmatched; but how destitute of charity! They are all aglow with acrimonious zeal for certain dogmas of the brain.

3. We find it in party Churchism. During the month of May men appear on the platform of Exeter Hall who have spent many a laborious day, or week, it may be, in preparing a speech on behalf of some cause, before whose brilliancy the author hopes all other speeches will pale their fire. Read the most eloquent of these speeches; and for the most part how destitute of charity! Sect zeal reigns in all. The Protestant damns the Catholic, the Evangelical the Ritualist, the Church sneers at Dissent, and Dissent at the Church, and all agree in consigning pagans and heathen of every grade to nethermost perdition. The spirit of all the speakers, as a rule, at those busy manifestations of eloquence, is, "We are the wise men, and wisdom will die with us; the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are we."

II. That eloquence of the highest: type without charity is UTTERLY WORTHLESS. It is as "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." The word ἀλαλάζον , from ἀλαλὴ or ἀλαλὰ , a war cry, properly denotes a loud cry or shout, such as is used in battle. Whilst the sound is anything but pleasant, the material is comparatively worthless, made of two pieces of common brass. The idea is worthlessness. Take the speech of a man whose idea of eloquence shall excel the theory of Quintilian, and whose practice shall excel that of Demesthenes himself; what is it if it has not charity? Paul would say, "brass," giving out a mere clanking sound.

1. It is worthless in itself. What would you give for two little pieces of brass forming a cymbal? Whatever their marketable value may be, for musical purposes they are not worth a "penny whistle." What worth is there in an organism unless it has life? and what worth is there in sentences, however eloquent, unless they have charity? There is no moral worth in any act or word apart from charity. In the sight of Heaven all else is mere rubbish. Without it, I with all my endowments, services, sacrifices, says Paul, am "nothing."

2. It is worthless in its influence. The sounds you get out of the "cymbal" are not musical, and they produce rather an irritating than an inspiring or calming influence upon the listener. What moral good can speeches without charity accomplish? They may shed some light upon the intellect, correct some error, but they have no power to win the soul of a man. They often irritate, but never soothe. Bigoted partisans are attracted by the clankings of their brass, but men pass by them as by a Punch and Judy show. Eloquence without charity is like the roar of a winter's northeaster, irritating and destructive; but eloquence with charity is like the quiet southwester in spring, warming all things into life and touching all things into beauty.

1Co_13:2, 1Co_13:3

Man worth.

"Though I have the gift of prophecy," etc.

1. The greatest thing in the universe is mind. All material systems would lack completeness and meaning were there no mind to observe, study, and worship the great Invisible.

2. The greatest thing in mind is love. Here the apostle teaches that whatever a human intelligence may be, if it is destitute of love it is nothing. What is this love without which humanity is nothing? It is not the gregarious sentiment which links us to and gives us an interest in our species. This is an instinct common to animal existence. We regard this element as a blessing, not a virtue. Nor is it theological love—the affection which one has for his own faith and sect, but which will look coldly and hardly on all besides. This is a demon working under the mask of an angel. It reduces the gospel to a dogma and man to a bigot. Nor is it sacerdotal love—the love which speaks from ecclesiastical chairs, consecrated altars and seats of political power, but whispers no accents of sympathy for the physical and social woes of the race. We call this priestly selfishness: not manly love. What, then, is love? We may describe it—for we cannot define it—as a generous moral sympathy for the race springing from love to the Creator. This is, in fact, the love that only can confer real worth on humanity. We observe—

I. That man without this love is nothing spiritually in relation to NATURE. We say spiritually; for we assume, of course, that the spiritual is the man. Whatever does not minister to this, does not minister to him. Nature has three kinds of pleasure to, impart—the sensuous, the intellectual, and spiritual. The last is the highest in the scale, and arises from a warm and living sympathy with the being, character, and purpose of the Creator of all. It is nature looked at through the heart, through the self. It is not sensation, but inspiration; not philosophy, hut poetry; not the letter of a science, but the spirit of lift. These are the highest joys of nature and the only real joys for man as man. To impart these is nature's highest function. But are they not confined entirely to the children of love? As nature would be nothing to the body of a man were his senses sealed up, and nothing to the intellect of a man whose reflective faculty was paralyzed, so it is nothing to the soul of a man who has not a loving heart. To the sensual nature is gratification, to the thinker it is theory, to the loving it is heaven. True it is, then, that without love "I am nothing" in relation to the spiritual enjoyment of nature.

II. That man without this love is nothing spiritually in relation to the PROVIDENCE THAT IS OVER US. If I have not love, I am nothing to providence. It ministers no real good to me as a spiritual existent—as a man. As the mortally diseased must say, "I am nothing to the health giving economy of nature," so the unloving may truly say, "I am nothing in relation to the spiritual blessings of providence." But love in the heart makes providence a minister for good, and for good only. Like the bee, it transmutes the bitterest fruit into honey. "All things work together for good."

III. That man without this love is nothing spiritually in relation to CHRISTIANITY. Love alone can interpret love. Christianity is a revelation of love, and none but the loving can rise to its meaning. Theology is one thing, Christianity is another, the one is a "letter," the other is a "spirit." Love is the single eye of the soul, and it fills the whole body with the light of life. Still more that which renders us incapable of entering into its meaning unfits at the same time from applying its provisions. It is a system of great and precious promises. But of all the sons of the earth is there one who, uninspired with love, dare apply a single promise? They are for the children of love, and them only. Without love, then, I am nothing in relation to Christianity.

IV. That man without this love is nothing spiritually in relation to the COMMUNITY OF THE GOOD. There is a great social system in the universe—a city, a Church, a family. There are myriads of beings who mingle together as citizens, fellow members of one Church, a family. Wherever they exist they have the same bond of union, the same condition of friendship, the same principle of inspiration, and the same standard of worth. What is that? In the great community of the good love is everything. "If I have not love, I am nothing to this community. Thou art learned, but though thou shouldst speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, thou art as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal." Thou art gifted; prophetic genius is thine; thou art conversant with the arcana of science: thou hast faith too, orthodox, vigorous, and earnest; but though thou hast the "gift of prophecy" and understandest "all mysteries and all knowledge, "and though "thou hast all faith, so that thou couldst remove mountains, and hast not love, thou art nothing." Thou art liberal; but "though thou bestowest all thy goods to feed the poor, and though thou givest thy body to be burned, and hast not charity, it profiteth thee nothing."


The immortality of love.

"Charity never faileth," etc. Amongst the many things which Paul predicates in this chapter concerning "charity," or love, is its permanence.

I. It will "never fail" as an ELEMENT OF MORAL POWER. Love is the strongest force in the soul.

1. It is the strongest sustaining power. Our present state is one of trial and sorrow. Burdens press on all, in all grades of society. Godly love is the best sustaining power under all. All Divine promises are made to the loving.

2. It is the strongest resisting power. We have not only burdens to oppress, but enemies to conquer and destroy. If love preoccupies the soul, temptations are powerless.

3. It is the strongest aggressive power. We have not only to bear up with fortitude under trials, and to resist with success temptations, but we have battles to fight and victories to win. Love is at once the inspiration and the qualification for the warfare. There is nothing so aggressive in the moral world as love. Man can stand before anything sooner than love. As a sustaining, resisting, aggressive power, love will "never fail."

II. It will "never fail" as a PRINCIPLE OF SOCIAL UNITY. Deep in the heart of man is the desire for union with his fellow. He wishes to flow with the race as waters with the stream. His ingenuity has been taxed for ages in the invention of schemes for union. Love alone can secure this; love only is the unifying force. We are only one with those we love with the moral affections of our nature. But we can only love the lovable. Love in the moral empire is what attraction is in the material. Love "never faileth" as a principle of social unity.

III. It will "never fail" as a SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL HAPPINESS. Love is joy.

1. It expels from the mind all elements unfavourable to happiness.

2. It generates in the mind all the dements of spiritual joy.

1Co_13:9, 1Co_13:10

Partial knowledge.

"We know in part." Partial knowledge is of four kinds.

I. There is a partial knowledge that is a NECESSITY. The knowledge of the highest intelligent creature must by the necessity of nature be partial. What he knows is as nothing compared with the knowable, still less with the unknowable. "Who by searching can find out God?"

II. There is a partial knowledge that is a CALAMITY. Our necessary ignorance is not a calamity; on the contrary, it is a benediction. The necessarily unknown acts as a stimulus to our intellectual faculties. But our ignorance of things that are really knowable must be ever more or less a disadvantage. Ignorance of true ethics, of political economy, agriculture, laws of health, beneficent rules of conduct, true religion, entails incalculable injuries. Ignorance of these things is the night, the winter, of intellect.

III. There is a partial knowledge that is SINFUL. A partial knowledge of our moral condition, the claims of God, the means of redemption, where a fuller knowledge is attainable, is a sin. Ignorance of Christ in a land of churches and Bibles, is a sin, and that of no ordinary heinousness. It is a calamity to the heathen; it is a crime to us.

IV. There is a partial knowledge that is BENEFICENT. Our ignorance of our future is a blessing. Were the whole of our future to be spread out before us, with all its trials and sorrows, and all the circumstances connected with our death, life would become intolerable; it is mercy that has woven the veil that hides the future.

CONCLUSION. Our partial knowledge should make us humble, studious, undogmatic. devout.


A child in time, a man in eternity.

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." From all the writings of Paul you cannot select an extract more beautiful, significant, and valuable than this chapter. It touches that which is the root of the universe, the heart of God, and the fountain of all virtue and blessedness—love. The subject of the words under our notice is the Christian a child in time, a man in eternity.

I. This is the case in relation to SPEECH. "When I was a child, I spake as a child." Though the word "child" here properly denotes a babe, the apostle evidently uses it with no such limitation, for an infant neither speaks, thinks, nor understands. He denotes by it the human being in the first stages of intelligence and voluntary action. The speech of a child is often marked by incoherence and unintelligibility. It is irrelevant, disconnected, and broken. So is the speech of the sagest and most eloquent Christian here as compared with his language in eternity. The Christian's speech in eternity will be characterized:

1. By clearness. Our speech here, like that of children, is often unintelligible, mere jargon. The reason is that our conceptions are cloudy, half formed, and ill defined. Obscurity of language, either oral or written, is the result of confusion in thought. Clear speech requires a clear head. In heaven thoughts are clear and complete as balls of radiant crystal.

2. By reality. Our speech here, like that of children, is frequently nothing more than the vehicle of mental fantasies and conjecture. Words only embody and reveal the unsubstantial dreams of the mind. But speech in eternity is the organ of reality. Words there are things. They are truths made vocal.

3. By comprehensiveness. How meagre the vocabulary of a child! Our speech here, like that of children, is limited to a very small range of things. When it conveys truth, the truths are but very few; and they relate to a mere speck in the great universe of intelligence. Not so in heaven. The soul will range over the whole domain of facts, receive true impressions of all, and speak them out.

4. By sublimity. Our speech here, like that of children, is not of the most exalted and soul-inspiring character. The best only talk of the rudiments of truths which have become more or less theological platitudes. In heaven speech will be the vehicle of the most soul-inspiring and soul-unlifting realities. Every word will be electric, every sentence radiant and quickening as the sunbeam.

II. This is the case in relation to UNDERSTANDING. "I understood as a child." The Christian's understanding here is like that of a child in several respects.

1. In feebleness. The child's intellect, like his body, gets strength by nutriment and exercise. In the first stages it is very feeble. It is incapable of any great effort. It is thus with the Christian here. We say of such a man, "He has a great intellect." But in reality the greatest is very weak. How little the effort that the greatest intellect can make in search of knowledge! What a small amount of truth can the most vigorous hold within his grasp! In heaven the understanding will be strong, unencumbered by matter, unchecked by disease, unclouded by sin. It will grow young with age and strong with exercise,

2. In sensuousness. A child's understanding is under the control of the senses. It judges by appearances; it is taken up with the forms of things. Is it not so with the Christian. He is prone to "mind earthly things," "to judge after the flesh." The theology and the ritualism even of the most spiritual are coloured by sensuousness. The hell and heaven of Christendom are sensuous worlds.

3. In relativeness. The child judges of all things by their relation to himself. His father may be an author thrilling the intellect of his age, or a statesman directing the destinies of a nation, but the child knows nothing of him in those relations, As a father only he knows him. So with the understanding of a Christian, His conceptions of God are purely relative—Redeemer, Father, Master. Thus only is he regarded. Of what he is in himself, what he is in the universe, what he is in immensity, he understands nothing. In eternity we shall "see him as he is."

4. In servility. The child yields his understanding up to others, often allows it to be used as "clay in the hands of a potter." So it is often with Christians here. They are not generally independent in their inquiries. They put themselves in the hands of Churches and priests, and call them masters, Not so in heaven. Each with a full consciousness of his individuality will be independent in his investigations and conclusions.

III. This is the case in relation to REASONING. "I thought as a child." In the margin the word reasoned is put for "thought." The child reasons Logic is not mere art, it is an instinct in human nature. How does the child reason?

1. From an insufficiency of data. Having neither the power nor the opportunity of making an adequate observation and comparison, he draws his conclusions from passing impressions and unfounded conjectures. Thus it is often with the Christian here. His knowledge of the facts of God and the universe on which he reasons, is so limited that his conclusions are often inconclusive and puerile. The grave and. pompous discussions of our most learned theologues on the ways of God must appear to the ear of an angel as absurd as the prattle of children on the affairs of kingdoms does to us.

2. From the impulse of desire. In all cases the wish is the father to the thought. It is too often so with Christians here. Their likings control their logic. Not so in heaven. How sublime the difference between the Christian in time and the Christian in eternity! How vast the disparity between the speech, understanding, and reasoning of Saul, the little Jewish boy, and "Paul, the aged," the great theologian and sublime apostle! This is only a faint type of the difference between the Christian here and the Christian yonder.

CONCLUSION. This subject teaches:

1. The educational character of this life. The true view of this life is that it is a school for eternity. Here all souls are in a state of pupilage. Some are deriving the true advantages from the discipline, and some are not. Whilst thousands leave this school from year to year unimproved, incorrigible, utterly unfit for the services of eternity, worthless to God and the universe, others are being made "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." Brother disciples, be reconciled to this state. School days are not always the most pleasant. There are restrictions, disciplines, and studies, more or less painful. Struggle on till you "put away childish things," all that is childish in speech and understanding and reasoning. We shall leave this school soon for the family mansion and the grand inheritance.

2. The organic unity of man through all the scenes and stages of his being. Though the man here talks and. judges and reasons very differently to what he did when a child, he is nevertheless the same being. He is but the child more fully developed. He is but the sapling grown into the tree. It is so with the Christian in the other world. He is the same being as he was here, he is but the child grown into the man, freed from "all childish things." Man in heaven is but the child matured. We shall never be greater than men. Whatever is brilliant and great for us in the future will be but the development of the germs that slumber in us now.

3. The necessity of modesty in the maintenance of our theological views. In the light of this subject, how preposterous it is for poor frail, fallible man to set himself up as an authority in theological matters, to assume the priest, the bishop, the pope! "I do not know," says Sir Isaac Newton, "what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself by now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."


The body the dark medium of spiritual vision.

"For now we see through a glass, darkly," etc. It needs no illustration to show that our vision of spiritual things is very dim. The cause of this is our subject—the medium is dark, that medium is the body. Through the five senses we gather all the lights that flash on our consciousness and form within us ideas. But why is it dark?

I. The body tends to MATERIALIZE THE CONCEPTIONS OF THE MIND. We "judge after the flesh."

II. The body tends to SWAY THE DECISIONS OF THE MIND. The desires of the flesh often move and master the soul.

III. The body tends to CLOG THE OPERATIONS OF THE MIND. Business, sleep, refreshment, exercise, disease,—all these interrupt the soul. Our visions of spiritual things being so dim:

1. None should pride themselves in their knowledge.

2. Atone should arrogate infallibility of judgment.

3. All should anticipate higher and fuller visions.

When the medium is removed, we shall see "face to face."


Love the greatest power in mind.

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity," etc. Love is here brought into comparison with two other great things in mind—faith and hope.

I. The CORRESPONDENCE between these three. The words imply:

1. That they are all great. The apostle speaks of the "greatest." "Faith" is a great thing. It implies reason, truth, and. the investigation of evidence. It is a great thing in business, in science, in society, as well as in religion. "Hope" is a great thing, too. It implies the recognition of good, a desire for good, and an expectation of good. It makes the greatest trials of the present bearable by bringing into the spirit the blessedness of the future.

2. That they are all permanent. There "abideth" faith and hope. In virtuous souls they are as lasting as life, as lasting as mind itself.

II. The SUPERIORITY of one over the others. "The greatest of these is charity." Why is it the greatest?

1. It is a virtue in itself. There is no moral virtue in faith and hope. They are, under certain conditions, necessary states of mind. But love—disinterested, godly love—is in itself a virtue.

2. It is that quality which alone gives virtue to all other states of mind. Where this love is not, faith and hope are morally worthless.

3. It is that state of mind by which the soul subordinates the universe to itself. The loving soul alone can interpret the universe.

4. It is that state of mind which links the spirit to all holy intelligences. Love is the attractive power that binds all holy spirits together.

5. It is that state of mind which includes the highest faith and hope. Love implies the both.

6. It is that state of mind which is in itself happiness. Love is happiness. We cannot say so of either faith or hope.

7. Love is the most God-like state of the soul. God is not faith or hope; "God is love." The Eternal does not believe or anticipate, but he does love—he is love. Love is the life of the soul. It warms every vein and beats in every pulse.



Negative view of love.

Again and again, in St. Paul's writings, we have an epistle within the Epistle. Thus, the summation of practical duties (Rom_12:1-21.), the argument on the resurrection (1Co_14:1-40.), and the portraiture of love in this chapter. By this means we get a well defined view of the object without losing its connections. It is not as if we were looking at the Peak of Teneriffe rising out of the loneliness of the sea, but rather a Mont Blanc, one with the Alps, and yet a solitary form of majesty. Grandeur, as distinct from beauty and sublimity, requires some degree of isolation so as to produce an adequate impression. Here, then, the apostle makes a space for this grand delineation, every feature of which may be seen in concentrated light, and not a thing allowed to distract the eye. This is in itself a call to attention, a summons to the activity of our whole nature, and, in accordance herewith, he presents something more than a mere sketch or profile of love. It is a complete portrait. The features are individually given, and, at the same time, the expression which combines them in a most striking unity. First, then, we have the supreme excellence of love in contrast with the worthlessness of other gifts unaccompanied by its presence. Great stress was laid at that time on the gift of tongues. We are all 'Relined to set a high value on an exceptional endowment of speech. Eloquence passes for much even in a rude age; the North American Indian and the barbarous tribes of Asia acknowledge its power, while cultivated society is never stinted in admiration of its influence. And the possessor of it seldom fails to exaggerate its worth. Stated roughly, eloquent men appear to have a peculiar intensity of consciousness as respects this gift. They are singularly open to the seductions of popular applause, so much so, indeed, that the public approval which a scientific man, or a statesman, or a military hero would he unharmed by, is often ruinous to an orator. Not the common air, but the breath of the multitude, fragrant with adulation, feeds his lungs. This it is that arterializes his blood and sends it hot and poisonous to his brain. Of course, these Corinthians were the very persons to overvalue the gift of tongues. It was in the channel of their tastes and traditions. But the apostle teaches them that this wonderful power holds a subordinate rank. tie does not depreciate it; no, he appreciates it to the full: "tongues of men" are associated with "the tongues of angels;" and yet, without love, the endowment is as "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." What is it but mere noise, an idle tumult of the air? Unless love to God and man attend the gift, restrain its selfishness, destroy its vanity making tendency, and sanctify it to the welfare of others, it is worthless. But the second verse enlarges the thought. One may have the gift of prophecy and use his intellect with amazing skill and force so as to excite and captivate his hearers, and this, too, under the teachings of revelation, and, further, one may have insight into Divine secrets, and "understand all mysteries," and have them at command as "knowledge;" yet what is he without love? Can it be possible that this resplendent power could exist, and that other light kindled by love be utterly wanting? Observe, it is "all" mysteries and knowledge; the man explores every height and depth, and he has the freedom of the universe. Nay, superadd all faith, so that material nature falls in homage at your feet and the "mountains "remove in obedience to your will; but of what avail this expenditure of mighty energy, where the holiness of love is lacking? If, then, the man endowed with universality of utterance—"tongues of men and of angels;" and if the prophet with his clear and broad insight into the counsels of God, and before whose eye the panorama of distant events moves as a spectacle of today; if the miracle worker who transcends all natural capacities and exercises the delegated power of Jehovah in producing supernatural phenomena;—if these men and their gifts are compared to "sounding brass and tinkling cymbal," and verily are "nothing;" and though they are known as apostles, prophets, miracle workers, heroes of faith, instruments of the supernatural: if all these are nothingness itself without love, can anything more be said to intensify the excellence of love as a Divine principle and sentiment and impulse? The third verse answers this question. Charity, almsgiving, philanthropy, even self sacrifice at the stake, here come into view. How far may one go in the benevolent appropriation of earthly property and yet fall below the highest motive? St. Paul replies that he may "dole out" all he owns, do it gradually, do it cautiously, do it to the exhaustion of his resources, yet do it unmindful of that sovereign law which gathers into itself all other laws and imparts to them a virtue that makes them Divine. Nor is this all. One may have the philanthropic idea and sensibility so largely developed as to accept martyrdom, have the courage to face it unblenched, and to endure it with fortitude; but he may surrender life without the highest love. Love may be there—love of a truth, love of a cause, love of humanity—not necessarily the love, however, here under discussion; and hence, this distinctive Christian love, which includes the Divine and the human, being absent, the martyrdom is not for Christ's sake, and consequently is nugatory as to its Christian character. "It profiteth me nothing." If, now, such a doctrine as this rested on a ground solely ethical, we confess our inability to see how it could be accepted as a trustworthy view of human nature. Logic in itself has no fundamental principle from which it can be deduced. Philosophy as such, and as confined to what it finds in our constitution, would be compelled to reject a conclusion so alien to its spirit. On the other hand, the doctrine may be easily and heartily received On the score of Christian logic and philosophy. For, in the scheme of Christianity, human nature is a revelation from God. It is the Divine thought of this nature which we are to embrace, to cherish, to act upon. And if we admit, as we ought to do in the presence of such satisfactory evidence, that God has spoken to man of man, and disclosed to him the once hidden mystery of himself, as well as that other and infinitely greater "hidden mystery" of his redeeming purpose in Christ—if we acknowledge this, then we cannot impeach the wisdom, the justness, the stern truthfulness, of St, Paul's argument. The argument assumes that Christianity is of God, and, as such, advances to this point, namely, Christianity alone gives a full and complete view of our nature. Its ethical teachings, their reasons and motives and ends, are founded in Christ and in his relations to us. Our relations to him and to one another are subsequent considerations, and take their quality and bearings simply, solely, altogether, from him, the "Image of the invisible God," and the "Firstborn of every creature." Inasmuch, then, as the ideal of our nature is not as we see it in and by our own unaided consciousness, but in and by a consciousness illuminated and guided by the Holy Ghost, how could it be otherwise than that new intuitions occur, and that demands are made on us never imagined before? On this foundation St. Paul stands when he affirms that those endowments which charm, those splendid gifts that win enthusiastic admiration, even self sacrifice itself at the bidding of earth-born instincts, are nothing without that love which is purely a responsive affection, or, as St. John expresses it, "We love him because he first loved us.—L.


The nature and operation of love.

The negative view having been presented, the apostle considers the mature and operations of this love, And one characteristic of it, he puts in the foreground of its excellences. It can suffer. A virtue that cannot suffer is hardly a virtue at all. Certainly it is not a virtue that can lay the least claim to divineness. Wedded love, parental love, philanthropic and patriotic love, have to undergo a discipline of pain and sorrow even to symbolize the higher affection of Divine love. This holy love, of which this chapter is so laudatory, derives its very essence from the "Man of sorrows." Short of realizing, in its measure, the agony in the lonely garden and the yet lonelier cross, it dare not, it cannot stop, since only there is its test found. A beautiful aestheticism, moral, perchance semi-spiritual, may follow the lowly Jesus of Nazareth through the windings of his Galilean and Judaean journeys, cling reverently to his person, spread the palm branches in his pathway, and shout its glad hosannas to his Name, and, after all, "forsook him and fled" may be the final record of its weakness. Only when he rises to the sacrificial height of his anointing as the Christ of God's Law and the Christ of God's love, and bears our sins in his own body on the tree—only here, where Jehovah "lets the lifted thunder drop," can the human soul be reconciled first to its own disciplinary sufferings, and learn afterwards, by many conflicts with self, to glory in the cross. But love not only suffers, it "suffereth long." It is patient—patient towards others, and, what is quite as important, patient with itself. And under all its sufferings, instead of being irritable, it is kind. Unsanctified suffering is usually morbid. It broods over its ills; it magnifies its afflictions; often, indeed, it makes us misanthropic. Sweetness of temper and tender outgoings of sympathy are not the common results of painful experiences, but the fruits of the Holy Spirit in them. Fortitude may be shown, and it may be naught but homage at the shrine of self. This love is of God. It takes to its heart God s thought of suffering as chastening, as correction, as the supreme moral necessity of a probationary life, through which we must pass to get any deep knowledge of ourselves. For it is never pleasure, but pain, that holds the key to the secret chambers, where the latent man awaits the voice of God bidding him arise and gird himself with immortal strength. Now, what effect on this love would ensue from suffering that had become habitual and wrought patience and silent enduringness into character? By suppressing a morbid regard for self and quickening the sympathies that give width to the inner life, what would be the specific result on the relations sustained to others? These Corinthians, as we have frequently noticed, were pulling down one and putting up another, were thoroughgoing partisans, were censorious and depreciatory towards those with whom they were disinclined to affiliate. What change for the better would love bring about? St. Paul answers, "Love envieth not." Observe how quickly he turns again to the negative aspects of this "supremely excellent way," and what vigour is imparted to the argument. At every step, contrast aids him by suggesting what love excludes, while its true qualities are set in bolder relief. Envy is pain at the sight of superior excellence in another, and is always a mark of blinding selfishness. According to one s temperament, it is displeasure or something worse, and usually contains an element of hatred.

"Men, that make

Envy and crooked malice nourishment,

Dare bite the best."

Of course it leads to strife. It is a fruitful cause of schism, and as schism was a terrible evil in the apostle's view, he could not fail to show its utter inconsistency with this cardinal virtue. Along with this he says, "Love vaunteth not"—a similar idea to the foregoing as to its bad temper, but unlike as to its mood of exhibition. Reference is here made to the foolish display of self importance after the manner of a swaggerer or braggart. Next comes the statement, "Is not puffed up," not inflated or swollen by self conceit; this is followed by, "Doth not behave itself unseemly"—is not uncourteous, but studies propriety of manner, and shows the instinct of a right demeanour, from which all good breeding proceeds. The art of behaviour is manifold. It is amenable to circumstances and classes, variable as to outward manifestations, suiting language and other demonstrations to the claims of occasion, and, in all this, its root principle is the same if it be truthful and sincere, since it loses sight of self and ministers to the happiness of others. Christian manners are the offspring of a Christian manner; the manners are external, the manner is internal; so that here, as in all else, form is created by spirit. The tones of the voice, the look of the eye, the muscular play of the countenance, are not physical facts only, but expressions and languages that have modulation, accent, emphasis, direct from the soul. Thus attended, our words take on other, fuller, more inspiriting meanings than those drawn from the dictionary; so that a man's face, figure, gesture, attitude, give a personal import to what emanates from his heart. If one compares the spiritual expression in the face of a Madonna by Raphael with the mere sensuous beauty of the face as depicted by antique art, he sees at once that Christianity has affected art to such an extent as to modify the laws of representation. "Expression is the vivid image of the passion that affects the mind; its language, and the portrait of its situation" (Fuseli). It is not extravagant to claim that Christianity has so far changed physiological expression as to spiritualize, and thereby to heighten, its quality and force. But why limit the change to art? The fact is that Christianity has had its effect—a very distinctive and appreciable effect—on what may be termed the physiology of manner, in the intercourse of society. We seldom think of it. We rarely number this among the myriad advantages Christianity has brought to man. Yet the fact is indisputable that Christianity has given to the human voice tones of strength and tenderness never