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5. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6. Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7. Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind. There was no such spirit in the unmerciful servant, who had himself been “much forgiven;”* yet threw his fellow servant into prison, who owed him an hundred pence. Whereas the Lord has said, (Luke xvii. 3.) “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him ; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him.”
Charity envieth not : does not repine at the success or welfare of another: does not resemble Haman at the court of the king of Persia,” who acknowledged that all his own prosperity availed him nothing, so long as his adversary Mordecai had a share with him of the royal favour. This evil must be rooted out of our nature; that it is deeply seated there, may be often perceived even at the earliest age.
Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly. It is not rashly insolent; it is not conceited; it is not overbearing. These too common faults are altogether contrary to brotherly affection, and arise, in fact, from self-love. Men are haughty, and puffed up with a high opinion of themselves: they are proud of their possessions, or their talents, or their qualities; and therefore they vaunt themselves and behave unseemly. They are angry, if another differs from them; why, but because they are confident that no other can be right? They are displeased if another blame their conduct; why, but because they cannot brook the being thought wrong? High and low, rich and poor, must equally guard against these faults; those in an inferior station, giving honour where honour is due;” those who are higher, “condescending to men of low estate;” and all “submitting themselves one to another in the fear of God.”" Charity seeketh not her own. One of the greatest victories of the gospel, is that it overcomes self. No doubt, there is a time to claim our own, as well as to resign it. The world is kept together by that principle which leads men to study their own ease, and honour, and profit. Religion does not forbid this; our state on earth makes it necessary. But religion does forbid us to seek either ease, or profit, or advantage of any kind at the expense of a neighbour's right or benefit: it tells us where to stop in seeking our own good: it tells us never to go beyond justice; never to conceal or deny the truth; never to push a claim too far: nay, even to sacrifice what we might rightly expect, rather than irritate or injure another. This is charity. And if this mind be in us, it is “the mind that was in Christ Jesus: who when he was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich.” Charity is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. This, too, is part of that brotherly love which the
* Matt. xviii. 24, &c. * Esther v. 11—13.
gospel teaches. Those with whom we are engaged are men like ourselves, frail and prone to error. Hence offences will come. Our duty is, to bear offences mildly; not to be easily provoked, as if we had ourselves no fault, or could expect others to be faultless. And when the case is doubtful, to think no evil; to judge favourably: not like the Pharisees, who condemned the Lord Jesus, because he healed diseases on the Sabbath day.” Many things which seem to deserve blame, might appear in a different light, if we knew the motives of the doer. The very contrary to this, is the too frequent habit of rejoicing, not in truth or righteousness, but in iniquity: feeling a secret satisfaction, when another, especially one above us, or one of a different party, has been betrayed into error. How unlike true love towards a brother' which weeps as he weeps, rejoices as he rejoices, falls as he falls, rises as he rises. Charity beareth, or rather, covereth,” all things: for love will “hide a multitude of sins,” instead of blazoning them abroad, like him who rejoiceth in iniquity. Charity believeth all things: believes every thing which may make for the credit or advantage of another, and is slow to admit what may injure his good name. Charity hopeth all things : hopes even “against hope,” that circumstances are better than they seem. Charity endureth all things: prays for the persecutor and despiteful; turns away wrath “by a soft an
swer;”* “is not overcome of evil, but overcomes evil with good.”
Such is a general description of that brotherly love, which is greater than any outward qualifications, and without which no outward qualifications can avail. It is the temper which we are bound to cultivate, and by which we must examine our spiritual condition, and judge concerning ourselves. No doubt, there is much of a contrary temper in the world: much of envy, much of pride, much of selfishness, much of malice, many resentments and bitter animosities. But these are not feelings belonging to the Christian, or which the Christian can indulge. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”
Still, we may well rejoice that we are not to look upon this, or any other christian grace, as the ground of our pardon and acceptance with God. Who would venture his salvation on his freedom from all envy, selfishness, wrath, or other uncharitable temper, even for a single day? Alas! “In many things we all offend:” all fall very short of what perfect charity requires. Every work of self-examination must also be a work of repentance; and must send us, as it were, afresh, to claim our interest in Him, “whose blood cleanseth from all sin,” and who “ever liveth to make intercession” for his faithful though unworthy followers.
* Prov. xv. 5. Rom. xii. 21. 3 l John ii. 9; iii. 14, * James iii. 2.
FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY.
1 Cor. xiii. 8–13.
8. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
There is a further reason, beside those before mentioned, why charity is far above all outward gifts or qualifications. It never faileth: it is a quality engrafted on the soul by the Holy Spirit, and will abide with it for ever, no otherwise changed than in being “made perfect.” Whereas, whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease: whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. Tongues, or prophecies, may be compared to a language which is spoken in the country where a man now is, but will be no longer needed when he leaves it. Charity is an universal language; not only spoken here on earth, but in heaven also; the possession of it, is like the possessing that which all ages and all countries have agreed in reckoning valuable ; so that he who has such a treasure, will everywhere be rich. Such is the difference between charity, and those outward gifts which the