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Corinthians too highly prized. Prophecies, and tongues, and knowledge, edify the church on earth; they instruct, they convince, they build up in the faith those who are here to be made “wise unto salvation.” But, for that very reason, they are only needful for a time. They who “shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead,” and “are as the angels of God in heaven,” they will no longer need the prophecy which is to explain God's counsels, or the tongues which are to make them known. When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. The glimmering ray of knowledge which we can now attain will lose its value, being eclipsed by the full and unclouded light of heaven; just as the morning star vanishes away before the brightness of the sun when it is risen. It will not be so with that brotherly love which has sprung up in the soul together with prophecy and knowledge. Prophecies shall fail, and tongues shall cease, whilst the charity which they have aided to produce remains, and flourishes for ever in the genial climate which the soul is to inhabit hereafter. In making this contrast between christian love, and outward qualifications, St. Paul delicately warns the Corinthians of their errors and their danger. Much in their conduct had been very contrary to love and charity. Meanwhile they had prided themselves in their spiritual gifts, and thought highly of their knowledge. The apostle reminds them of the imperfection of that knowledge. The knowledge of the wisest man, as to the All-mighty, 1 Luke xx. 35.
his counsels, or his attributes, is but the knowledge of a child; and will so appear, when that which is perfect is come.
11. 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.
12. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part ; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three ; but the greatest of these is charity.
This brings us to a further proof of the excellence of charity. It had been before shown to be superior to tongues and prophecies. But it is also superior to faith and hope. Faith and hope are very different from tongues and prophecies. They were soon to fail and cease, and not to be revived; the need of them would be over in the church: whereas faith and hope can never fail on earth, or the church itself must fail with them. To the end of time, faith must not cease, or hope vanish away. Now abideth faith, hope, charity. These three unite together, and form the christian character.
The faith of which Paul here speaks, is that which is described in the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews: that faith by which we lay hold of the promises of God revealed in his word; that faith which is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” That faith is the Christian's breath: it gives him life, new life, as a child of God: it gives him vigour, to behave as one of God's family, and be
* Heb. xi. 1.
active in his service; if that faith were to cease whilst he remains here below, his life as a Christian would expire, and he would “return again to his dust.” And if faith is needful that the Christian may live, hope is needful that he may be supported and animated in life; and thus enabled to meet his labours and his trials, as he “works out his salvation in the world.” Paul even says, elsewhere, “We are saved by hope;” we never should have perseverance to hold on our way, if we had not hope to sustain and encourage us. He also calls it “the anchor of the soul;” the anchor fixed upon the eternal world, which keeps the soul at rest amidst the storms of temptation, and stedfast and secure through all the adverse winds which threaten to divert it from its onward course, and wreck it among the rocks and quicksands of this present world. Therefore now abideth faith and hope. But the time will come when faith and hope will have performed their office. They will have brought the vessel into “the haven where it would be:” and the sails, by which it has been borne along, may be taken down, and the anchor by which it has been kept secure, may be laid aside. The things believed in, will be things seen; and things hoped for, will be things possessed and enjoyed. No need of faith, where there is no doubt or uncertainty; no need of hope, where all is “fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore.” But it is not thus with CHARITY. Charity merer faileth. It now abideth with faith and hope: but it * Rom. viii. 24. * Heb. vi. 19.
is greater than these, because it will abide, when faith and hope are done away. It is, in truth, that quality which faith and hope are to contribute towards producing: that quality which proves the renewal of the soul through “sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” And having been here, as in an elementary state, formed, and nourished, and exercised, it accompanies the soul to those regions where all is love: it is admitted into the presence of God; and “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” " Examples show these things most plainly: and the first martyr, Stephen, is well fitted to illustrate Paul's meaning. Stephen was full of faith, and full of hope: and, animated by faith and hope, he so keenly reproved the high-priest and his council, that they “cast him out of the city, and stoned him.” “But he, looking stedfastly up to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” Faith, then, and hope, were now ceasing: Stephen beheld the Saviour, in whom before he had believed; saw the glory of God of which he was immediately to partake; and the hope which had thus far encouraged him, was now realised. But his last words were words of CHARITY. “He kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” His body returned to the earth; and “his * 1 John iv. 16. " Acts vii. 54—60.
spirit to God who gave it.” And with the spirit, the charity by which it was filled and animated. Had his departing soul been inflamed with wrath and hatred, like that of his enemies, it would have ascended to God a malicious and angry soul. But it did ascend to God as a loving and forgiving soul; and that is the frame in which heaven must be entered, and heaven must be enjoyed. “Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.” “Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” And, therefore, though we “have all faith, that we could remove mountains,” and “full assurance of hope,” that God hath chosen us for his own, if “we have not charity, we are nothing.” We have not that spirit which marks the children of God. We have not that spirit which “accompanies salvation,” and belongs to the kingdom of heaven.9
SPIRITUAL GIFTS MUST BE USED FOR THE PURPOSE OF INSTRUCTION.
1 Cor. xiv. 1–12.
1. Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
7 Eccles. xii. 7. * Matt. v. 7. I John iv. 7–12. 9 See 1 John iii. 14.