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THE EXCELLENCE OF CHARITY.
BY REV. THOMAS WHITTEMORE.
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three ; but tho greatest of these is charity.” — 1 Cor. xiii. 13.
At the time of the writing of this epistle, there were serious divisions in the church at Corinth. God had given different gifts to different members of the church, (1 Cor. xii. 4-11.) These were important to all. No one, on account of the gift which he possessed, could despise another. The church was, like the human body, composed of many members.
“And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you,” (verse 21.) Thus the apostle sought to make the different members of the church feel their dependence upon each other. He exhorted them to “covet
earnestly the best gifts; and yet, (said he,) I show unto you a more excellent way” (verse 31.) That more excellent way he describes in the next chapter, namely, that from which the text is taken. It was the way of charity, the cultivation and practice of that Christian grace.
If we look carefully at the chapter in which we find the text, we shall see that it may be naturally divided into three sections. In the first section, Paul speaks of the indispensableness of 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. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and under stand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth nothing.”
Thus, we see, that in Paul's view, if a man had every other gift, and had not charity, he was poor indeed; but if he had charity, even if he
had nothing else, he was rich in the sight of God.
In the second section of the chapter, Paul describes charity, shows its characteristics and operations.
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind ; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth ; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
How amiable is charity as here described ! How much needed is that grare on the earth! How much like Paradise would be this lower world, if every part was filled with charity !
In the third section of the chapter, Paul speaks of the endless duration of charity. Everything else may fail, but charity will abide.
“ 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. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part. But when that
which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 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. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face ; now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
The main object of this discourse will be to show the excellence of charity. But in the prosecution of our design, we shall speak also of faith and hope. We shall consider the subjects in the order in which they are arranged by the apostle, and describe
1st, Faith. 2d, Hope. 3d, Charity
4th, Show why charity is greater than faith and hope.
Faith is that operation of the mind which we generally call belief. It is to be regretted that theological terms are not usually understood. If your neighbor makes a statement to you, and