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those with whom they would not otherwise have been able to hold any communication. Unless this end were answered by it, the speaking of foreign languages would do no good. It was merely an unmeaning voice, like a tinkling cymbal. It might excite surprise in those who heard it, and admiration of the men who were so gifted, but it would afford no instruction or edification. Without the love of God in the heart, flowing from the knowledge of His love in Christ Jesus, and producing love to mankind or compassion for perishing sinners, the miraculous gift of speaking in various languages would profit nothing. The mind of the speakers in these foreign languages would be so puffed up with pride and self-importance, that the gift would do them harm instead of good.
But the apostle goes further; And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. Here it appears that an ability to preach the gospel of Christ, and to explain the holy scriptures in general, a good understanding in the mysteries of Divine truth, an universal knowledge of Divine revelation, joined with miraculous endowments of the highest description, with power for instance to cast out devils, or to do any other thing which might produce astonishment and wonder in the be
holders;—all these outward advantages, unless made use of to the godly edifying which is in faith85 and love, would be of no avail, would be an injury rather than a benefit to the possessor.
The apostle goes a step beyond this. 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 me nothing. Here we see to what a length ostentation may be carried even in religious matters. The poor may be fed, without love to God and man being the motive for doing it; and what seems most astonishing, the body may be given to be burned, in an obstinate defence of the religious cause to which men are attached, from party spirit, without any benefit being derived from it. A man may reduce himself to poverty by alms-giving, and may subject himself to be put to death, even unjustly, and for the cause of true religion, and yet be without charity, without the love of God in his heart. This may seem a hard saying; but the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.86
It is right that we should give credit to the benevolent and bountiful, and to those who subject themselves to personal privations; hoping that such effects are produced by true charity,
85 1 Timothy i. 4.
86 1 Samuel xvi. 17.
or love to God and man; but it has sometimes been found that what has appeared most commendable among men in outward show, was an abomination in the sight of God. Alms make no atonement for sin, are no satisfaction to Divine justice. No bodily privations, or mortifications, or sufferings, compensate for our offences against God. We must have the love of God in our hearts, to actuate us to every good word and work, in order that our doings may be acceptable to Him. To this end, The love of God must be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us,87 we must love Him, because He first loved us.38
Of this love, as to its exercise towards our fellow-creatures, it is said, Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. It is exercised with patience and perseverance and kindness. is not rash in its judgment of others, nor vainglorious with regard to itself. It is not puffed up with self-importance. It doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil. base part. sent provocations, but rather pities those who are inclined to give them, and endeavours to avoid such persons, rather than return evil for
It does not act any
It is not selfish.
87 Romans v. 5.
88 1 John iv. 19.
evil, or railing for railing. It imputes as far as possible the best motives to others, and excuses their conduct, if this can be done without injury to the truth; for it rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. It has no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reproves them.89 The rejoicing of the ungodly is not that in which it takes pleasure. It is always associated with the truth. It has nothing to do with falsehood and deceit. But in its general character, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. It covers, conceals, or does not expose to view the defects of others, which it may discern. It gives credit to others for that sincerity which itself possesses. It hopes the best of them, and suffers with patience what may assail it.
What a beautiful description of character is this! How was it illustrated by our blessed Saviour in the days of His flesh! We may look at each part of this description, and then turn to various circumstances in our Saviour's conduct, and see it exemplified. He was indeed the highest possible pattern of philanthropy. How ought we to love Him for it, and to seek grace from Him that we may be enabled to copy so excellent a pattern.
The apostle having given this description of
89 Ephesians v. 11.
charity, institutes a comparison between it and other things, in order to show its vast superiority. He says, Charity never faileth. This is the great and distinguishing characteristic of this Christian grace over all other things with which it may be compared. It will survive "the wreck of nature and the crash of worlds." It is the blessedness of heaven, as well as of earth. In heaven love is the element of all those who are admitted to the beatific vision of God.
How much more desirable then is it to possess this heavenly grace, than to enjoy the greatest outward advantages; for whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. The preaching of the gospel will come to an end with this world. The various languages of the nations of the earth will cease to be spoken, when all these things shall be dissolved. The knowledge of human arts and sciences will be of no value, when the things with which they are conversant are all destroyed. We shall carry nothing of human knowledge away with us when we depart hence. And the most extensive earthly knowledge is but partial. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. How little of Divine truth is the best instructed scribe of the kingdom of heaven acquainted with! What a partial representation of it is given by the most eminent ministers of the gospel! This becomes