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1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.
5. Doth nor behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6. Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.
The Essentials of Charity
We have opinions by the thousand in number, and every one sharp as a bristle; but that is not enough. We have controversy; some men have no greatness but in debate, their whole genius expires in the fray of words, in the foam of easily forgettable eloquence. What we want, according to the testimony of the Apostle, is love. Is that all? Yes, that is all. Love comes first, and love comes last, and love reaches all the intermediate space, but the love at the last is not the same altogether as the love at the first: it is richer in quality, it is wider in intelligence, it is more heroic in spirit; it is the same love, and yet not the same as the blossom is not the root, yet without the root there could be no blossom. If we believed this chapter we should all be converted men; we should drop all our present method of doing things, and startle the world by the originality of unselfishness.
This chapter should be read in one breath. If you halt in the reading of it you seem to miss a great deal. All the words are hyphened, and the whole deliverance is one urgent burst of eulogy. It comes in here quite in a Pauline manner. Paul had no little rules of rhetoric; when he wanted rhetoric he made it; he was not the slave of your small syntactical accuracy; he rushed, sometimes he plunged like a cataract, and sometimes he flowed like a deep broad river. Here he has been arguing about a good many things; he was going to settle things. All men have their moments of weakness; so Paul became a kind of ecclesiastical housekeeper, and he would arrange matters, he would descend to exhortation: and suddenly he gathered himself together, and became a new man, as if to say, What does all this amount to? This is mechanical, arbitrary: what you want is inspiration, the spirit; and the name of that spirit is Love. Where there is an abundance of love all the housekeeping goes easily, whether it be a little cottage or a great palace or a church comprehending multitudinousness of character, opinion, and force. Where there is no love there can be no reliance upon the easy working of the machinery; you may have compromise and concession, and a policy of give-and-take, but not until love rules the spirit will the life settle into rich, massive, worthy music. We should all be found offering homage to a different altar if we believed this chapter. We now worship "tongues," "prophecies," "mysteries," and small miracles of almsgiving. This exhortation was peculiarly seasonable in the case of the Corinthian Church. Nearly everybody in Corinth was either a good speaker or a good hearer; it was the city of eloquence. Paul having heard eloquent declamation said, All this amounts to nothing, unless it be backed up by an infinity of love. And when he heard faulty, hesitant speaking, speaking almost contemptible for its stumbling and feebleness, he said, This kind of speaking will tell in the long run, if there be behind it the love that suffers long and is kind. Love wins. Be not tired of love. This same Apostle says, "Be not weary in well doing." What does "well doing" mean there, in the language which Paul employed? We now take that as a text, and preach upon it to Sunday-school teachers and to tract-distributors and to various agents and servants of the Church; and with rational unction and legitimate persistency we say, Be not weary in well doing: keep on teaching your young, giving away your literature, and helping men to live better: be not weary in well doing. That is right: but that is not what Paul said. When he said "well doing" he meant, Be not weary in courtesy, graciousness of manner, complacency of spirit, the way that is suave, conciliatory, yea I will repeat for that is the word which holds the whole meaning gracious. Men will go down in courtesy before they go down in morality. That is the mystery of our human nature. We break away at points, and many a man becomes bearish who does not become absolutely dishonest in the marketplace. He tires of gentleness, he says he will be no longer gracious, he will try another policy. He has no right to try any other policy, for that is the Divine policy; and he has no right to be weary in it, and he must keep on being gracious, courteous, tender, sympathetic to the end: be not weary in love. Many a man will set himself up as a very distinguished and even model moralist who has a bitter tongue, and an evil and satirical way of speaking about other people. What about his morality? It is rubbish, it is rotten through and through; all over his face he has painted the ten commandments, and he has written a commandment on each finger and thumb, he is all commandments together, but he is no child of God: why? Because he has become weary in love, bitter in speech, unkindly in spirit; he has lost the nobleness of charity. We cannot allow that man to address the Church. He is too moral in his own esteem.
The Apostle then calls upon us to believe that unless we have love everything else goes for nothing. He does not depreciate other things, but he values all other things in proportion as they are charged by the spirit of love, and directed by loving purpose; and where there is an absence of other things, that absence is forgotten in the presence of overflowing love. Let there be a child in God's kingdom rather than a philosopher. If you cannot be both, be the child. "He that receiveth a little child in my name receiveth me." That holy Speaker never said, He that receives a philosopher with great pomp of hospitality receives the whole Trinity. Never! He did say, "Whosoever receiveth one such little child" and there was quite a number of these little creatures round about him "in my name receives the Christ of God"; and he who receives the Christ of God receives God himself, and turns his house into a heaven. If we could believe this we should banish controversy, we should get rid of contention: we should no longer see man fighting man on ecclesiastical ground; the Church would cease to be a beargarden, and would become the abode of peace. Of course there are those who do not understand the meaning of love in this connection; they think of it as implying carelessness, indifference, reluctance to meddle with anything or discuss with anybody, a total disregard of variety, of judgment, opinion, and argument; and they look upon love in this connection as simply signifying a very beautiful but a very futile sentiment. Those who talk so never knew what love can really do. Every man is born again when he feels the first touch of love. He rises to another level, he sees life and all things from another standpoint, he alters the whole standard of judgment, and his strength rugged, tremendous power is sanctified and chastened and utilised in the most beauteous forms. Love uplifts a soul. Love will last longer than law; love can sit up all night, and in the morning can so graciously deceive itself as to say that it is not tired. Love will save us, where argument will only irritate, confound, and destroy.
We must go into this description a little; but it would be more profitable for us to conduct what little analysis or criticism is necessary in private rather than in public. But first of all, the Apostle gets rid of all genius, mental power, pretence of mental eminence, yea he gets rid of all almsgiving and all self-martyrdom. The Apostle had a tremendous fist. Whatever he struck reeled under the stunning blow. He comes into all these little pomps and ceremonies by the right of birth, by the right of merit. When some men try to take down the Church they seem to be doing something beyond their strength: when Paul undertakes to remove, to rebuke, to set things in their right relation, he works with the dignity of a master, and with the ease of one who could produce his credentials if called upon to do so. It is Paul therefore, and not Peter, who sets aside great speaking, great thinking, fine utterance, and even charity of a visible and palpable kind; it is Paul who puts his foot on the smoking ashes of self-martyrdom, and says, All this is useless: what about your love, your self-sacrifice, your living in the spirit of Christ? Where is the cross on which you died for other lives?
Trying myself by this standard, and inflicting myself in so doing with cruel yet righteous humiliation, I have endeavoured to reverse the process. Thus: "Love suffereth long, and is kind." Do I suffer long? Am I kind with it all? No; I break down at the "kind." The longsuffering may be beyond my control, I cannot get things straightened and rectified and put into musical relation and form: I have suffered twenty, thirty years and more from this; so that if I have suffered long, have I love? No; that is the point of self-deception. Love suffereth long, and is through it all sweet, kind, courteous, gracious, uncomplaining; there is not a reproach upon its tongue, there is not one drop of bitterness in its gentle heart. Ah me! if that be so, I have no love.
"Charity envieth not." Do I envy? This is not the refrain of a song, this is the discipline of a soul. Do I envy that brother who is doing more than I am doing; that merchant who is making his fortune more rapidly than I am making mine in my slow-going business? Do I envy the gifts, the adornments, the accomplishments, and the honours of some other man? Do I? Soul, tell no lies to thyself! Yes, I envy. I do not want to envy. I would cut the throat of that foul knave, but no steel is keen enough to shed its blood: my God, God of the Cross, help me! I thought I had charity when all things were according to my will, when I was the supreme person, when I had nothing to envy, when I could simply look down upon all other people and wonder at their littleness; but when I saw some one greater, truer, grander O my Saviour! I felt something shoot through my heart that made hell there. Then I have not love. But if I have the tongues of men and of angels, will not that stand me in good stead? No, Thou envious man, thou evil soul, thy heart is a nest of foul birds, thou dost not know the Cross. But I am strong on doctrine! That is useless. I had held up my hand in church assembly to expel heretics. That is worthless; it is only an aggravation of thine abominableness: thou hast envy! My Lord, after this, who can be saved? Are there few that be saved?
"Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly," never goes to the front seat as if by right, never treats the weak as if they were a nuisance, never lifts itself up in self-reliant pomp, or displays itself in the circumstance of glittering ostentation: charity, love, will sit down anywhere, and not do that ostentatiously. There is a sitting-down in the back seat which means, Look at me now: how extremely humble I am! It only sits down there because there is no other seat vacant. That is not love; that is calculated modesty, that first writes its name and then blots it out. Charity is not swollen, inflated, wind-driven; love is simple, frank, self-unconscious, asks with a child's transparency of soul, What is the next thing to be done? If I can do it, here I am. But that man has no views about predestination! Blessed be God then; let him come farther up. That man takes no interest whatever in the controversies of the fourth century: how can he be saved? That man listens to the doctors in the temple, disputing with one another with most impious ferocity, and says in language they deem profane, What is all this Babel about? What then is his claim to attention? Why do the angels gather around him as around a shining spot? Because his soul is the habitation of love.
Love "seeketh not her own." That is the crucial point. Some most unselfish and noble souls will allow you to do whatever you like in the house if you do not touch their particular armchair. You have seen such generous hosts. Men have said, How kind, how ample in hospitality! Yes; but if you watch all the twenty-four hours round you will see that their self-oblivious love always holds itself in its own little corner.
"Is not easily provoked." Why, we take offence as quick as lightning. We say we are sensitive. O Christ of God, thou wast lacking in sensitiveness! When men smote thee on one cheek, thou didst turn the other also; when thou wast reviled, thou reviledst not again; when thou didst suffer thou didst not threaten; thou didst give thy back to the smiters, and thy cheeks to them that plucked off the hair! Oh, where was thy sensitiveness, Man of Golgotha, Victim of Calvary?
"Thinketh no evil." Who can follow this music? who can beat time to it? who can be part of it? There are men who have no genius but in evil thinking. They can always tell you why other people do certain things; their minds are perfectly fecundant, infinite, in the abundance of suggestion regarding evil motives. They know why others stand up and sit down; why they challenge public attention, why they vary usual methods of treating all the institutions of the country; they can always tell you the motive, and it is never a good one. Charity "thinketh no evil."
"Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; heareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Oh this universality of genius! "Charity never faileth." Yet the Church can expel members, and never look after them. I have seen heretics driven out of the Church, and heard the church-door bang after them, and not a soul ever went out to say, Oh, poor exiled one, come back! He would have come back if we had bidden him. I saw him. He looked to see if anybody was coming after him, and he saw nothing his soul was in desolation.
O thou God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we would be swallowed up in thy love! We bless thee for this desire; this desire is of thine own creation; we were once as sheep going astray, but now by thy grace we have returned unto the shepherd and bishop of our souls. This is the miracle of grace; this is the triumph of the Cross. May this desire grow upon us, until we live and move and have our being in God, not of necessity, but by our own loving consent; then shall we be as the angels of God, there shall be no time, no space, no burdensomeness; we shall live in God's own great eternity. Towards this we are moving by the Spirit; hitherto we have been little, foolish, frivolous, looking for small mercies and often missing them, but now our eyes are unto the hills; not the little hills of earth and time, but to the everlasting hills of light and glory and summer: our help cometh from the Lord. We bless thee for all thy care and love; thou hast made our houses homes, sweet, quiet dwelling-places, and that we have been enabled to find in our own fireside a hint of the ever-burning fire on the altar. We thank thee for sleep, for communion with one another in all holy and tender speech; we thank thee for the bread which perisheth and the water of earthly fountains, and these we have taken sacramentally, as if eating the body and drinking the blood of the Lord's anointed. Inasmuch as we have had to go down into the rough world and the tumultuous marketplace, thou hast been with us there; thou hast prospered us in basket and in store to some extent, and thou hast returned us to our houses glad that the bustling conflict was over, and thankful that the spirit of rest was brooding once more over our aching lives. We thank thee for all our hopes; the worlds are nearer than we thought, heaven's fragrance attempers the winds of earth, we almost hear the upper song: may we listen for it, may our souls delight in sweet anticipations of immortal fellowship, and may we come out of these high reveries determined to work more, suffer more patiently, to accept every discipline more willingly, and to do all our little day's work as men whose citizenship is in heaven. Amen.
7. Charity heareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
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.
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.
The concrete form of the doctrine of this chapter is to be found in the incident of the young man who came to Jesus Christ and asked how he might inherit eternal life. The young man was attractive in appearance, persuasive in voice, comely altogether, so much so that Jesus loved him, as you might love a flower. The young man was filled with the spirit of reverence and homage; kneeling before the Master, he asked, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" What hast thou done? "Everything." Name what thou hast done. "I have kept all the commandments from my youth up." Then said Jesus, "One thing thou lackest." But why turn the young man away because of the lack of one thing? why not take the eleven things which he does possess, and not raise into such exaggerated importance the twelfth element which is missing? This is the way of God. He must have life, and there is no life but in love; he says the meanest little child that crawls in the lowest dust is infinitely greater than the finest marble that does everything but speak. "One thing thou lackest" lacking that, thou hast nothing. Thy respectability must be made into a virtue, thy virtue must be lifted into piety, and thy piety must be heightened into sacrifice. "One thing thou lackest" fair, well-trained, well-informed, educated with amazing solicitude and care, yet one thing thou lackest Jesus Christ and Paul are therefore at one in insisting upon some vital element, one predominating and all-ruling presence in the life.
Let us resume our criticism at "heareth all things, endureth all things" ( 1Co 13:7 ). Is that not the same thing? When we bear do we not endure? when we endure do we not bear? No: in English it may be the same thing, but the English loses the finer meaning of the writer. To endure all things is simple enough as to its etymology and practical meaning patiently to receive, suffer, and abide through processes that are very trying to body, mind, spirit, temper, and everything that constitutes sensitive manhood. But "heareth all things" is another word altogether. There is no one equivalent word in the English tongue. Literally, it would be, we are told, best represented by some such form as this: "outroofeth all things." What does the roof do? it prevents the storm from getting at the persons who are inside the building. That is the meaning of "heareth all things": it is the roof that catches the storm, and keeps the inmates dry and warm. Man should be to man a protecting roof: that is pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, not your metaphysical refining and creed-elaborating and orthodox snivelling debate amongst one another; not your resolution-mongering and your creed-breeding, but loving one another so as to catch the storm yourself and keep it from some other life. That is the miracle of the Cross. It may also be represented by the figure of assuming some impervious garment so that the tempest shall not break through and do injury to the quivering and chilled flesh. There is the mariner on board his ship, blithe and gay and hearty, singing his fresh-air song all the time, or whistling to himself in unexpressed and unrivalled merriment. See how the cloud gathers in the sky, hear how the wind changes its tone, feel how some great drops are already falling upon the clean deck: what does the mariner do? He assumes his great impervious tarpaulin garment, and then he is safe from the raining heavens; the clouds fall upon him, and the streams roll off him, and he is able to do his work with comparative comfort. Charity is that protecting garment. Have we the robe of life in our wardrobe? have we this garment of protection? It would protect ourselves, and it would protect others: here is the double function, the double service, of royal love. When we hear anything against a brother, what should we do? Put on the tarpaulin as the mariner does, and let it all run off. Instead of that, what are we prone to do? To invite the storm, to say to the descending streams, We have been waiting for you; come, here we are in a truly receptive mood. Can there be piety where there is such a spirit? No! But the man who throws off his coat and takes in all the storm knows the Larger and Shorter Catechism! I do not care what he knows he is the devil. Why is he so? Because he loves to hear malicious reports, slanderous statements, he loves to hear something against a brother man. Though therefore he have the Larger and the Shorter Catechism, and the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Nine-and-thirty Articles, all at his finger-ends, he is an offence in the sanctuary of Christ.
This chapter would considerably deplete every Church roll, would it not? It would burn it; there would be no Church roll if this chapter were the foundation of the Church. There are those curiously constituted persons who say when they hear the kind of report we refer to, "You know, we could not help hearing these things." I say, No, but you could help repeating them. That is where your responsibility comes in. If you are base enough to make yourself the common sewer of the Church, if men know that they may run the rubbish of society through the conduit of your ignorance, they will avail themselves of that miserable opportunity. There are some men to whom we could not go with a slanderous report they would burn us! There are others to whom we could go and sit all day, and stuff their vulgar ears with calumnies about their brethren. This is the distinction between "heareth all things" and "endureth all things": in the one case charity outroofeth all storm and tempest and cold, and in the other charity receives all stings and blows and insults with uncomplaining resignation.
"Thinketh no evil." Here we want a little change in the expression to realise the true meaning of the apostolic thought. "Thinketh no evil" should read, Does not dwell upon evil: does not brood upon it: does not roll it under the tongue as a sweet morsel: does not give it large hospitality in the mind or heart, as who should say, Come in, tell us all your tale, let us talk the whole matter over, and when you have told me the facts of the case, I will ruminate, I will brood, I will put two and two together, and out of the shadows you leave behind I will build a prison for those I hate. "Charity thinketh no evil." If an evil suggestion be made to it charity instantly leaves the subject, declining to brood upon it, and to bring out of bad eggs a bad progeny.
The Apostle cannot content himself with positively describing love. He is in one of his finest moods in this chapter; he will not be poet only, he will be iconoclast: and when Paul does smite the images they are so shattered that they never can be put again upon their pedestals. Paul will not allow tongue or prophecy, or even faith or almsgiving, to have any place in this temple, it can hold but one angel form, and its sweet eternal name is Love. How does Paul value prophecies, tongues, and knowledge? He values them at nothing. If it be a question of comparative values, love takes in all the work and leaves no item of value to anything else. What is "knowledge"? often it is destruction. Are there not many men of large knowledge? Undoubtedly that is so, but if the knowledge has not ripened into wisdom, it is but so much ornament or so much encumbrance. You do not know a language when you know its vocabulary. If you were a dictionary of the German language you might not know how to read German. It is curious that a man should know every word he reads, and yet know nothing about the tongue in which he reads nothing about it as to its music, its inner meaning, its refined delicacy of expression; the man shall be but a living lexicon. So with this higher tongue of the Christian life. We may know doctrinal forms and doctrinal expressions, and we may be even cleverer, as many doctors of the Church have been, in prostituting single texts into vicious meanings, yet we may know nothing of the spiritual genius and holy intent of Christ's law and Christ's kingdom.
Paul continues to say, "We know in part." Who says so? Paul! Paul the Apostle? Yes. He saw a little of the meaning, and it transfigured him into beauty and strength, but he was the first to insist that what he saw was so small as to fill him with impatience to see and know more. Paul had no little book that held in it everything. Paul never numbered his articles of faith. Think of a man keeping a theological store, with separate pigeon-holes and cunningly-shaped drawers for Predestination Election Prevenient Grace Supralapsarian Heresies of the Fourth Century and being able at a moment's notice to take them out and supply them! Paul could not be shaped into that hideousness; Paul lived, he was tempestuous, sometimes furious, sometimes quiet as a sleeping child: but preeminently Paul lived, and lived in love.
"We prophesy," the Apostle continues, "in part." Who said so? Paul! The same Paul? Yes; the same heroic Apostle preached, or prophesied, only "in part." I love to hear a man who knows only "in part" and says so, who preaches only "in part," and gives me to feel that as soon as he gets to know anything more he will tell me. I have confidence in that man; he will allow me to become his little comrade; the moment he sees another streak of light on the horizon he will call me up and exclaim, There it is: see how it grows, broadens, brightens; there is an eternal summer in that one white gleam. Life would be intolerable if we did anything else than know in part and preach in part. It is the coming light that draws us forward by its magic constraint; it is always that which is "perfect" that draws us onward. It may come at any moment; the Lord will suddenly come to his temple. The Lord has not given us notice as to how he will come or when. There are prophecy-mongers, who ought to be hooted out of society, who have fixed the date of the Lord's coming. Such men ought to be scourged out of the temple: let them set up their stalls on Salisbury Plain and offer their folly to the winds for sale, but let them not intrude upon the temple of God. When the Lord will come no man knoweth, not even the Son that is in the bosom of the Father; and when his revelations will come in broadening and brightening heavens, we cannot tell: what I say unto one, I say unto all, Watch: and when you see any new star, call us up, if it be at midnight, lest we miss this access of glory. Paul would thus by the very partialness of his knowledge and preaching make us fellow-students with him; he would be so great a man as to say, Well, you know something I do not know. We have had a small example of that kind amongst ourselves. Where was there ever a grander, finer, tenderer soul than Edward Irving? Any man could come and detain him for hours if he said he had a revelation from the Lord. That most eloquent of tongues would lie silent, and that most capacious of minds would open itself with grateful and eager expectancy, because a man had come with a supposed message from the Lord. That is humility, that is apostolic modesty, that is waiting until the Lord come.
Was Paul ever like one of ourselves? Does he overshadow us by his greatness? Does he repel us by the very majesty which he would disown? On the contrary, he was a man of like passions with ourselves, and he passed through a similar experience to our own: "When I was a child" Paul a child? "I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child" "Except ye become as little children, ye cannot see the kingdom of God." There are two childhoods: the natural, and the spiritual; we have passed through the one, have we attained the other? Observe, at a certain point in life it is almost a miracle to know the alphabet; but we have forgotten that circumstance. Our attention has been called to the fact that some little person actually knows his letters, and if we did not marvel sufficiently we went down in the maternal imagination and judgment: but if we threw up our hands and said, Impossible I then we were thought to be estimable persons. There is a time when in the case of that very child it would be a shame to him if he knew only his letters. How the miracle changes! When he was in years but a child it was wonderful that he could relate his alphabet without one stumble, but now that ten years have elapsed, and he can only perform the same feat, the very mother that praised him cries, "Shame on you not to be able to do more!" Why should we live upon our alphabetic attainments? Yet this is precisely what men do in the Church. You meet them in the very first days of their Christian experience, and they recite the A B C of the Testament to you, and you are pleased, and you congratulate them, and thank God for their attainments: you meet them in ten years, and they are still talking the same alphabetic speech. Where is progress, where is growth, where is development, where the music that falls harmonically into the fitness of things? Paul says, "when I became a man." Paul would have us forget the things that are behind; the Apostle would not have us learn again our first principles and our elements, and be talking ever more about our alphabetic acquirements; he would advance, proceed, make way in the world; this is the law of evolution. The whole thing we have to grow up to is love. It is possible to have love without having intellectual faith or hope. Intellectual Christians are useless Christians that is to say, if they are only intellectual. It is a sad thing for a man to be an intellectual hearer of the Gospel. He will never hear it. The most intellectual man who is in the right spiritual mood will put off his intellect when he enters the church, saying, The place whereon I stand is holy ground; in this sacred enclosure I must be a little child, a worshipper, a man of a contrite and a broken heart; all my literary apparatus I must leave outside, whilst I go to tell God that I have erred and strayed from his way like a lost sheep, and whilst I stand with bent eyes, and say inaudibly to every ear but God's, God be merciful to me a sinner! There is no great intellectual conquest to be made in this drawing near to God. The Church is not an academy, the Church of the living God is not made up of philosophers, and clever persons, and men of highly-trained minds: the question is whether they can be allowed to come in at all or not. The Church is made up of the contrite, the humble, those who do not make their humility a reason against progress; but those who make their humility a stimulus in the direction of all the higher attainments.
How stands the Church to-day in these matters? On the authority of the Apostle Paul, we proclaim love to be the one thing needful. Not love with an easy definition. There is nothing so difficult to define, as we have often seen, as such little words as love, life, peace, truth. This is Paul's dictionary, occupying thirteen verses, or a whole chapter, to itself. Is it possible that we can begin at one of these points without taking in the whole of them? It would be encouraging to some of us if that could be made out to be so. "Charity suffereth long, and is kind": can I enter there? "Charity envieth not": can I take hold at that point? "Charity vaunteth not itself": can I find an inch of standing ground there? "Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth, outroofeth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things," oh, is there no little door by which I can enter in somewhere? The rest might come, the rest, the rest might come!
Father of our spirits, do thou come to us in Jesus Christ thy Son, then we can bear thy glory. No man can see the light in which thou livest and yet himself live; but the humblest, most broken-hearted, can look upon Jesus Christ, and become immortal. We would always see thy Son; we would begin the day with him; at noontide we would be found close beside him; at twilight we would be within hearing of his voice; all night we would sleep in his arms. Help us to love him, more and more, as day is added to day in our little life; may we, by the power of the Holy Ghost; see him more clearly, receive him more fully, obey him more willingly, and live for him without distraction or hesitation. He loved us all; he loved old age and childhood; he had a word of kindness for those to whom none but himself ever spoke; he left others behind when they were tired, that he might go forward and save the lost. Jesus goes alone; we cannot keep pace with him; he seeks and saves the lost ones. We need this blessed Son of God in our life; without him we are lost, confused, in darkness and trouble; we are bewildered by questions to which there are no answers, and the future is a tremendous cloud: but with Jesus Christ we can do all things, yea, we glory exceedingly in tribulation also; the deeper and blacker the water, the surer his grasp of our life: we bless thee that we know him in the wilderness, in the river, in the furnace, in the difficult place, more perfectly than we can know him in morning sunshine, or in summer calm. Jesus Christ knew all hearts, understood all necessities, touched all pain so as to heal it, and by his very benignity and complacency looked men into newness of strength and hope. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; his the name that is above every name, and his the all-absorbing, all-eclipsing glory: the praise be his for our salvation, for our hope, for a broader, better life, for every expectation that scorns the limitation and the judgment of time. The Lord send into our hearts great gladness; the Lord enable us to glory beyond the Cross, and according to the necessity of the Cross, as the gateway opening upon the glory. At the Cross we say our prayers, we sing our song, and end our cry with the heart's amen. Amen.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16