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Reflections on the different gifts

SECT. members or ministers of the church, apostles? all teachers? are all Yea, [are] all, who are subordinate to them, workers of miracles?

xxiv.

1 Cor. prophets? Or, [are all that sort of inferior XII. 29. teachers, whom I observed to stand in the third

30 Have all the gifts

with tongues? do all interpret ?

class? [Have] all those [miraculous] powers, which I have again and again mentioned? 30 Or, to instance only in one of the lowest of them, have all the gifts of healing diseases, in that ex- of healing? do all speak traordinary manner in which some have effected it? Yea, do all speak with tongues which they have never learned? Or do all others find themselves able to act in that lower sphere I spoke of before, and to interpret into their native language, or any other, what has been uttered in a tongue to them generally unknown? These things are well worthy your consideration: but instead of attending to them, ye contend earnestly about the best or most shining gifts, envying, and it may be, detracting from the superior endowments of others. Yet I show you a way of the highest excellence, to which it will be your greatest wisdom carefully to attend.

31

31 But covet carnest

ly the best gifts: and

yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

IMPROVEMENT.

Ver. THE wisdom and goodness of God, as displayed in the for18 mation of the human body, is a subject that well deserves our attentive reflection, and humble acknowledgment. All its several parts are useful to the whole; and the most noble cannot up20 braid the meanest as an incumbrance. Each has reason to rejoice in its own situation, as well as in the addition of all the rest; and were the lowest placed higher than it is, it would become use. less, burdensome, and monstrous.

Let us acknowledge the same hand in the wise subordination, appointed in civil societies, and in the church of Christ. Let none be discouraged at the low station wherein they are fixed, but rather let all acquiesce in the prudent and gracious disposal of

g Are all apostles? &c.] It appears that this invidious temper was not extirpated from among the Corinthians, even by this just and lively expostulation; for Clemens Romanus, writing to them many years after, complains of its continued prevalence, as leading them to neglect a due regard to those presbyters, who were according to Divine direction fixed among them, and to throw them out of their episcopal office. See Clem. Epistle to the Cor. Sect. 44.

the

h Ye contend earnestly about the best gifts, &c.] I doubt not but this is the just render ing of ζηλωλε τα χαρισματα τα κρείτονα : for it seems quite contradictory to suppose, that after the apostle had been shewing them, that these gifts were not at their own option, and that they ought not to emulate the gifts of each other, nor to aspire to superiority; he shou'd in effect unsay all again, and give them such contrary advice,

And offices in the church.

XXIV.

the supreme Lord, and apply themselves to their proper functions. SECT. Let each member consider all the rest with pleasure; and rejoice with thankfulness, in the health and vigour of the other parts, making the proper use of them, and communicating in return its proper services. If any be weak, let all strengthen it. If there be any blemish and imperfection in any part, let all the rest tenderly cover it; unless when a regard to the health and happiness of the whole, requires that it should be laid open, and searched 23 in order to its being cured. And upon the whole, so far as we can prevent it, let there be no schism in the body. Alas, that there 25 should be so many breaches and contentions! Let us lament them; let each in his place endeavour to heal them; and unite in a sympathizing care of one another. So shall we best express our regard to our common Head; so shall we, in the remotest consequences, best consult our own interest and honour.

Blessed be God, that he hath, in his church, given not only 28 apostles, and prophets, but also pastors and teachers! Adored be that bounty with which he hath scattered down his gifts, whether ordinary or extraordinary, on the children of men. Let all be used, not to the purposes of ostentation, but of edification. And let us be desirous of those whereby we may bear most of the image of Christ, and may most promote the great design for which he visited this low world of ours, and was pleased to unite his church unto himself, and its several members to each other, in such dear and indissoluble bonds.

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SECT. XXV.

To engage the Corinthians to cultivate charity, as more excellent and important than any of those gifts about which they were so ready to contend, the Apostle gives a most lovely description of it; which he concludes with a reflection on its perpetual duration in which it exceeds even the graces of faith and hope. 1 Cor. XIII. throughout.

1 Cor. XIII. 1.

THOUGH I speak with the tongues of

SECT.

1 Cor.

1 CORINTHIANS XIII. 1. HAVE been urging you to pursue something I more excellent than any of those gifts about xxv. which some among you have been so ready to contend; and I have recommended it as a more excellent way. That of which I speak, is the incomparable and Divine grace of Love; which indeed is not only of the highest excellence, but of absolute necessity. For if I were

XIII. 1.

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SECT.

XXV.

The highest accomplishments are of no importance without love.

and have not charity, I am become as sound

to speak with all the variety of tongues which of men, and of angels, are used among all the nations of men, and were 1 Cor. capable of employing them even with the elo- ing brass, or a tinkling XIII. 1. quence of angels, and knew their celestial dia- cymbal.

2 And though I have

and understand all mysteries, and

all

lect; but have not love to God and my fellowcreatures, be my strains of discourse ever so harmonious, or ever so sublime, I am become but sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbals, at best but like an instrument of music, and bardly worthy to be compared to an instrument of the nobler kind. So little delight would any of my most pompous performances give to God, or to any of his most valuable creatures, who should know that love was wanting, that I might as well think to recommend myself to acceptance, by the noisy clank made by brazen instruments, 2 in the worship of Isis or Cybele. And if, besides those gifts of tongues and eloquence, I the gift of prophecy, have that of prophesying, so as to foretel the most distant and important future events; and know all these mysteries which have hitherto been concealed from the most penetrating and illuminated eyes; or have all the exactest know. ledge of religion, or any other object that can be supposed the subject of my inquiries; and if, joined with this, I have all the most miraculous faith, by virtue of which I should be able to produce effects that might amaze the whole world, so as to remove mountains from their basis, to transport them from one part of the earth to another, and to change the whole face of nature with a word; but with all these wonderous endowments, have not love, simple as that principle is, and comparatively mean as it may be esteemed, yet for want of it, I am nothing in

a Speak with the tongues, &c.] Dr. Whitby shews, by a great many admirable quotations, both from Josephus and the Jewish rabbies, how much each of these things was regarded by the Jews, which St. Paul here speaks of as absolutely of no avail without charity.

b Have not love] Ayarn is not so properly rendered charity. It must here be taken in the noblest sense, for such a love to the whole church, and the whole world, as arises from principles of true piely, and ultimately centers in God.

c Tinkling cymbal ] Mr. Locke very just ly remarks, that as a cymbal was made of two pieces of hollow brass, which being struck together made a tinkling, with very

the

knowledge; and though have all faith, so that tains, and have no cha. rity, I am nothing.

I could remove moun

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as in the epistle to the Romans; where it is such an assent to a Divine declaration as produces a suitable temper and conduct.

e I am nothing.] A person so eminently favoured by God, as this description supposes, yet destitute of true piety and benevolence, must be very contemptible, and justly odious.

3 And though I be stow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

XXV.

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1 Cor.

Charity, or love, suffereth long, is kind, envieth not, &c.
the sight of God, and have in reality no true SECT.
worth and excellence. And I may farther
add, that no external act of charity, or of zeal,
will signify any thing, if this inward principle, XIII. 3,
which should be the life of all, be wanting;
for if I distribute all my goods in alms for the
sustenance of the poor, and deliver up my body
to be burnt in defence of religion itself, and do it
from a secret design of human applause, and
ostentation of charity, or of piety; but have
not in the sight of God that love to which I make
so high a pretence, I shall receive no advantage
by it; but in the day of final account, my Judge,
instead of applauding and rewarding me as a
saint and a martyr, will condemn me as a wick-
ed and vain-glorious hypocrite.

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; cha

Indeed the properties of this love which I am 4 now recommending, are such, that one would rity vaunteth not itself, imagine the description of them should be is not puffed up, enough to charm the whole world to pursue it. Sufficiently must that shew how happy it renders the soul, which is under its influence, as well as how amiable such must be both to God and man. For love suffereth long injuries [and] provocations, without being transported into rage, or instigated into revenge. On the contrary, under all this ill-usage it is gentle and kind. Love envieth not the advantages which others enjoy; but rather takes pleasure in them, and by friendly participation makes them its own. Love is not insolent and over-bearing, does not act with such precipitancy and rashness as pride and illnature often hurry men into; but engages us with tenderness to look round on those about us, lest we should by any means harm them before we are aware. Love is not presently puffed up with arrogant self-conceit, on account of any distinguished station, or peculiar endowment, which a man may possess; nor outwardly boasteth of these things, or inwardly overvalueth it5 Doth not behave self upon them. Love doth not behave indecently, 5

itself

f Is not insolent, &c.] The Greek word wing, from whence the verb here used is derived, signifies rash and inconsiderate, so that the word must here import," one that acts with such precipitancy and inconsideration as pride and ill-nature often hurry people into," which charity would preserve them from, and induce that tenderpess and caution which engages us to look

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XXV.

And it is a grace which shall never fail ;

itself unseemly, seck❤, eth not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil,

6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth

7 Beareth all things,

SECT. in a manner unbecoming a person's station,
age or circumstances. Love seeketh not her own
1 Cor. things, but makes all reasonable concessions in
XII. 5. any point of self-interest, where any superior in-
terest of others is concerned. Love is not exas-
perated, and thrown into bitter and implacable
resentments, even where the usage it meets with
is most apparently unjust; and where the inten-
tion is dubious, it imputeth not evil; but puts
the kindest construction upon the action itself,
or the principle from whence it proceeds, which
the nature of circumstances may by any means
6 allow. Love rejoiceth not at iniquity; it takes
no pleasure to see an adversary fall into a crime in the truth;
by which his reputation should be blasted, and
his interest ruined; but on the contrary, it re-
joiceth with others in the truth, and is pleased,
when its greatest enemies behave themselves in
a manner agrecable to the word of God, and
7 the reason of things. Far from delighting to
blaze abroad the faults of others, it covereth all
things that are amiss, so far as it can lawfully
conceal them; all, which benevolence to the
public, or kindness to an individual does not
require them to make known. It is not apt to
suspect the integrity and veracity of others; but
rather, knowing itself to be sincere, believeth all
things, so far as with the most candid allowances
it rationally can; and where it is constrained to
confess, that many things are wrong, it is un-
willing to treat the worst of mankind as utterly
incorrigible; but hopeth all things, and with
that hope supports itself in every kind effort it
can make for their recovery; and as it is long-
suffering with regard to human provocations, so
from the hand of God it endureth all things,
even the most sharp and heavy afflictions, acqui-
escing in his will, trusting in his care, and re-
joicing, if its own sufferings may be a means of
consolation and edification to others.

8

And farther to recommend this excellent principle of love, give me leave to observe, that it is a grace which never faileth; but will accompany and adorn us to all eternity, and indeed makes a very essential part of our preparation for the heavenly world; in which it hath an appa

lieve, that in all this description, the apostle
had in his mind that contrast to this heau-
tiful character which was so prevalent

rent

believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8 Charity never fail

eth:

among the Corinthians, as is evident from many passages in both these epistles.

b Knowledge

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