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Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity enrieth 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,' 1 Cor. xiii. 4-7.
As a piece of moral painting, nothing can be finer than the portrait of charity drawn in these words. It has been well said by a distinguished critic, that it would be difficult to find a finer passage than this in the writings of Demosthenes himself.'
Charity suffereth long, and is kind. It is patient and forbearing. There may be great faults in others, but the truly charitable do not dwell upon them, or allow themselves to be irritated by them. There is a forbearance which springs from contempt rather than pity. The truly charitable, however, bear with others from kindness. They respect them as rational and accountable amidst all their faults and sins, have a lively interest in their welfare, and earnestly seek for opportunities to promote it. They bear with them not as an hardship, but as a duty, which a sense of the claims of others, and of their own unworthiness and obligations, renders agreeable.
It envieth not. It does not repine at the advantages which distinguish others, or covet the good things which they possess. It rather desires that the possessors of valuable blessings should enjoy and continue to possess them, not only as they are, but in more abundant measure. It wishes well to all men, not conventionally, but heartily; and its chief regret is, that men are not happier, as well as better, than they are.
law of God would thunder its condemnations in its ear, and lay its presumption in the dust.
Doth not behave itself unseemly. Humility others, as well as from unnecessarily and unprevents it from encroaching on the claims of ostentatiously obtruding its own. It does not
pretend to be what it is not, labouring to estanot possess; and hence it is free from affectation, blish a reputation for excellence which it does the source of so much that is offensive, trifling, and absurd. Over its deportment, there is spread the grace of true modesty.
Seeketh not her own. A brief expression, but most comprehensive in its import. It indicates that true charity is opposed to selfishness. There is an enlightened self-interest, no doubt, which it is our duty to attend to. But this is very different from that mean creeping selfishness which is ever intent on its own gains, and distinctions, and pleasures, without attending to the welfare of others, and carefully shunning whatever would injure it. The selfish live for themselves alone. But the charitable, while they seek their own true happiness, as in duty bound, seek it in connection with the good of others. They seek not their own, but the things of Jesus Christ.
Is not easily provoked. Charity is not easily roused to resentment or complaint. There is an anger which is without sin. But the truly charitable are slow, even to this. They are calm, patient, reluctant to take offence, averse to perceive matter of blame. Even when an action seems unjust, they are disposed to give it the benefit of every palliation, and to wait that they may judge of it, in the cool and clear light of reason.
Thinketh no evil. It does not readily sit in strict judgment on the motives and actions of others; but rather endeavours to regard them in a favourable light. Even when injury has been done, it would ascribe it to inadvertence or haste, rather than deliberate purpose.
It vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Christian charity is based upon profound humility. It is a grace of the Spirit, who, in his mighty and gracious work, shows the sinner his true charac- Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the ter and state, in the view of the divine law. It truth. How often we find that the faults and sins regards itself, therefore, as vile, without a shadow of others are dwelt upon and exaggerated by men, of merit, without a syllable of title, and hon- as if in proportion as others failed, they themoured and blessed only in the privilege of its selves were excellent? But true charity is reliance on the merit of our Lord Jesus Christ. grieved by the sins of others. It feels as if perIt has no proud or flattering things to say sonally wounded by the tale of their imprudence of itself. In the comparison of itself with what it and guilt. It has no pleasure in hearing of the ought to be, it loses sight of every thing by which faults of men. On the contrary, it rejoices in it may be distinguished from others, and cannot the contemplation of their virtues. It loves allow itself to dwell with complacent approba- moral excellence as beautiful in itself, as agreeable tion, even on its best deeds. It is conscious of to the infinite mind of God, as, in the believer, no really good deeds; and were it to boast of itself a proof of the efficacy of grace, and as inseparbefore others, it would feel that the unalterable ably identified with the proper dignity and the
permanent happiness of our nature. The report indeed to be so much beyond the ordinary stan
of a virtuous action is as good news.
Charity beareth all things. It does not readily take offence, or complain of injury, but would rather forget and conceal the unjust and violent conduct of others.
It believeth all things. Not that it is weakly credulous, or blind to palpable evidence, but that, wherever there is a probability in favour of others, it eagerly admits it. It requires strong evidence to convince it of what is unfavourable to them. It hopeth all things. When the issues of a course of conduct look dark or doubtful, it anticipates the best. When an action seems bad, it waits for an explanation, and clings to the expectation that, when given, it will dispel every shadow of doubt and suspicion.
It endureth all things. Though unjustly treated, it is unwilling to murmur. Even when persecuted, it is patient; even when calumniated, it is silent. In the words of a very beautiful paraphrase, it
'Meekly suffers many a wrong,
dard of excellence, among even generous and disinterested friends, that we regard it as an extreme case, altogether an exception to the general rule, which it were unreasonable to expect, and absurd to require. It certainly exhibits the very farthest point to which, in unnumbered cases, the love of friendship can go. The sacrifice of substance; the renunciation of home, kindred, country; the surrender of reputation, rank, privileges; bodily torture, self-mutilation, and penance in its severest forms; are all short of the laying down of life.—A man might give up these, and yet live; but when he gives up life, he has nothing more to give. Life includes all.
When our Lord stated that the laying down of life was the strongest proof of love towards friends, he was referring to his own sacrifice as a proof of his love towards his disciples. In the verse immediately preceding, he says, 'this is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.' His love was unparalleled. There is no instance of love on record that can be said to approach it. It has circumstances peculiar to itself, which remove it beyond all comparison. Love between man and man, even when it leads to the sacrifice of life, is love between equals; love founded on the perception of excellence in its object; love cherished and strengthened by acts of sympathy and kindness, and a course of endearing communion; love whose offices are repaid in kind. But the love of Christ was love on the part of one infinitely exalted above those whom he loved; of one who was independent, and needed no return of love from others to complete his happiness; of one whose nature was infinite, and whose resources were inex
LOVE to their fellow-creatures has at times led men to make astonishing sacrifices. But the greatest sacrifice of all is life. A man will part with substance, raiment, office, home, kindred, that others may be benefitted, rescued from dan-haustible. Men are, in some measure, constituted ger, or restored to freedom; but when it comes to life, he pauses; for this is the sacrifice of all, that which is dearest, deepest, most precious. 'Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath, will he give for his life.'
The instance of Damon and Pythias is well known. When the former was condemned to death by the tyrant Dionysius, having obtained leave to go home and settle his affairs, the latter engaged to die in his stead, if he did not return in time. He returned when Pythias was about to suffer, and the tyrant, penetrated by the example of their friendship, remitted the punishment of Damon, so that both were preserved. There was an undoubted sublimity in the friendship of these two persons, a merging of selfish feeling and sordid consideration, and a measure of mutual confidence, which it is impossible not to admire. We feel it
for friendship, and require the support and consolation which it is fitted to yield. Like the vine, they are made to cling to, and to lean upen others; and left altogether to themselves, they də not expand into that fulness and tenderness of affection, without which they can never be said to reach their proper measure of enjoyment. But it was not so with the Son of God, who is the
same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.' 'Herein indeed is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us.'
In estimating the love of Christ to his disciples, it is most important to advert to the fact, that they are naturally not friends, but enemies. The friendship which subsists among men, is founded on mutual confidence and esteem. Hence friendship, in its more intense forms, has been poetically termed the mysterious cement of the soul.
But in men naturally, the Saviour could behold | in his life. What he said to his disciples, while nothing to please or to attract. He is holy-they he tabernacled on earth, he says to all his people are impure. Sin is an abomination to him-it is in every age, 'Ye are my friends, if ye do whattheir delight. His happiness is spiritual-their soever I command you.' enjoyments are of the earth, earthy. We cannot conceive a more complete opposition of natures. There is not merely difference, but enmity; and hence men are described in scripture as enemies to God in their hearts,'-disliking all that the Creator loves, and violating all that he commands.
I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them,' Ezek.
This supplies a view of his love altogether THE relation which God bears to his people, is astonishing. His love to them involves the set forth in scripture by a rich variety of illusstrongest possible claims to their confidence and trations, borrowed from the wide fields of nature, love; and as he is supreme, stands to them in art, and human life. He is a Sun, a Rock, a the relation of Lord and King, the appropriate Fortress, a Shield, a King, a Guide, a Husband, expression and evidence of their love is obedience a Father; while nothing can exceed the tenderto the laws which he proclaims. He requires ness and endearment with which he is represented this obedience at their hands. It arises out of as dealing with, and addressing his people. All of the relations which he bears to his church. We these names, however, are lost in the immensity of can conceive of friendship between equals, in which the expression: 'I am your God.' The very perthere is no obligation to obey, though there will fections of the Godhead, infinite as they are, are, be a disposition to do whatever is likely to please, by this expression, pledged to the happiness and or make happy. This is the ordinary case of salvation of the believer. There is amazing human friendship. The friendship, however, sub-condescension in this. For who is it, who thus sisting between Christ and his disciples is, as we have already said, not friendship between equals. It is friendship between a teacher and his scholars a lawgiver and his subjects—a sovereign and his dependents; and as such, there is involved in the very nature of that friendship on the part of those honoured, the most powerful obligation to learn with meekness, to obey with diligence, and to honour with profound and grateful reverence.
It is a decisive test of our being the friends of the Saviour, if we keep his commandments. It is impossible that we can be his friends, if we refuse to do any thing he requires from us. For why, and how are we his friends? Why, but because of his stupendous work in our behalf; and how, but by the renovating power of his Holy Spirit? Our friendship implies not only love and confidence, but intense gratitude and unreserved submission. Whatever Christ has said will therefore be sacred to us; whatever he has enjoined will be cheerfully, heartily done; whatever he has instituted will be carefully and reverentially observed. If his love be rightly apprehended and felt, it will overwhelm and constrain the soul. The utmost we can do will be regarded as a poor expression of the desire to please him, which we ought to cherish. Let no one imagine for a moment, then, that he is, or can be a friend of the Saviour, if his laws are not precious to his heart, and, in some measure, embodied
addresses sinful men? It is the Almighty Creator, the supreme Governor, the Lawgiver and Judge of angels and men. He who has but to speak, and it is done; but to command, and all things stand fast. He needed not the love or the service of man, for our goodness extendeth not to him. He is eternally happy in himself, independent and unchangeable. Yet he declares himself, in these words, to be the property of his people, places himself on their side, undertakes the maintenance of their cause, and thereby surrounds them and their interests with the light and the protection of his incommunicable glory. It is impossible fully to estimate the dignity of the privilege which is thus conferred upon the members of the true church. They can call God theirs in no merely figurative or doubtful sense, but as a real Portion, as an omnipotent Guardian, as an unfailing Friend. Whatever they need, he will supply; averting ruinous evil, and overruling for good that which is inevitable; bestowing important privileges in discipline, and finally crowning his love by the completeness of their salvation in heaven. Well may they say in the darkest hour of trial, in the fiercest conflict of faith, 'Greater is he who is for us, than all they that are against us.' 'Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.'
This covenant relation, subsisting between God and believers, involves the most weighty obliga
tions to obedience on their part. Gratitude for the privilege conferred, and love to the Being who has manifested such unparalleled generosity and condescension, could not fail to impel to whatever surrender of themselves or their property he might be pleased to require. But men, being naturally insensible to the value of the privilege, are dead to those emotions of gratitude and love, which it is fitted to inspire. God in conferring it, however, has made arrangements for such a change in the hearts of sinners, as leads them to prize this privilege above life itself, to seek its enjoyment as their proper happiness, and to shrink from whatever would impair or disturb it. When they are thus changed in the spirit of their minds, the amazing condescension and grace of God soften and subdue their hearts. They surrender themselves entirely to him; soul, body, and spirit, are dedicated, without reserve, to the obedience of his will, and the advancement of his honour. They feel this, not to be a hard, but a reasonable service; and the subject of regret with them is, not that too much is required, but that the requital which they render, is so utterly insufficient and poor.
The claim of God upon his people, then, is that they should do whatever he has been pleased to enjoin. His statutes and judgments include his whole revealed will; both the laws which we are to obey, and the institutions which we are to observe. His will must give a commanding sacredness to all his word. It announces both what we are to believe, and what we are to do; and the truths which it reveals, as well as the precepts which it enjoins, must be regarded with supreme reverence and confidence by us. No words should so solemnize and impress as these, thus saith the Lord.' Seeing we are so unspeakably indebted to him, and stand in a relation so dear, our obedience should flow like a warm and gushing stream from the heart. It should not only be a uniform but a willing service; not only willing but delightful. We should be ready to say, 'His commandments are not grievous;' or still more emphatically, 'His yoke is easy, and his burden light.' We should exclaim with David, 'O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!'
These are the feelings and views of all who are renewed, and admitted into covenant with God. But in the present state, believers often fall away from their first love; the fervour of their feelings subsides, the energy of their resolu-Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity tions decays; and though at one period bound up and quicken thou me in thy way,' Psal. cxix. 37. to all the sublimity and perils of the spiritual life, yet at another their affections are cold, their VANITY is stamped upon all earthly things views indistinct, and their zeal languid. When Many of them look most beautiful and inviting such seasons occur, surely the remembrance of but they fail to satisfy, and even when most the endearing relation which God bears to them, fully possessed and enjoyed, leave a void in the is powerfully fitted to rekindle their zeal, excite heart, which is painful and oppressive. Men their affections, and stimulate to obedience. All are eager in the pursuit of them from day to other sanctions and obligations may be said to be day, straining every nerve, and putting forth summed up in this,-Is the Lord their God? every energy that they may secure a certain Then how ardently they should love, how rever- amount of them, which they consider to be entially honour, and how diligently obey him? suited to their desires. Society is, in fact, a vast Most reasonably may he, who has condescended field of competition, where, on the right hand to bear this relation to them, require them to and on the left, these things are sought after 'walk in his statutes and to keep his judgments, with an ardour which knows no abatement, one and do them.' These statutes and judgments crowd of competitors succeeding to another, s are most reasonable and righteous in themselves. that the noise and the stir never cease. Yet They are such as, independent of all claim on the the confession of the wise man is, more or less, part of him who enjoins them, are worthy to be sooner or later, that of all,—‘all is vanity and honoured and obeyed; but as proceeding from him vexation of spirit.' How much need, then, have who has conferred such honour on them, distin- we to utter the prayer of the text! These guished them so largely by his grace, and afforded things, vain unsatisfying as they are, too easily them assurance of all that is most needful and awaken interest in our hearts. They are conprecious, they rise into an importance and urgency, genial to our corrupt nature,-of the earth, which it were the very extreme of obduracy to earthy;-and even believers, living under the resist, and of ingratitude to neglect. power of the Spirit, and, by his teaching, in
some measure enlightened to estimate things It pretends to lift up to high aims, to suggest according to their real value, often find their maxims of prudence for the right regulation of desires wandering in search of these things, and the conduct, to point out excesses to be shunned, seeking happiness in them. We need divine joys and distinctions to be sought after; but even help that we may refrain from looking at them. when it has been most implicitly followed, what It is foolish, it is criminal, to set our hearts upon is the issue? Disappointment and shame. This them, and the pursuit of them is sure to involve boasted wisdom, after all, is folly-consummate us in disappointment and shame; but the grace folly. It sows the wind and reaps the whirlof God alone can enable us to turn from them, wind.' to seek after things spiritual and enduring, and to cherish the pure thoughts which these things awaken.
The habit of looking at vain things is a great hindrance to our advancement in holiness. They divide attention; they weaken the influence of evangelical motives; they indispose us for spiritual exercises, and render us sluggish and dull in the use of means. We cannot both fix our eyes on vanity, and be diligent in duty. The Psalmist, therefore, properly connects the turning of the eye away from vanity with quickening in the way of the Lord. That way has been pointed out by the divine law, which is holy, just, and good. There is no other rule of life but the law which God has given us; but that law both proceeds from a Being of infinite love, and is in itself most reasonable. Its claims upon us are absolute and supreme. Whatever else may interest or occupy, this law must control; so that, not only must nothing be done contrary to it, but every thing must be done in accordance with its spirit. As the light colours all things, so must this law, sending forth its pure influence over the whole life. It is directly opposed to the wisdom of the world. The world knows not God, and in its maxims, customs, and pleasures, seeks not his honour. On the contrary, though it professes to be friendly to religion, and does not openly and directly deny its authority, it cherishes a secret and deadly hostility to it. It puts the creature and the thing created in the place of God. It strives to banish every thought of God and of his claims from the mind. It surrounds its slaves with associations and circumstances, unfavourable to all serious feelings. It sanctions many things which the word of God condemns, and, even when it is most virtuous, fears not to touch on the borders of vice. What it terms, and boasts of as its wisdom, its gravest and most deliberate decisions, is limited to the things and interests of the present fleeting life. It grovels on its own surface, and among its own perishing things; and it shrinks from the vast sphere of eternity, as a region whose very light turns its possessions into mockery and dust. This wisdom, in its most boasted forms, is vanity.
It is indispensable to our peace, then, that we should learn to look upon the world in its true light, to estimate its objects according to their real value, and to give ourselves wholly to the obedience which the divine law requires. We greatly need to be quickened, but we cannot quicken ourselves. The agency of God's Spirit is necessary for this end. He alone reveals the vanity of the world, and inclines the heart to the ways of holiness and peace. He alone awakens the desire for a better portion than the world can give, and makes the sinner bow to the authority and claims of that God, whom the world knows not, and seeks not to honour. But such is the hold of the world upon us, that it is very apt when we have voluntarily renounced it, and turned to God, to recover some measure of its influence, to hinder us in our duty, to chill our zeal, relax our diligence, and obscure our views. There is at times a severe conflict in endeavouring to shut it out. There is no little stir in the heart in consequence of its temptations. The Spirit must therefore continue to quicken, reviving us with fresh power, recalling us to correct spiritual views, and casting the world down into its native meanness. Daily must the prayer of the text be offered, Turn our eyes away from viewing vanity, and quicken us in thy way?' 'Let us not be deceived and misled by the world. Let us not imagine that its objects are what they seem to be, or that there is any truth in its professions, any wisdom in its counsels. But let us cleave to the path of duty; regard God's service as alone truly profitable; and wait for divine grace, that we may continually advance in the performance of duty.'
Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul