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Faith, Hope, Charity.

Faith, Hope, Charity.

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Published by glennpease



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Published by: glennpease on Sep 16, 2013
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FAITH, HOPE, CHARITY.REV. THOMAS SOMERVILLE, A.M.,"OW ABIDETH FAITH, HOPE, CHARITY; BUT THE GREATESTOFTHESE IS CHARITY." — I Cor. xilLIn the whole range of literature there is nothing finer thanthis chapter of the Apostle. And this holds good not onlyin regard to the subject, but equally to the language inwhich the description is given. It has been named theDivine ode on Christian love. It is an evidence of the newnature of the Apostle in Jesus Christ. ot even from the lipsof the Apostle John, whose theme is ever of love, has anythingso beautiful come on the subject of Christian love. In thefirst part (1-4) charity is distinguished from other gifts. It isnot mere glibness of speech nor clearness of perception, norstrength of conviction, nor abundant almsgiving, nor self-sacrificing patriotism. It is something deeper and betterthan all these. So much better, that without it, all these, orany of these, are as nothing. It is the stream of the Divinelove in the human heart ; the love of God in Christ, andthe love of others in Him. All human love, such as that of mother towards child, the child's love to its parent, the loveof friend for friend, are but faint reflections of this Divinelove or charity. We have no word in our own or in anylanguage that fully expresses it. Charity, in its modernsense, is too narrow ; philanthropy is too cold. One writerhas termed it the enthusiasm of humanity, but even this istoo tame. The Apostle uses the Greek word "agape ;" but,as feeling how inadequate the word was, he goes on toI02 FAITH, HOPE, CHARITY.
describe it from the fourth to eighth verse. He gives whathas been called the quinquagesima of charity — the fifteenmanifestations: "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charityenvieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is noteasily provoked, thinketh no evil ; rejoiceth not in iniquity,but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, beHeveth allthings, hopeth all things, endureth all things."On one of the brightest days in the Summer I went awayback from the sea-shore among the hills of South Ayrshirewith a friend. We wandered away up till we had left all humanhabitations far beneath us, and reached the mountain moor,where the cry of the plover and curlew alone broke upon thestillness ; and there we came upon a beautiful spring, thefountain of the river that was winding through the valleybeneath. Around the clear and sparkling spring there grewsome of the most beautiful wild-flowers to be found in thedistrict. This text was in my mind at the time, and here,I thought, was the symbol of charity. It is the spring of God's love rising up in the wilderness of earth. Within itand around it are the richest moral flora — long-suffering,kindness, brotherly love, humility, endurance, courtesy,gentleness ; only there is this difference, " charity neverfaileth." The late Autumn will come, and these mountainflowers will become sere and yellow ; the winter's frostswill come, and stem and petal and blossom, all will dis-appear; but no Autumn will ever touch the Divine springof charity ; no Winter's frosts will ever settle down upon itsflowers and fruits. Those grand moral flora bloomed in theParadise of God. As they bloomed in Paradise, so are theynow with us; and as with us, so will they be with ourchildren's children, for charity shall have an endless reign.This is the last thought of the Apostle, which he expoundsFAITH, HOPE, CHARITY. 103from the eighth to the thirteenth verse. He compares it with
other gifts in respect of permanence — with prophecies, withtongues, and with knowledge. Prophecies will be fulfilled,and pass away. The prophecy will become established fact.Tongues will cease. The old mother tongue of the world isnow no more. The tongues of some of the natives of theSouth Pacific and of the orth American tribes have ceasedin our own day. We trust the day will come when Englishwill alone be spoken throughout the bounds of the BritishEmpire. In another respect tongues will cease. Thetongues of eloquence and affection will become silent indeath. The tongue of the Apostle himself is hushed onearth. The tongue of the preacher will be no longer heard.We often long for the touch of a vanished hand, and thesound of a voice that is hushed; but charity will neverfail. Knowledge will pass away; that is to say, imperfectknowledge will merge into perfect knowledge, just as theknowledge of the child is lost in the knowledge of theman ; but charity will never fail.Then the Apostle adds: "ow abideth faith, hope, charity,these three; but the greatest of these is charity." This is notonly the close, but the climax of the inspired ode. He bringsthe three sister graces together. He declares the permanenceof the three, and asserts the pre-eminence of charity. We arenot to understand that the Apostle in the least depreciatesthe other two graces ; nay, much of what he has said aboutfaith, might be said also about the others. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not faith,I am nothing. And though I have the gift of prophecy,and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; andthough I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains,and have not hope, I am nothing.Why, then, does he declare charity to be the greatest?I04 FAITH, HOPE, CHARITV.There is a very beautiful explanation of this, which has

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