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1 CORINTHIANS Xiii. 13.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.
IN this comprehensive text of Scripture is contained, in substance, a general epitome of the Christian character.
It marks those peculiar features which essentially distinguish the disciple of Christ from the followers of every other religion. These features are more or less strikingly discernible, in every one who has thoroughly imbibed the spirit of the Gospel; and the Apostle regards them as inseparable from each other:-" Now “abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: "but the greatest of these is charity." In other parts of his writings they are mentioned severally as well as jointly in the same strain of commendation. "By grace
ye are saved through faith a" Again, "we are saved by hope." And again, “the end "of the commandment is charity, out of a
pure heart, and of a good conscience, and "of faith unfeigned." Their union, therefore, and their cooperation are evidently assumed to be necessary for the attainment of salvation. Each when alone is spurious or imperfect. Then only are they genuine and effective, when they mutually adorn and strengthen each other. This will still more clearly appear when we examine the appropriate qualities of each, as they are represented to us by the Apostle himself.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews faith is defined to be "the substance of things hoped "for, the evidence of things not seen d." It is "the substance of things hoped for." It gives us as strong and firm a persuasion of what we at present only look for and expect, as if it were already realized. It certifies us of what is past many ages ago, as decidedly as if it were now before us; and it gives us a foresight of what is yet to come, with almost the same lively trust and confidence that we experience in what is actually present to our contemplation. It is "the evidence "of things not seen." By the instrumentality of faith truths imperceptible to the natural sight are revealed to our mental perceptions. With respect to these, the dis
c 1 Tim. i. 5.
d Hebr. xi. 1.
cernment of the believer is called a spiritual discernment, to distinguish it from that which is exercised in human philosophy, conversant only with the works of the visible creation; and hence it is emphatically said that the Christian "walks by faith, not by sight." To creatures born for immortality in a world to come, there are many things "hoped for," and many things "not seen," concerning which we necessarily feel great solicitude. The nature of God, his attributes and perfections, his providence in the administration of human events, the imperfect distribution of good and evil in this present state of our existence, the nature of man, his origin and destination, the duty he owes to his Maker, the means of obtaining the Divine favour, his hopes and expectations of eternal life;—these are subjects on which a rational being cannot but feel desirous of some positive and certain information. Yet are they utterly beyond the reach of his own natural faculties. They are doubtful speculations, and must for ever have continued so, had not God been pleased to reveal them in such measure and degree as is necessary for our immediate comfort and edification. It is faith only, a firm reliance upon God's own testimony, that gives us any competent know
e 2 Cor. v. 7.
ledge of these truths. Faith embodies, as it were, that which is otherwise unsubstantial and visionary. Without it, says the Apostle, "it is impossible to please God!" We cannot please Him, because we know not His will; we cannot obey Him, because we know not His commands.
The same Apostle gives us a striking representation of the nature of Christian hope, when he calls it an "anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast"." It implies a firm assurance that all the promises of God will in due time be fulfilled. This assurance is the immediate result of faith. It originates in a full persuasion of the unchangeable veracity of God, and of His infinite power, wisdom, and goodness. It rests on that simple and comprehensive declaration, "He is faithful "who hath promised"." By this, Abraham was sustained, when, "against hope, he be"lieved in hope," and "staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, being fully persuaded that what He had promised "He was able also to perform." In such hope there is no alloy of doubt or disquietude; since it is not built on precarious conjecture or on fallacious authority, but on the highest
8 Hebr. vi. 19.
Hebr. x. 23.
f Hebr. xi. 6.
i Rom. iv. 21.
moral certainty that can be attained, even that which is derived from the veracity of God himself.
The several characteristics of Christian charity the Apostle has explicitly detailed in the chapter before us. The term itself is evidently used in its most enlarged and comprehensive sense, to denote that love to God and man which leads us practically to exemplify our faith and hope by works of glory to God, and beneficence to our fellow-creatures. It is the proper fruit of faith. Faith without it is dead, barren, and unprofitable; not a lively faith, not the genuine faith of a Christian. Hope without it degenerates into presumptuous folly. Yet charity itself cannot subsist without these to uphold and strengthen it; and is only called the greatest of the three, because it is the completion and perfection of the other two.
In the preceding chapter, the Apostle had treated largely of the extraordinary spiritual gifts then bestowed upon Christian teachers, for the more extensive diffusion of the Gospel. There were "diversities of gifts, dif"ferences of administration, diversities of operation." To one was given "the word " of wisdom;" to another," the word of know'ledge" to another, "faith;" to another,