1 Corinthians 13:13
And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
1. The root of the word in Anglo-Saxon means, to open the eyes wide and watch for what is to come, as we have seen children do when they expect to see some wonder or receive some gift. Indeed, there is another word closely akin — the word expect, watching for what is to come, the obverse of inspect, looking at what has come.
2. These meanings are the delicate dividing line between Faith and Hope. While Hope expects, Faith inspects; while Hope is like Mary, looking up-ward, Faith is like Martha, looking at-ward; while the light in the eyes of Hope is high, the light in the eyes of Faith is strong; while Hope trembles in expectation, Faith is quiet in possession. Hope leaps out toward what will be, Faith holds on to what is; Hope idealises, Faith realises; Faith sees, Hope foresees.
3. And so it comes that in religion faith is conservative, while hope is progressive. Passing on the Rhine through the fog and mist of Holland as through a stagnant sea, you stretch upward league after league; and as you go the country gradually changes, the air grows clearer, the prospect finer. But the higher you go, the harder is your going. So at last you come into Switzerland, where all about you is a vaster vision, and within you an intenser inspiration than can ever be felt on the foggy flats below. It is the difference between faith alone and faith and hope together.
4. Consider hope, however, as a positive matter. Why, you say, hope is the most intangible thing a man can entertain. "Hope," says Owen Feltham, "is the bladder a man will take wherewith to learn to swim; then he goes beyond return, and is lost." But what says Paul? He makes our life a battle, and every man a soldier, and it is not enough that the heart be protected by the shield of faith, the head must be guarded also by the helmet of hope: the one is as indispensable as the other. And a brief glance at the life about us will soon convince you that the man is right, that as Dr. Johnson said, our powers owe very much of their energy to our hope; and whatever enlarges hope exalts courage; and, where there is no hope, there is no endeavour. Here is Cyrus Field conceiving the idea of binding the Atlantic with a cord. In carrying out his idea, the man has two servants to help him — the faith that it can be done, and the hope that he shall do it. With these aids he goes to work. Faith steadies him; hope inspires him. Faith works; hope flies. Faith deliberates; hope anticipates. Faith lets the cable go, and it breaks, and is lost. "Nay, not lost," cries hope, and fishes it up again. Here is Garibaldi conceiving the idea of a new Italy. He has faith and hope. Austria, Naples, and Rome are against him. But no man knows, or can know, what faith and hope together can do in a man of the pattern of Garibaldi. What they have done for Italy will go ringing down the ages. Very curiously, if you will again, you can see the power of faith without hope illustrated in China. When our ancestors were savages they had advanced about where they are now. But who shall say that China, with the noble qualities no doubt she has, might not have had a peerless place in the world, had she held herself hopeful and expectant, continually, toward every new idea and discovery?
5. And this fact of hope and its influence has some important applications.
(1) To religion. It is entirely essential "to remember that, when this man tells his friends to take for a helmet the hope of salvation, he meant the hope he himself was rushing through the world to proclaim. In the England of John Wesley numbers of men were his peers in faith. But Wesley had more hopefulness in his little finger than any other man of them had in his whole body. And so wherever Wesley went men caught the contagion of his great hope, and then ran tirelessly as long as they lived, kindling over all the world.
(2) To life generally. Young men and women, with this life mainly before you, get this hope. Make sure that there is not a day but brings you nearer to some Divine surprise of blessing, some great unfolding of God's wry glory. Men and women in middle life, with the bloom gone from some things that seemed very beautiful as they lay glistening in the dew of the morning, whatever you do, never let a painful inspection rob you of a great expectation. If, as you live, you try to live faithfully, then, as the Lord liveth, try to live hopefully, or you will miss the better half of your living.
(R. Collyer, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.