1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity braggs not itself, is not puffed up,…
Love seeks the happiness of its object, and not mere self-interest. I do not say that all religion is employed about the interest of others. Love for character is a love for that which regards our own interest as well as that of others. Some of the exercises of religion transact with God directly about our own interest, and contemplate God as standing related to our own interest, and consist in those feelings of gratitude, trust, hope, and dependence which have immediate reference to our own interest. I will endeavour to set before you some of the leading attributes of true religion. Its vital principle consists in that love which "seeketh not her own." Although it has more to do with personal concerns than with the concerns of any other individual, yet so far as the interest of others comes into view, it does, when perfect, love a neighbour as one's self. It respects all beings that are clearly seen, according to their moral excellence. Of course it delights in the character of God more than in that of all created beings, and it regards his happiness more than theirs. Here, then, you have the picture of a real Christian. His care is more for the honour of God and the interest of His kingdom than for his own happiness. He really loves God better than himself. What a noble and lovely temper is this! How vast the difference between such a man and the sordid wretch who cares not what becomes of God or His kingdom provided he is safe! This will let you into a view of the character of God. Such love fills his heart. His whole heart is fixed on the public good. His own happiness consists in promoting that and in enjoying that. His benevolence therefore hates sin and takes the form of holiness. It was benevolence which founded a moral government, to secure the holy order and happiness of the creation. From this view of the character of God we may discover the different motives which excite the Christian and the hypocrite to love him. The Christian loves him because he is love, and has set his heart on the happiness of the universe. He delights in God's wisdom and power because it is their nature to contrive and execute glorious purposes for the general happiness. But the selfish man loves God only as a personal friend — because he has done him good, and as he hopes, intends to save him. He loves to meditate on God's milder attributes, because he regards them as pledges of his salvation. And now he is full of joy and praise and love, and is melted into tears by a sense of God's mercies to him, and is willing to do many things for his heavenly Friend. But his love is worthless because it is selfish. We may also see from what different motives the Christian and the hypocrite rejoice that God reigns. The Christian rejoices that all things are under the Divine direction, because in this he sees a security that all things will be conducted for the glory of God and the good of His kingdom. The hypocrite rejoices that God reigns, because if his friend has the management of affairs, he trusts it will fare well with him. The view we have taken of the nature of charity will help us to discover the excellent nature of the Divine law. Look again at that amiable man who loves the interest of God's kingdom better than his own, who pities and relieves the hungry and the naked; whose heart is under this dominion of justice and universal benevolence. Well, this is the model which the law of God has formed. Were the law universally obeyed, it would fill the world with just such characters. It enjoins nothing but love and its fruits. And what does it forbid? Here is a selfish wretch who would burn a house and send a whole family to perdition for the sake of robbing it of a few shillings. Here is another who would demolish the throne of God and bury the universe under its ruins, for the sake of being independent. What a satanical temper is this! Well, this, and nothing but such as this, the Divine law forbids. How clear it is that this law is the friend of the universe! Here again the true character of God comes out to view. This spirit must be in Him or it could not flow forth in His law. We now see how certain it is that a good man will love the Divine law. He has the very temper of the law in his heart, and he sees that the happiness of the universe rests on the principles which the law contains. We may now see from what different motives the Christian and the hypocrite oppose sin. The good man abhors sin as being a transgression of the Divine law, an enemy of God and His kingdom; but the selfish man, having connected together the ideas of sin and misery, resists sin merely as an enemy to himself. We are now prepared to discover how charity will regard the atonement and mediation of Christ. Had it proclaimed that the penalty should never be exeuted, it would have ruined the law, and the Sufferer might better have remained in heaven. But it pronounced exactly the opposite truth. The obedience of Christ likewise honoured the law. Let us now examine the general grounds on which a benevolent man will approve of this way of salvation. He wishes well to the universe, and is prepared to approve of any measure which is conducive to the public happiness. These are some of the ways in which that charity which "seeketh not her own" will act towards God, His government, His law, and towards sin and the gospel. I pray you to bring your religion to this test. If it does not agree with this, cast it from you as a viper that will sting you to death.
(E. D. Griffin, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,