1 Corinthians 13:13
And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Things and beings appear, in many cases, by some law of universal power and faithfulness, in groups and clusters — stars, e.g., and flowers, animals, etc. The same law gives existence to villages and towns. It is a rare thing when people like to live far away from others. The same element runs through all in religion. People of the same views, motives, and feelings collect together for sympathy and assistance. The same law governs politics, science, commerce. You will find virtues and graces in groups. Consider —
I. THESE TRIPLE GRACES IN THEMSELVES, AND SOME THINGS WHEREIN THEY DIFFER. They are in the mind; apart from the mind they can have no existence. In themselves they are abstractions, which can have no existence but as parts or actions of some other fit subjects.
1. Faith is the confiding attitude of the mind, relying on stone object or resource believed by itself, by evidence or experience sufficient to sustain or meet its wants and wishes. It is the power of uniting weakness with strength, need with plenty, misery with happiness, man's sinfulness and despair with Divine grace and merciful provision.
2. Hope is the soul turning its face to the good and happiness of the future. It is the vanguard of the soul, on its travel forward in the wilderness of life.
3. Charity is the attitude of the soul embracing the lovely and the pure. It is the cultivated state of the soil of the soul, like a well-weeded, pulverised garden, bearing rich and fragrant flowers. The soul in this state morally is both strong and happy; but to make it safe and broad it needs the light and evidence of faith, and the prophetic eye and encouragement of hope.
4. Though these graces belong to one system, they differ —
(1) In the way they view their objects. Faith seeks its object through the light of evidence, hope through the good and the happy, and charity through the beautiful and lovely.
(2) In the conscious sentiments they produce in the soul. Faith makes the soul strong and confident, hope sanguine and anxious, and charity satisfied and happy.
(3) In the soil they grow in, and the elements which feed and mature them. Faith grows in the soil of intelligence, and is fed by reason, evidence, and experience; hope grows in sympathy with the future, and a desire to know and possess its goodness, and is fed by its own intuitive faith and possession of the good and the happy; charity grows in tenderness, beneficence, and the social feeling of the soul for communion with the beautiful and lovely, and is fed by manifestation of love, faith, and hope.
(4) In their action, and the way they express themselves. Faith acts boldly, and expresses itself fearlessly; hope acts more timidly, and expresses itself with patience and submission; charity acts calmly, expressing itself with chastened sweetness and joyful exaltation.
(5) In the service they render to the soul. Faith educates its intelligence, and would perserve it from dull blindness and superstitious ignorance; hope sustains and encourages it in the dark day and weary night of its earthly abode; and charity educates it, in all its sentiments, into refinement and beauty, so as to make it a happy companion to itself and others.
II. IN THEIR UNION AND NECESSITY.
1. They are united,
(1) In their source. Every good gift finally must be traced to one common fountain of Divine goodness.
(2) In common sympathy and attachment. They are made for one another; they could not live apart.
(3) In their work and end. What one cannot do the other does; and what they cannot do separately they complete unitedly.
(4) In the means of their strength and advancement — the Spirit of God, through the provision of the economy of grace.
2. Their necessity in the system of Christian life. They are needful —
(1) As means by which the soul of man can apprehend the different sides in the economy of truth and Divine provision.
(2) To develop and perfect the soul in its various sides and powers.
(3) From the demands made upon man.
(a) For daily duty.
(b) For warfare and defence.
III. THE PRE-EMINENCE OF CHARITY. It is the greatest —
1. In the quality of its nature. It has a refinement and purity which is not to be found in the same manner and degree in the others. "God is love." Love is the Divine nature in man.
2. In the sway of its power. Faith is power, and has done mighty works; so is hope, and has long and far walked over arid and thorny lands to its Canaan of good; but when faith falters and hope faints, love supports and comforts still.
3. As a source of comfort and happiness to the soul. The company of love is always sweet.
4. As it approaches the nearest to God. God is in the hand of faith, He is in the eye of hope, but He is in the heart of love.
5. In useful results.
6. As the greatest advancing power. No one can advance in anything much unless he loves it.
7. In attraction and motive. Love drives no one away; it draws to itself even those who are void of any impelling motive in themselves.
IV. THE ABIDING CHARACTER OF THESE GRACES. There is a prevalent belief that faith and hope are only transient. But what is the evidence of such a belief? It is said that faith and hope will be done away with, because all will be seen in heaven. But surely I need it as a power of confiding trust, when I see the object as well as when I do not see it. Is hope also not requisite relative to the continued safety and duration of the good we possess, as much as the possession of the unseen? But we cannot accept of the assertion that all will be seen and possessed at once in heaven. Can all the future be packed into one moment? Can all its objects and visions be contracted into one small point? It is again said, but all will be safe. But do I not want faith to comfort me as well as to defend me, to unite me with God, as well as to put me under His shield? Do I not also want hope in the enjoyment of the good, as well as in the search after it? Nothing good we have will be taken from us, but perfected. In order to sustain this view, note —
1. These powers are essentially united together, so as to make one system of power in the mind.
2. They are alike powers of the soul. Christianity has not created them; it has only directed them to higher objects, purified their quality, and given them new direction and impetus. If one of them were to be done away with, the soul would be incomplete, and would be unfit to do its work and enjoy its blessings. If the triangle were deprived of one of its sides, it would no longer be a triangle; so if one of these triangular sides of the soul were done away with, it would no longer be the rational and responsible identical soul which man has in this world; he would not only be a different being, but a smaller and a less perfect one than now he is.
3. Faith and hope are essential to dependent and limited beings. We cannot think it possible for finite beings to exist without them, for the source of their being, and the comprehension of their good, are all outside themselves.
4. The continuance of faith and hope is needful for the perpetuation of love. Could you love a person or an object in whom or in which you have no faith? And is not your hope for the good and the beautiful a part of your love towards them?
5. It is difficult to think that happiness is possible in the absence of faith and hope.
6. They are among the noblest of the gifts of God, and such things are not given to be recalled or destroyed.
Parallel VersesKJV: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.