1 Corinthians 13:2
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith…
The greatest thing in the universe is mind, and the greatest thing in mind is love. This love, however —
1. Is not the gregarious sentiment which links us to, and gives us an interest in, our species. All sentient creatures have this. It is a blessing, but not a virture. Man is no more to be praised or blamed for its existence than he is for the colour of his skin.
2. Nor is it theological love; that affection which one has for those of his faith and sect, but which will look coldly upon all besides — which reduces the gospel to a dogma, and man to a bigot.
3. Nor is it sacerdotal love — that love which speaks from ecclesiastical chairs about the cure of souls and Church extension, but whispers no accents of sympathy for the woes of the race.
4. But it is a generous moral sympathy for the race springing from love to the Creator. "If a man love God, he will love his brother also." Jesus was the incarnation of this love, the love which alone can confer real worth on humanity. Man, without this love, is nothing —
I. IN RELATION TO NATURE. As nature would be nothing to a man whose senses were sealed up, or whose reflective faculty was paralysed, so it is nothing to a man who has not a loving heart. To such a man the world is merely a larder to feed him, a wardrobe to clothe him, a market to enrich him, or, at most, a riddle to amuse his intellect. Love entering the heart of a selfish man touches all nature into a new form. To the sensual, nature is gratification; to the thinker, it is theory; to the loving, it is heaven.
II. IN RELATION TO PROVIDENCE. If I have not love, Providence ministers no real good to me. I am amidst its influences, not like the healthy man, feeling "the buoyant throbbing of new life flowing from salubrious wind and quickening scenes, but like one whose system is the subject of a mortal disease, having no power to appropriate the healthy elements. As the mortally diseased must say, I am nothing to the health-giving economy of nature, so the unloving must say, I am nothing in relation to the spiritual blessings of Providence. But love in the heart makes Providence a minister for good — and for good only. Like the bee, it transmutes the bitterest fruit into honey; like the AEolian harp, it turns the wildest wind into music. "Tribulation worketh patience,... because the love of God is shed abroad, in the heart."
III. IN RELATION TO CHRISTIANITY.
1. Christianity is a revelation of love, and none but the loving can rise to its meaning. Mind destitute of this generous element, however powerful in philosophy, etc., will be as incapable of understanding it as the wayward boy the workings of a mother's heart, or the frozen-souled miser Howard's philanthropy.
2. Still more, that "which renders us incapable of entering into its meaning, unfits at the same time from applying its overtures. It is a system of "great and precious promises," "which offer God's strength in weakness, His guidance in perplexity, etc. But is there one who, uninspired with love, dares apply a single promise?
IV. IN RELATION TO THE COMMUNITY OF THE GOOD. Wherever they exist they have the same bond of union, the same principle of inspiration, and the same standard of worth. What is that? Wealth, learning, talent, birth? Such is the corrupt state of society here, that if a man have any of these, especially the first, he is recognised as a respectable member, however cold and callous his heart. But in the great community of the good love is everything.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.