1 Corinthians 13:13
And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Before proceeding to examine some of the proofs of the :pre-eminence of charity let us for a few moments glance at the thing itself, for the more clearly we discern what this charity is, the more clearly we see its fulness and perfection, the more rightly we shall believe in its pre-eminence, the more ready we shall be to say, "Faith does well, hope does well, the other graces of the Christian character do well, but this charity excels them all." Look at some of the proofs of the pre-eminence of charity. Faith must be immortal, because man can never dispense with his confidence in God. Heaven will not destroy the need for that, but will perfect the child-like trust. Hope can never die out, for a noble, blessed being, a child of the Infinite must always be aspiring to greater :perfection, and reaching to the days which are before.
1. Charity, to my view, is the greatest of the three graces, because it is the most God-like. Faith believes the Bible, hope rests upon it, charity enlarges the Bible. There is more light to break forth over God's Word, and the loving heart will be the first to catch it. This helps to give charity the pre-eminence.
2. Charity is pre-eminent, inasmuch as it is the greatest stimulant to labour. The world is so fashioned, man is so placed that there is always a great and urgent need for work. It is work that turns the wilderness into a paradise, which levels mountains and fills up valleys. Hope is a great aid to diligence. The ploughman would not plough, by reason of the cold, if he were not encouraged by hope, and shown in anticipation the verdure of the next spring, the blossoms of the next summer, and the harvest of the next autumn. But ofttimes there is work to be done when faith is feeble and hope is ready to die, and then love alone can strengthen the labourer for the task. In the sick chamber there must be weary watchfulness and diligence, hope cannot sustain, nor can faith; but the care is as tender and the diligence is as great as ever, because love is present in the heart of the watcher and the worker, and love sustains when every other support has failed. We want men who will love the world, and who will work for its enlightenment, for its emancipation and its redemption, when difficulties are great, when progress is almost invisible, and when faith and hope are ready to die.
3. The way to obtain this charity is to live close to Him in whom this charity was perfectly exemplified. I must remind you of an old story concerning the tomb of Orpheus, who was so skilled in melody. It was said that the nightingale which built her nest nearest to the tomb had always the sweetest song. Here is a man, a Divine man; Divine pity was expressed in human tears, Divine love worked through human hands, Divine charity was exemplified in human love. He who lives nearest to Jesus will become the most perfect in this charity, and will win the brightest crown within his grasp.
Parallel VersesKJV: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.