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the next place briefly inquire, why, when the apostle views it in conjunction with two other qualities of the Christian mind, he gives it the decided preference." And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity." Why is charity the greatest? This is a very important question on two accounts.
First, That there are those who directly misinterpret and misapply the passage. We often meet with persons who ignorantly conceive that there is an opposition between faith and works, between the principle of affectionate reliance upon God, and affectionate obedience to him; and who therefore directly pervert this language of Scripture, by affirming that charity is greater than faith, and more acceptable to God; and that if a man will but act benevolently to his fellow, the object or the degree of his faith is of minor importance.
And then, Secondly, There are those who from a conviction that this is an erroneous and destructive view of the doctrine of Scripture, and from a consciousness of the utter insufficiency of human virtue before God, and the absolute need of the gospel mode of justification by faith in the righteousness of God, seem, in language at least, too much to lose sight of the real position of faith in the scale of the divine procedure, and because it is the effective principle of salvation, exalt it above its real bearing; and because men are in general so bitterly opposed to it, acquire the habit of extolling it in
language too exclusive. We shall steer clear of both these errors, if we inquire on the ground of what we have previously seen of the nature of Scriptural charity or love, why it is the greater?
And we answer First, It is greater in order. It stands higher in the scale of results to be brought about by the grace of God. It is the end, not the means. Now faith is the means. Grant that it is, as we have seen, the exclusive means; that no man can be saved but by faith; that no man can be brought to love God but by faith in the testimony which God has given of his Son. Yet inasmuch as the one is only as it were the channel to the other, that love is the blessed result contemplated, and that faith in the gospel is the way which God has chosen to bring that result about: then most unquestionably love is the greater and more valuable principle of the two; as the building is superior to the scaffolding, the inheritance superior to the years of minority and education, and home dearer to us than the road which brings us there. Let us give to the gracious system of salvation by faith, all its due praise; let us speak of it as the only way of return to God; let us tell men that except they believe this gospel, they cannot be saved; but at the same time we cannot but remember, that to be saved is to be brought into this state of love, and that it cannot but be that we must value the salvation itself, more than the mode by which it is accomplished.
Again, charity is the greatest in quality. Faith is a quality of mind which subordinate creatures only possess in common with each other. It is the "disposition to rely on the aid of a superior being. He who is able to save us from death, devises and executes a way of deliverance, and presents it to us for acceptance. We believe the record that God has given us of his Son. By his gracious aid, we are enabled to repose our souls upon the sufficiency of Christ's finished work. Now this is an essential part of the work of salvation; so essential, that there never can be the grace of love without faith, and so that wherever God has given this faith, there love exists also. But still faith implies imperfection, and necessarily ranks us with the creature; whilst on the other hand, love assimilates us to the mind of God, and makes us partakers of the divine nature as it is written, "God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."
It is blessed indeed to trust God, and to take him at his word for salvation; but it is a still higher blessing to share in that blessed principle which reigns in the divine mind, and dictates his dealings with his creatures. It is delightful not only to find the heart warming with the feeling of holy and reverent love towards infinite perfection, but to feel it filling with spontaneous kindly affection towards our brethren; to become emancipated from a slavish subserviency to the angry and en
vious passions, and ready in simplicity and godly sincerity of intention, to "bless them that curse you, and to do good to them that despitefully use you and persecute you." This is indeed blessed and though we no more mean to separate faith and love than the apostle did, yet we feel warranted to say, as a striking illustration of the superiority of love as a moral quality, that though "I have faith so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."
And once more, charity is of longer duration than either of the sister graces. They are the blessed accompaniments of our sojourn in the wilderness. They look out to the heavenly rest. They unite with charity to carry us safely and peacefully through the wilderness, and to bear us through the swellings of Jordan. But the instant that the emancipated spirit reaches the eternal shore, the office and the existence of faith and hope terminate together. Where love is perfected, they cannot dwell. Great and gracious as are both these blessed gifts while we are below, while we are absent from the Lord, and struggling with seen and unseen, with natural and spiritual dangers; yet it is here only, in the scenes of darkness, imperfection, trial, and uncertainty, that faith and hope have their power and their value. It is the essential character of a perfect state, to exclude them utterly. For there, knowledge is complete, and nothing is left to hope for. But on the contrary, love only rises
to its maturity on the threshold of eternal glory. It is then only that we have reached the state to which it was the object of our heavenly father to bring us. It is then only that the education of faith and hope is complete in the perfection of love. It is then only, that having the moral nature purified from the dross and corruption of the flesh, we shall see the glorious object of the creature's love in all its unveiled perfection. Then only the heart shall expand toward infinite goodness, with all the energy becoming its high original. Then only shall the heart of the creature, in the contemplation of the innumerable company of angels, and all the spirits of the just made perfect, all perfected in love, dwell upon the whole countless host, with the yearnings of an equal, an adequate, and an unwearied affection.
Heaven is the home of love, and of a love that abideth for ever. It had been driven from the earth by the selfishness, and the pride, and the essential ungodliness of man. It appeared again amongst us in all its beauty, though shrouded in a mystic veil, on Calvary. Since then it has cowered down to a lowly and a despised shelter in the Christian's bosom. It has been hidden" in dens and caves of the earth," with those "of whom the world was not worthy:" and while it cheered the suffering saints and the martyrs with feelings of holy tenderness towards the men who did them violence, and holy superiority to the violence they suffered,