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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 13 - Verse 4
Verse 4. Charity suffereth long. Paul now proceeds to illustrate the nature of love, or to show how it is exemplified. His illustrations are all drawn from its effect in regulating our conduct towards others, or our intercourse with them. The reason why he made use of this illustration, rather: than its nature as evinced towards God, was, probably, because it was especially necessary for them to understand in what way it should be manifested towards each other. There were contentions and strifes among them; there were of course suspicions, and jealousies, and heart-burnings; there would be unkind judging, the imputation of improper motives, and selfishness; there were envy, and pride, and boasting, all of which were inconsistent with love; and Paul therefore evidently designed to correct these evils, and to produce a different state of things by showing them what would be produced by the exercise of love. The word here used (makroyumei denotes longanimity, slowness to anger or passion; long-suffering, patient endurance, forbearance It is opposed to haste; to passionate expressions and thoughts, and to irritability. It denotes the State of mind which can BEAR LONG when oppressed, provoked, calumniated, and when one seeks to injure us. Comp. 2:4; 9:22; 2 Co 6:6; Ga 5:22; Eph 4:2; Col 3:12
And is kind. The word here used denotes to be good-natured, gentle, tender, affectionate. Love is benignant. It wishes well. It is not harsh, sour, morose, in-natured. Tindal renders it, "is courteous." The idea is, that under all provocations and ill-usage it is gentle and mild. Hatred prompts to harshness, severity, unkindness of expression, anger, and a desire of revenge. But love is the reverse of all these. A man who truly loves another will be kind to him, desirous of doing him good; will be gentle, not severe and harsh; will be courteous because he desires his happiness, and would not pain his feelings. And as religion is love, and prompts to love, so it follows that it requires courtesy or true politeness, and will secure it. See 1 Pe 3:8. If all men were under the influence of true religion, they would always be truly polite and courteous; for true politeness is nothing more than an expression of benignity, or a desire to promote the happiness of all around us.
Envieth not. ou zhloi. This word properly means to be zealous for or against any person or thing; i.e., to be eager for, or anxious for or against any one. It is used often in a good sense, (1 Co 12:31); See Barnes "1 Co 14:1, See Barnes "1 Co 14:39; See Barnes "2 Co 11:2"; but it may be used in a bad sense—to be zealous against a person; to be jealous of; to envy Ac 7:9; 17:5; Jas 4:2, "Ye kill and envy." It is in this sense, evidently, that it is used here—as denoting zeal, or ardent desire against any person. The sense is, love does not envy others the happiness which they enjoy; it delights in their welfare; and as their happiness is increased by their endowments, their rank, their reputation, their wealth, their health, their domestic comforts, their learning, etc., those who are influenced by love rejoice in all this. They would not diminish it; they would not embarrass them in the possession; they would not detract from that happiness; they would not murmur or repine that they themselves are not SO highly favoured. To envy, is to feel uneasiness, mortification, or discontent at the sight of superior happiness, excellence, or reputation enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; and to fret one's self on account of his real or fancied superiority. Of course, it may be excited by anything in which another excels, or in which he is more favoured than we are. It may be excited by superior wealth, beauty, learning, accomplishment, reputation, success. It may extend to any employment, or any rank in life. A man may be envied because he is happy, while we are miserable; well, while we are sick; caressed, while we are neglected or overlooked; successful, while we meet with disappointment; handsome, while we are ill-formed; honoured with office, while we are overlooked, he may be envied because he has a better farm than we have, or is a more skilful mechanic, or a more successful physician, lawyer, or clergyman. Envy commonly lies in the same line of business, occupation, or rank. We do not usually envy a monarch, a conqueror, or a nobleman, unless we are aspiring to the same rank. The farmer does not usually envy the blacksmith, but another farmer; the blacksmith does not usually envy the schoolmaster or the lawyer, but another man in the same line of business with himself. The physician envies another physician more learned or more successful; the lawyer, another lawyer; the clergyman, another clergyman. The fashionable female, who seeks admiration or flattery on account of accomplishment or beauty, envies another who is more distinguished and more successful in those things. And so the poet envies a rival poet; and the orator, a rival orator; and the statesman, a rival statesman. The correction of all these things is love. If we loved others—if we rejoiced in their happiness, we should not envy them. They are not to blame for these superior endowments; but if those endowments are the direct gift of God, we should be thankful that he has made others happy; if they are the fruit of their own industry, and virtue, and skill, and application, we should esteem them the more, and value them the more highly. They have not injured us; and we should not be unhappy, or seek to injure them, because God has blessed them, or because they have been more industrious, virtuous, and successful than we have. Every man should have his own level in society, and we should rejoice in the happiness of all. Love will produce another effect. We should not envy them, because he that is under the influence of Christian love is more happy than those in the world who are usually the objects of envy. There is often much wretchedness under a clothing of "purple and fine linen." There is not always happiness in a splendid mansion; in the caresses of the great; in a post of honour; in a palace, or on a throne. Alexander the Great wept on the throne of the world. Happiness is in the heart; and content- ment, and the love of God, and the hope of heaven, produce happiness which rank, and wealth, and fashion, and earthly honour cannot purchase. And could the sad and heavy hearts of those in elevated ranks of life be always seen, and especially could their end be seen, there would be no occasion or disposition to envy them.
Lord, what a thoughtless wretch was I,
To mourn, and murmur, and repine,
To see the wicked placed on high,
In pride and robes of honour shine !
But oh! their end, their dreadful end!
Thy sanctuary taught me so;
On slippery rocks I see them stand,
And fiery billows roll below.
Now let them boast how tall they rise,
I'll never envy them again;
There they may stand with haughty eyes,
Till they plunge deep in endless pain,
Their fancied Joys how fast they flee,
Like dreams as fleeting and as vain;
Their songs of softest harmony
Are but a prelude to their pain.
Now I esteem their mirth and wine
Too dear to purchase with my blood;
Lord. 'tis enough that thou art mine,
My life, my portion, and my God.
Vaunteth not itself. (perpereuetai, from perperov, a boaster, braggart. —Robinson.) The idea is that of boasting, bragging, vaunting. The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Bloomfield supposes that it has the idea of acting precipitously, inconsiderately, incautiously; and this idea our translators have placed in the margin, "he is not rash." But most expositors suppose that it has the notion of boasting, or vaunting of one's own excellences or endowments. This spirit proceeds from the idea of superiority over others; and is connected with a feeling of contempt or disregard for them. Love would correct this, because it would produce a desire that they should be happy—and to treat a man with contempt is not the way to make him happy; love would regard others with esteem—and to boast over them is not to treat them with esteem; it would teach us to treat them with affectionate regard—and no man who has affectionate regard for others is disposed to boast of his own qualities over them. Besides, love produces a state of mind just the opposite of a disposition to boast. It receives its endowments with gratitude; regards them as the gift of God; and is disposed to employ them not in vain boasting, but in purposes of utility, in doing good to all others On as wide a scale as possible. The boaster is not a man who does good. To boast of talents is not to employ them to advantage to others. It will be of no account in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the sick and afflicted, or in saving the world. Accordingly, the man who does the most good is the least accustomed to boast; the man who boasts may be regarded as doing nothing else.
It perhaps differs from the preceding word, inasmuch as that word denotes the expression of the feelings of pride, vanity, etc., and this word the feeling itself. A man may be very proud and vain, and not express it in the form of boasting. That state is indicated by this word. If he gives expression to this feeling, and boasts of his endowments, that is indicated by the previous word. Love would prevent this, as it would the former, it would destroy the feeling, as well as the expression of it. It would teach a man that others had good qualities as well as he; that they had high endowments as well as he; and would dispose him to concede to them full credit for all that they have, and not to be vainglorious of his own. Besides, it is not the nature of love to fill the mind in this manner. Pride, vanity, and even knowledge (1 Co 8:1) may swell the mind with the conviction of self-importance; but love is humble, meek, modest, unobtrusive. A brother that loves a sister is not filled with pride or vanity on account of it; a man that loves the whole world, and desires its salvation, is not filled with pride and vanity on account of it. Hence the Saviour, who had most love for the human race, was at the farthest possible remove from pride and vanity.
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