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1 Corinthians 13:1-3

1. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

1. Et adhuc excellentiorem viam vobis demonstro. Si linguis hominum loquar et Angelorum, caritatem autem non habeam, factus sum tympanum sonans, aut cymbalum tinniens.

2. 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.

2. Et si habeam prophetiam, et noverim mysteria omnia omnemque scientiam, et si habeam omnem fidem, adeo ut montes loco dimoveam, caritatem autem non habeam, nihil sum.

3. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

3. Et si insumam in alimoniam omnes facultates meas, et si tradam corpus meum ut comburar, caritatem autem non habeam, nihil mihi prodest.

 

The division of the Chapter being so absurd, I could not refrain from changing it, especially as I could not conveniently interpret it otherwise. For what purpose did it serve to connect with what goes before a detached sentence, which agrees so well with what comes after — nay more, is thereby rendered complete? It is likely, that it happened through a mistake on the part of the transcribers. However it may be as to this, after having commanded that regard should be had chiefly to edification, he now declares that he will show them something of greater importance — that everything be regulated according to the rule of love. This, then, is the most excellent way, when love is the regulating principle of all our actions. And, in the outset, he proceeds upon this — that all excellencies 774774     "Quelles qu’elles soyent;” — “Whatever they are.” are of no value without love; for nothing is so excellent or estimable as not to be vitiated in the sight of God, if love 775775     Penn, in his Annotations, gives the following account of the term charity, as made use of in our English translation — “If the Latin version had not rendered αγαπη, in this place, by ‘charitas,’ instead of ‘amorlove,’ we should not have found the word ‘charity’ in our English version. But Wiclif, who only knew the Latin Scripture, adopted from it that word, and rendered, ‘and I have not charite.’ When the knowledge of the Greek was acquired by our learned Reformers, the first revisers of Wiclif were sensible of the unsuitableness of this translation, and rendered this clause — ‘and yet had no love,’ as it is printed in the ‘Newe Testament in Englishe and Latin, of 1548;’ and they rendered αγαπη — ‘love,’ throughout this chapter. Our last revisers abandoned this sound correction of their immediate predecessors, and brought back the Latinising ‘charity’ of Wiclif, who was only excusable for employing that word, because he translated from a Latin text, in ignorance of its Greek original.” — Ed is wanting. Nor does he teach anything here but what he does elsewhere, when he declares, that it is the end of the law, and the bond of perfection, (1 Timothy 1:5,) and also when he makes the holiness of the godly consist entirely in this, (Colossians 3:14,) — for what else does God require from us in the second Table of the Law? It is not then to be wondered, if all our deeds are estimated by this test — their appearing to proceed from love. It is also not to be wondered, if gifts, otherwise excellent, come to have their true value only when they are made subservient to love.

1. If should speak with the tongues of men. He begins with eloquence, which is, it is true, an admirable gift, considered in itself, but, when apart from love, does not recommend a man in the estimation of God. When he speaks of the tongue of angels, he uses a hyperbolical expression to denote what is singular, or distinguished. At the same time, I explain it rather as referring to the diversity of languages, which the Corinthians held in much esteem, measuring everything by ambition — not by fruit. 776776     “Par le fruit qui s’en pouuoit ensuyure;” — “By the fruit that might result from it.” “Make yourself master,” says he, “of all the languages, not of men merely, but even of Angels. You have, in that case, no reason to think, that you are of higher estimation in the sight of God than a mere cymbal, if you have not love.”

2. And if I should have the gift of prophecy. He brings down to nothing the dignity of even this endowment, 777777     “La dignite mesme de la prophetie;” — “The dignity even of prophecy.” which, nevertheless, he had preferred to all others. To know all mysteries, might seem to be added to the term prophecy, by way of explanation, but as the term knowledge is immediately added, of which he had previously made mention by itself, (1 Corinthians 12:8,) it will deserve your consideration, whether the knowledge of mysteries may not be used here to mean wisdom. As for myself, while I would not venture to affirm that it is so, I am much inclined to that opinion.

That faith, of which he speaks, is special, as is evident from the clause that is immediately added — so that I remove mountains Hence the Sophists accomplish nothing, when they pervert this passage for the purpose of detracting from the excellence of faith. As, therefore, the term faith is (πολύσημον) used in a variety of senses, it is the part of the prudent reader to observe in what signification it is taken. Paul, however, as I have already stated, is his own interpreter, by restricting faith, here, to miracles. It is what Chrysostom calls the “faith of miracles,” and what we term a “special faith,” because it does not apprehend a whole Christ, but simply his power in working miracles; and hence it may sometimes exist in a man without the Spirit of sanctification, as it did in Judas. 778778     The reader will observe, that this is, in substance, what has been stated by Calvin previously, when commenting on 1 Corinthians 12:10. — Ed.

3. And if I should expend all my possessions. 779779     "Et si ie distribue tous mes biens;” — “And if I should distribute all my goods.” This, it is true, is worthy of the highest praise, if considered in itself; but as liberality in many cases proceeds from ambition — not from true generosity, or even the man that is liberal is destitute of the other departments of love, (for even liberality, that is inwardly felt, is only one department of love,) it may happen that a work, otherwise so commendable, has, indeed, a fair show in the sight of men, and is applauded by them, and yet is regarded as nothing in the sight of God.

And if I should give up my body. He speaks, undoubtedly, of martyrdom, which is an act that is the most lovely and excellent of all; for what is more admirable than that invincible fortitude of mind, which makes a man not hesitate to pour out his life for the testimony of the gospel? Yet even this, too, God regards as nothing, if the mind is destitute of love. The kind of punishment that he makes mention of was not then so common among Christians; for we read that tyrants, at that time, set themselves to destroy the Church, rather by swords than by flames, 780780     “Les tyrans faisoyent plustot traneher la teste aux Chrestiens et vsoyent plustot du glaiue que du feu pour destruire l’Egiise;” — “Tyrants practiced rather the beheading of Christians, and made use of the sword, rather than of fire, for the destruction of the Church.” except that Nero, in his rage, had recourse, also, to burning. The Spirit appears, however, to have predicted here, by Paul’s mouth, the persecutions that were coming. But this is a digression. The main truth in the passage is this — that as love is the only rule of our actions, and the only means of regulating the right use of the gifts of God, nothing, in the absence of it, is approved of by God, however magnificent it may be in the estimation of men. For where it is wanting, the beauty of all virtues is mere tinsel — is empty sound — is not worth a straw — nay more, is offensive and disgusting. As for the inference which Papists draw from this — that love is therefore of more avail for our justification than faith, we shall refute it afterwards. At present, we must proceed to notice what follows,


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