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13. Love

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. 2And 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. 3And 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. 4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

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.


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