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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.

13. But now remaineth faith, hope, love. This is a conclusion from what goes before — that love is more excellent than other gifts; but in place of the enumeration of gifts that he had previously made, he now puts faith and hope along with love, as all those gifts are comprehended under this summary. For what is the object of the entire ministry, but that we may be instructed as to these things? 805805     “En ces trois choses;” — “In these three things.” Hence the term faith has a larger acceptation here, than in previous instances; for it is as though he had said — “There are, it is true, many and various gifts, but they all point to this object, and have an eye to it.”

To remain, then, conveys the idea, that, as in the reckoning up of an account, when everything has been deducted, this is the sum that remains For faith does not remain after death, inasmuch as the Apostle elsewhere contrasts it with sight, (2 Corinthians 5:7,) and declares that it remains only so long as we are absent from the Lord We are now in possession of what is meant by faith in this passage — that knowledge of God and of the divine will, which we obtain by the ministry of the Church; or, if you prefer it, faith universal, and taken in its proper acceptation. Hope is nothing else than perseverance in faith For when we have once believed the word of God, it remains that we persevere until the accomplishment of these things. Hence, as faith is the mother of hope, so it is kept up by it, so as not to give way.

The greatest of these is love. It is so, if we estimate its excellence by the effects which he has previously enumerated; and farther, if we take into view its perpetuity. For every one derives advantage from his own faith and hope, but love extends its benefits to others. Faith and hope belong to a state of imperfection: love will remain even in a state of perfection. For if we single out the particular effects of faith, and compare them, faith will be found to be in many respects superior. Nay, even love itself, according to the testimony of the same Apostle, (1 Thessalonians 1:3,) is an effect of faith Now the effect is, undoubtedly, inferior to its cause.

Besides, there is bestowed upon faith a signal commendation, which does not apply to love, when John declares that it is our victory, which overcometh the world. (1 John 5:4.) In fine, it is by faith that we are born against that we become the sons of God — that we obtain eternal life, and that Christ dwells in us. (Ephesians 3:17.) Innumerable other things I pass over; but these few are sufficient to prove what I have in view — that faith is, in many of its effects, superior to love. Hence it is evident, that it is declared here to be superior — not in every respect, but inasmuch as it will be perpetual, and holds at present the first place in the preservation of the Church.

It is, however, surprising how much pleasure Papists take in thundering forth these words. “If faith justifies,” say they, “then much more does love, which is declared to be greater.” A solution of this objection is already furnished from what I have stated, but let us grant that love is in every respect superior; what sort of reasoning is that — that because it is greater, therefore it is of more avail for justifying men! Then a king will plow the ground better than a husbandman, and he will make a shoe better than a shoemaker, because he is more noble than either! Then a man will run faster than a horse, and will carry a heavier burden than an elephant, because he is superior in dignity! Then angels will give light to the earth better than the sun and moon, because they are more excellent! If the power of justifying depended on the dignity or merit of faith they might perhaps be listened to; but we do not teach that faith justifies, on the ground of its having more worthiness, or occupying a higher station of honor, but because it receives the righteousness which is freely offered in the gospel. Greatness or dignity has nothing to do with this. Hence this passage gives Papists no more help, than if the Apostle had given the preference to faith above everything else.


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