1 Corinthians 13


Charity, or love to God and man, the sum and substance of all

true religion; so that without it, the most splendid eloquence,

the gift of prophecy, the most profound knowledge, faith by

which the most stupendous miracles might be wrought,

benevolence the most unbounded, and zeal for the truth, even

to martyrdom, would all be unavailing to salvation, 1-3.

The description and praise of this grace, 4-7.

Its durableness; though tongues, prophecies, and knowledge

shall cease, yet this shall never fail, 8-10.

Description of the present imperfect state of man, 11, 12.

Of all the graces of God in man, charity, or love, is the

greatest, 13.


Verse 1. Though I speak, &c.] At the conclusion of the

preceding chapter the apostle promised to show the Corinthians a

more excellent way than that in which they were now proceeding.

They were so distracted with contentions, divided by parties, and

envious of each other's gifts, that unity was nearly destroyed.

This was a full proof that love to God and man was wanting; and

that without this, their numerous gifts and other graces were

nothing in the eyes of God; for it was evident that they did not

love one another, which is a proof that they did not love God; and

consequently, that they had not true religion. Having, by his

advices and directions, corrected many abuses, and having shown

them how in outward things they should walk so as to please God,

he now shows them the spirit, temper, and disposition in which

this should be done, and without which all the rest must be


Before I proceed to the consideration of the different parts of

this chapter, it may be necessary to examine whether the word

αγαπη be best translated by charity or love. Wiclif,

translating from the Vulgate, has the word charity; and him our

authorized version follows. But Coverdale, Matthews, Cranmer, and

the Geneva Bible, have love; which is adopted by recent

translators and commentators in general; among whom the chief are

Dodd, Pearce, Purver, Wakefield, and Wesley; all these strenuously

contend that the word charity, which is now confined to

almsgiving, is utterly improper; and that the word love, alone

expresses the apostle's sense. As the word charity seems now to

express little else than almsgiving, which, performed even to the

uttermost of a man's power, is nothing if he lack what the apostle

terms αγαπη, and which we here translate charity; it is best to

omit the use of a word in this place which, taken in its ordinary

signification, makes the apostle contradict himself; see 1Co 13:3:

Though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and have not charity,

it profiteth me nothing. That is: "Though I have the utmost

charity, and act in every respect according to its dictates, yet,

if I have not charity, my utmost charity is unprofitable."

Therefore, to shun this contradiction, and the probable

misapplication of the term, LOVE had better be substituted for


The word αγαπη, love, I have already considered at large in

Clarke's note on "Mt 22:37"; and to that place I beg leave to refer the

reader for its derivation and import. Our English word love we

have from the Teutonic leben to live, because love is the means,

dispenser, and preserver of life; and without it life would have

nothing desirable, nor indeed any thing even supportable: or it

may be taken immediately from the Anglo-Saxon [A.S.] and [A.S.]

love, from [A.S.] and [A.S.], to desire, to love, to favour.

It would be ridiculous to look to the Greek verb φιλειν for its


Having said so much about the word love, we should say

something of the word charity, which is supposed to be improper in

this place. Charity comes to us immediately from the French

charite, who borrowed it from the Latin charitas, which is

probably borrowed from the Greek χαρις, signifying grace or

favour, or χαρα, joy, as a benefit bestowed is a favour that

inspires him who receives it with joy; and so far contributes to

his happiness. The proper meaning of the word CHARUS, is dear,

costly; and CRARITAS, is dearth, scarcity, a high price, or

dearness. Hence, as in times of dearth or scarcity, many,

especially the poor, must be in want, and the benevolent will be

excited to relieve them; the term which expressed the cause of

this want was applied to the disposition which was excited in

behalf of the sufferer. Now, as he who relieves a person in

distress, and preserves his life by communicating a portion of his

property to him, will feel a sort of interest in the person thus

preserved; Hence he is said to be dear to him: i.e. he has cost

him something; and he values him in proportion to the trouble or

expense he has cost him. Thus charity properly expresses that

affectionate attachment we may feel to a person whose wants we

have been enabled to relieve; but originally it signified that

want of the necessaries of life which produced dearth or dearness

of those necessaries; and brought the poor man into that state in

which he stood so much in need of the active benevolence of his

richer neighbour. If the word be applied to God's benevolence

towards man, it comes in with all propriety and force: we are dear

to God, for we have not been purchased with silver or gold, but

with the precious (τιμιωαιματι, costly) blood of Christ, who so

loved us as to give his life a ransom for ours.

As Christians in general acknowledge that this chapter is the

most important in the whole New Testament, I shall give here the

first translation of it into the English language which is known

to exist, extracted from an ancient and noble MS. in my own

possession, which seems to exhibit both a text and language, if

not prior to the time of Wiclif, yet certainly not posterior to

his days. The reader will please to observe that there are no

divisions of verses in the MS.

The XIII. Chapter of I. Corinthians, from an ancient MS.

Gyf I speke with tungis of men and aungels sotheli I have not

charitee: I am maad as brasse sounynge, or a symbale tynking. And

gif I schal habe prophecie and habe knowen alle mysteries and alle

hunynge or science. and gif I schal have al feith so that I

oder bere hills fro oo place to an other. forsothe gif I schal not

have charite: I am nought. And gif I schal deperte al my goodid

into metis of pore men. And gif I schal bitake my body so that I

brenne forsothe gif I schal not have charite it profitith to me no

thing. Charite is pacient or suffering. It is benyngne or of

good wille. Charite envyeth not. It doth not gyle it is not

inblowen with pride it is not ambyciouse or coveitouse of

wirschippis. It seeketh not the thingis that ben her owne. It is

not stirid to wrath it thinkith not yvil. it joyeth not on

wickidnesse forsothe it joyeth to gydre to treuthe. It suffreth

all thingis. it bileeveth alle thingis. it hopith alle thingis

it susteeneth alle things. Charite fallith not doun. Whether

prophecies schuln be bolde eyther langagis schuln ceese: eyther

science schul be distruyed. Forsothe of the party we ban knowen:

and of partye prophecien. Forsothe whenne that schal cum to that

is perfit: that thing that is of partye schal be avoydid. Whenne

I was a litil chiilde: I spake as a litil chiilde. I understode

as a litil chiilde: I thougte as a litil chiild. Forsothe whenne

I was a maad a mam: I avoydid tho thingis that weren of a litil

chiild. Forsothe we seen now bi a moror in dercness: thanne

forsothe face to face. Nowe I know of partye: thanne forsothe I

schal know and as I am knowen. Nowe forsothe dwellen feith hoope

charite. These three: forsothe the more of hem is charite.

This is the whole of the chapter as it exists in the MS., with

all its peculiar orthography, points, and lines. The words with

lines under may be considered the translator's marginal readings; for,

though incorporated with the text, they are distinguished from it by

those lines.

I had thought once of giving a literal translation of the whole

chapter from all the ancient versions. This would be both curious

and useful; but the reader might think it would take up too much

of his time, and the writer has none to spare.

The tongues of men] All human languages, with all the

eloquence of the most accomplished orator.

And of angels] i.e. Though a man knew the language of the

eternal world so well that he could hold conversation with its

inhabitants, and find out the secrets of their kingdom. Or,

probably, the apostle refers to a notion that was common among the

Jews, that there was a language by which angels might be invoked,

adjured, collected, and dispersed; and by the means of which many

secrets might be found out, and curious arts and sciences known.

There is much of this kind to be found in their cabalistical

books, and in the books of many called Christians. Cornelius

Agrippa's occult philosophy abounds in this; and it was the main

object of Dr. Dee's actions with spirits to get a complete

vocabulary of this language. See what has been published of his

work by Dr. Casaubon; and the remaining manuscript parts in the

Sloane library, in the British museum.

In Bava Bathra, fol. 134, mention is made of a famous rabbin,

Jochanan ben Zaccai, who understood the language of devils, trees,

and angels.

Some think that the apostle means only the most splendid

eloquence; as we sometimes apply the word angelic to signify any

thing sublime, grand, beautiful, &c.; but it is more likely that

he speaks here after the manner of his countrymen, who imagined

that there was an angelic language which was the key to many

mysteries; a language which might be acquired, and which, they

say, had been learned by several.

Sounding brass] χαλκοςηχων. That is, like a trumpet made of

brass; for although; χαλκος signifies brass, and aes

signifies the same, yet we know the latter is often employed to

signify the trumpet, because generally made of this metal. Thus

Virgil, when he represents Misenus endeavouring to fright away the

harpies with the sound of his trumpet:-

Ergo, ubi delapsae sonitum per curva dedere

Littora, dat signum specula Misenus ab alta

AEre cavo: invadunt socii, et nova praelia tentant,

Obscoenas pelagi ferro faedare volucres.

AEneid, lib. iii. ver. 238.

Then as the harpies from the hills once more

Poured shrieking down, and crowded round the shore,

On his high stand Misenus sounds from far

The brazen trump, the signal of the war.

With unaccustomed fight, we flew to slay

The forms obscene, dread monsters of the sea.-Pitt.

The metal of which the instrument was made is used again for

the instrument itself, in that fine passage of the same poet,

AEneid, lib. ix. ver. 603, where he represents the Trojans rushing

to battle against the Volsciane:-

At tuba terribilem sonitum procul aere canoro

Increpuit: sequitur clamor, caelumque remugit.

And now the trumpets, terrible from far,

With rattling clangour rouse the sleepy war.

The soldiers' shouts succeed the brazen sounds

And heaven from pole to pole their noise rebounds.


And again, in his Battle of the Bees, Geor., lib. iv. ver. 70:-

-------------------------------namque morantes

Martius ille aeris rauci canor increpat, et vox

Auditur fractos sonitus imitata tubarum.

With shouts the cowards' courage they excite,

And martial clangours call them out to fight;

With hoarse alarms the hollow camp rebounds,

That imitate the trumpet's angry sounds.


Examples of the same figure might be multiplied; but these are


Tinkling cymbal.] "The cymbal was a concavo-convex plate of

brass, the concave side of which being struck against another

plate of the same kind produced a tinkling, inharmonious sound."

We may understand the apostle thus: "Though I possessed the

knowledge of all languages, and could deliver even the truth of

God in them in the most eloquent manner, and had not a heart full

of love to God and man, producing piety and obedience to the ONE,

and benevolence and beneficence to the other, doing unto all as

I would wish them to do to me were our situations reversed, my

religion is no more to my salvation than the sounds emitted by the

brazen trumpet, or the jingling of the cymbals could contribute

intellectual pleasure to the instruments which produce them; and,

in the sight of God, I am of no more moral worth than those sounds

are. I have, it is true, a profession; but, destitute of a heart

filled with love to God and man, producing meekness, gentleness,

long-suffering, &c., I am without the soul and essence of


I have quoted several passages from heathens of the most

cultivated minds in Greece and Rome to illustrate passages of the

sacred writers. I shall now quote one from an illiterate collier

of Paulton, in Somerset; and, as I have named Homer, Horace,

Virgil, and others, I will quote Josiah Gregory, whose mind might

be compared to a diamond of the first water, whose native

splendour broke in various places through its incrustations, but

whose brilliancy was not brought out for want of the hand of the

lapidary. Among various energetic sayings of this great,

unlettered man, I remember to have heard the following: "People of

little religion are always noisy; he who has not the love of God

and man filling his heart is like an empty wagon coming violently

down a hill: it makes a great noise, because there is nothing in


Verse 2. And though I have the gift of prophecy] Though I

should have received from God the knowledge of future events, so

that I could correctly foretell what is coming to pass in the

world and in the Church:-

And understand all mysteries] The meaning of all the types and

figures in the Old Testament, and all the unexplored secrets of

nature; and all knowledge-every human art and science; and though

I have all faith-such miraculous faith as would enable me even to

remove mountains; or had such powerful discernment in sacred

things that I could solve the greatest difficulties,

See Clarke on Mt 21:21,

and have not charity-this love to God and man, as the principle

and motive of all my conduct, the characteristics of which are

given in the following verses; I am nothing-nothing in

myself, nothing in the sight of God, nothing in the Church, and

good for nothing to mankind. Balaam, and several others not under

the influence of this love of God, prophesied; and we daily see

many men, who are profound scholars, and well skilled in arts and

sciences, and yet not only careless about religion but downright

infidels! It does not require the tongue of the inspired to say

that these men, in the sight of God, are nothing; nor can their

literary or scientific acquisitions give them a passport to glory.

Verse 3. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor]

This is a proof that charity, in our sense of the word, is not

what the apostle means; for surely almsgiving can go no farther

than to give up all that a man possesses in order to relieve the

wants of others. The word ψωμιζω, which we translate to feed the

poor, signifies to divide into morsels, and put into the mouth;

which implies carefulness and tenderness in applying the bounty

thus freely given.

And though I give my body to be burned] ινακαυθησομαι. Mr.

Wakefield renders this clause thus: And though I give up my body

so as to have cause of boasting: in vindication of which he,

first, refers to Da 3:28; Ac 15:26; Ro 8:32; Php 1:20.

2. He says that there is no such word as καυθησωμαι. 3. That

καυχησωμαι, that I may boast, is the reading of the AEthiopic

and Coptic, and he might have added of the Codex Alexandrinus;

several Greek and Latin MSS. referred to by St. Jerome; of

Ephraim; and of St. Jerome himself, who translates the passage

thus: Si tradidero corpus meum ut glorier: i.e. "If I deliver up

my body that I may glory, or have cause of boasting." 4. He adds

that burning, though a common punishment in after times, was not

prevalent when this epistle was written.

Some of the foreign critics, particularly Schulzius, translate

it thus: Si traderem corpus, ut mihi stigma inureretur: "If I

should deliver up my body to receive a stigma with a hot iron;"

which may mean, If I should, in order to redeem another, willingly

give up myself to slavery, and receive the mark of my owner, by

having my flesh stamped with a hot iron, and have not love, as

before specified, it profits me nothing. This gives a good sense;

but will the passage bear it? In the MSS. there are several

various readings, which plainly show the original copyists

scarcely knew what to make of the word καυθησωμαι, which they

found in the text generally. The various readings are,

καυθησομαι, which Griesbach seems to prefer; καυθησεται; and

καυθη; all of which give little variation of meaning. Which

should be preferred I can scarcely venture to say. If we take the

commonly received word, it states a possible case; a man may be so

obstinately wedded to a particular opinion, demonstrably false in

itself, as to give up his body to be burned in its defence, as was

literally the case with Vanini, who, for his obstinate atheism,

was burnt alive at Paris, February l9th, A. D. 1619. In such a

cause, his giving his body to be burned certainly profited him


"We may observe," says Dr. Lightfoot, "in those instances which

are compared with charity, and are as good as nothing if charity

be absent, that the apostle mentions those which were of the

noblest esteem in the Jewish nation; and also that the most

precious things that could be named by them were compared with

this more precious, and were of no account in comparison of it.

"1. To speak with the tongues of men, among the Jewish

interpreters, means, to speak the languages of the seventy

nations. To the praise of Mordecai, they say that he understood

all those languages; and they require that the fathers of the

Sanhedrin should be skilled in many languages that they may not be

obliged to hear any thing by an interpreter. Maim. in Sanh., c. 2.

"2. To speak with the tongues of angels, they thought to be not

only an excellent gift, but to be possible; and highly extol

Jochanan ben Zaccai because he understood them:

See Clarke on 1Co 13:1.

"3. To know all mysteries and all knowledge was not only prized

but affected by them. Of Hillel, the elder, they say he had

eighty disciples: thirty who were worthy to have the Holy Spirit

dwell upon them, as it did upon Moses; thirty who were worthy that

the sun should stop his course for them, as it did for Joshua; and

there were twenty between both. The greatest of all was Jonathan

ben Uzziel; the least was Jochanan ben Zaccai. He omitted not

(i.e. perfectly understood) the Scripture, the Mishna, the

Gemara, the idiotisms of the law, and the scribes, traditions,

illustrations, comparisons, equalities, gematries, parables, &c.

"4. The moving or rooting up of mountains, which among them

signified the removing of the greatest difficulties, especially

from the sacred text, they considered also a high and glorious

attainment: See Clarke on Mt 21:21. And of his salvation,

who had it, they could not have formed the slightest doubt. But the

apostle says, a man might have and enjoy all those gifts, &c., and

be nothing in himself, and be nothing profited by them."

The reader will consider that the charity or love, concerning

which the apostle speaks, is that which is described from

1Co 13:4-7, inclusive: it is not left to the conjectures of men

to find it out. What the apostle means is generally allowed to

be true religion; but if he had not described it, this true

religion would have been as various as the parties are who suppose

they have it. Let the reader also observe that, not only the

things which are in the highest repute among the Jews, but the

things which are in the highest repute among Christians and

Gentiles are those which the apostle shows to be of no use, if the

love hereafter described be wanting. And yet, who can suppose

that the man already described can be destitute of true religion,

as he must be under an especial influence of God; else, how, 1st,

could he speak all the languages of men? for this was allowed to

be one of the extraordinary gifts of God's Spirit. 2. He must

have Divine teaching to know the language of angels, and thus to

get acquainted with the economy of the invisible world. 3.

Without immediate influence from God he could not be a prophet,

and predict future events. 4. Without this he could not

understand all the mysteries of the Divine word, nor those of

Providence. 5. All knowledge, suppose this to be confined to

human arts and sciences, could not be acquired without especial

assistance. 6. And without the most powerful and extraordinary

assistance, he could not have a faith that could remove mountains,

or miraculous faith of any kind: and the apostle supposes that a

man might have all these six things, and not possess that religion

which could save his soul! And may we not say that, if all these

could not avail for salvation, a thousand times less surely

cannot. How blindly, therefore, are multitudes of persons

trusting in that which is almost infinitely less than that which

the apostle says would profit them nothing!

The charity or love which God recommends, the apostle describes

in sixteen particulars, which are the following:-

Verse 4. (1.) Charity suffereth long] μακροθυμει, Has a long

mind; to the end of which neither trials, adversities,

persecutions, nor provocations, can reach. The love of God, and

of our neighbour for God's sake, is patient towards all men: it

suffers all the weakness, ignorance, errors, and infirmities of

the children of God; and all the malice and wickedness of the

children of this world; and all this, not merely for a time, but

long, without end; for it is still a mind or disposition, to the

end of which trials, difficulties, &c., can never reach. It also

waits God's time of accomplishing his gracious or providential

purposes, without murmuring or repining; and bears its own

infirmities, as well as those of others, with humble submission to

the will of God.

(2.) Is kind] χρηστευεται. It is tender and compassionate in

itself, and kind and obliging to others; it is mild, gentle, and

benign; and, if called to suffer, inspires the sufferer with the

most amiable sweetness, and the most tender affection. It is also

submissive to all the dispensations of God; and creates trouble to

no one.

(3.) Charity envieth not] ουζηλοι. Is not grieved because

another possesses a greater portion of earthly, intellectual, or

spiritual blessings. Those who have this pure love rejoice as

much at the happiness, the honour, and comfort of others, as they

can do in their own. They are ever willing that others should be

preferred before them.

(4.) Charity vaunteth not itself] ουπερπερευεται. This word

is variously translated; acteth not rashly, insolently; is not

inconstant, &c. It is not agreed by learned men whether it be

Greek, Latin, or Arabic. Bishop Pearce derived it from the latter

language; and translates it, is not inconstant. There is a phrase

in our own language that expresses what I think to be the meaning

of the original, does not set itself forward-does not desire to be

noticed or applauded; but wishes that God may be all in all.

(5.) Is not puffed up] ουφυσιουται. Is not inflated with a

sense of its own importance; for it knows it has nothing but what

it has received; and that it deserves nothing that it has got.

Every man, whose heart is full of the love of God, is full of

humility; for there is no man so humble as he whose heart is

cleansed from all sin. It has been said that indwelling sin

humbles us; never was there a greater falsity: PRIDE is the very

essence of sin; he who has sin has pride, and pride too in

proportion to his sin: this is a mere popish doctrine; and,

strange to tell, the doctrine in which their doctrine of merit is

founded! They say God leaves concupiscence in the heart of every

Christian, that, in striving with and overcoming it from time to

time, he may have an accumulation of meritorious acts: Certain

Protestants say, it is a true sign of a very gracious state when a

man feels and deplores his inbred corruptions. How near do these

come to the Papists, whose doctrine they profess to detest and

abhor! The truth is, it is no sign of grace whatever; it only

argues, as they use it, that the man has got light to show him his

corruptions; but he has not yet got grace to destroy them. He is

convinced that he should have the mind of Christ, but he feels

that he has the mind of Satan; he deplores it, and, if his bad

doctrine do not prevent him, he will not rest till he feels the

blood of Christ cleansing him from all sin.

True humility arises from a sense of the fulness of God in the

soul; abasement from a sense of corruption is a widely different

thing; but this has been put in the place of humility, and even

called grace; many, very many, verify the saying of the poet:-

"Proud I am my wants to see;

Proud of my humility."

Verse 5. (6.) Doth not behave itself unseemly] ουκασχημονει,

from α, negative, and σχημα, figure, mein; love never acts

out of its place or character; observes due decorum and good

manners; is never rude, bearish, or brutish; and is ever willing

to become all things to all men, that it may please them for their

good to edification. No ill-bred man, or what is termed rude or

unmannerly, is a Christian. A man may have a natural bluntness,

or be a clown, and yet there be nothing boorish or hoggish in his

manner. I must apologize for using such words; they best express

the evil against which I wish both powerfully and successfully to

declaim. I never wish to meet with those who affect to be called

"blunt, honest men;" who feel themselves above all the forms of

respect and civility, and care not how many they put to pain, or

how many they displease. But let me not be misunderstood; I do

not contend for ridiculous ceremonies, and hollow compliments;

there is surely a medium: and a sensible Christian man will not be

long at a loss to find it out. Even that people who profess to be

above all worldly forms, and are generally stiff enough, yet are

rarely found to be rude, uncivil, or ill-bred.

(7.) Seeketh not her own] ουζητειταεαυτης. Is not desirous

of her own spiritual welfare only, but of her neighbour's also:

for the writers of the Old and New Testament do, almost every

where, agreeably to their Hebrew idiom, express a preference given

to one thing before another by an affirmation of that which is

preferred, and a negative of that which is contrary to it. See

Bishop Pearce, and see the notes on 1Co 1:17; 10:24, 33. Love is

never satisfied but in the welfare, comfort, and salvation of all.

That man is no Christian who is solicitous for his own happiness

alone; and cares not how the world goes, so that himself be


(8.) Is not easily provoked] ουπαροξυνεται. Is not provoked,

is not irritated, is not made sour or bitter. How the word easily

got into our translation it is hard to say; but, however it got

in, it is utterly improper, and has nothing in the original to

countenance it. By the transcript from my old MS., which

certainly contains the first translation ever made in English, we

find that the word did not exist there, the conscientious

translator rendering it thus:-It is not stirid to wrath.

The New Testament, printed in 1547, 4to., the first year of

Edward VI., in English and Latin, has simply, is not provokeed to

angre. The edition published in English in the following year,

1548, has the same rendering, but the orthography better: is not

provoked to anger. The Bible in folio, with notes, published the

next year, 1549, by Edmund Becke, preserves nearly the same

reading, is not provoketh to anger. The large folio printed by

Richard Cardmarden, at Rouen, 1566, has the same reading. The

translation made and printed by the command of King James I.,

fol., 1611, &c. departs from all these, and improperly inserts the

word easily, which might have been his majesty's own; and yet this

translation was not followed by some subsequent editions; for the

4to. Bible printed at London four years after, 1615, not only

retains this original and correct reading, it is not provoked to

anger, but has the word love every where in this chapter instead

of charity, in which all the preceding versions and editions

agree. In short, this is the reading of Coverdale, Matthews,

Cranmer, the Geneva, and others; and our own authorized version is

the only one which I have seen where this false reading appears.

As to the ancient versions, they all, Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic,

AEthiopic, Coptic, and Itala, strictly follow the Greek text; and

supply no word that tends to abate the signification of the

apostle's ουπαροξυνεται, is not provoked; nor is there a various

reading here in all the numerous MSS. It is of importance to make

these observations, because the common version of this place

destroys the meaning of the apostle, and makes him speak very

improperly. If love is provoked at all; it then ceases to be

love; and if it be not easily provoked, this grants, as almost all

the commentators say, that in special cases it may be provoked;

and this they instance in the case of Paul and Barnabas,

Ac 15:39; but I have sufficiently vindicated this passage in my

note on that place, and given at large the meaning of the word

παροξυνω; and to that place I beg leave to refer the reader.

The apostle's own words in 1Co 13:7, are a sufficient proof that

the love of which he speaks can never be provoked. When the man

who possesses this love gives way to provocation, he loses the

balance of his soul, and grieves the Spirit of God. In that

instant he ceases from loving God with all his soul, mind, and

strength; and surely if he get embittered against his neighbour,

he does not love him as himself. It is generally said that,

though a man may feel himself highly irritated against the sin,

he may feel tender concern for the sinner. Irritation of any kind

is inconsistent with self-government, and consequently with

internal peace and communion with God. However favourably we may

think of our own state, and however industrious we may be to find

out excuses for sallies of passion, &c., still the testimony of

God is, Love is not provoked; and if I have not such a love,

whatever else I may possess, it profiteth me nothing.

(9.) Thinketh no evil] ουλογιζεταιτοκακον. "Believes no

evil where no evil seems." Never supposes that a good action may

have a bad motive; gives every man credit for his profession of

religion, uprightness, godly zeal, &c., while nothing is seen in

his conduct or in his spirit inconsistent with this profession.

His heart is so governed and influenced by the love of God, that

he cannot think of evil but where it appears. The original

implies that he does not invent or devise any evil; or, does not

reason on any particular act or word so as to infer evil from it;

for this would destroy his love to his brother; it would be

ruinous to charity and benevolence.

Verse 6. (10.) Rejoiceth not in iniquity] ουχαιρειεπιτη

αδικια. Rejoiceth not in falsehood, but on the contrary,

rejoiceth in the truth: this meaning αδικια has in different parts

of the Scriptures. At first view, this character of love seems to

say but little in its favour; for who can rejoice in

unrighteousness or falsity? But is it not a frequent case that

persons, who have received any kind of injury, and have forborne

to avenge themselves, but perhaps have left it to God; when evil

falls upon the sinner do console themselves with what appears to

them an evidence that God has avenged their quarrels; and do at

least secretly rejoice that the man is suffering for his misdeeds?

Is not this, in some sort, rejoicing in iniquity? Again: is it

not common for interested persons to rejoice in the successes of

an unjust and sanguinary war, in the sackage and burning of cities

and towns; and is not the joy always in proportion to the

slaughter that has been made of the enemy? And do these call

themselves Christians? Then we may expect that Moloch and his

sub-devils are not so far behind this description of Christians as

to render their case utterly desperate. If such Christians can be

saved, demons need not despair!

(11.) But rejoiceth in the truth] αληθεια. Every thing that

is opposite to falsehood and irreligion. Those who are filled

with the love of God and man rejoice in the propagation and

extension of Divine truth-in the spread of true religion, by which

alone peace and good will can be diffused throughout the earth.

And because they rejoice in the truth, therefore they do not

persecute nor hinder true religion, but help it forward with all

their might and power.

Verse 7. (12.) Beareth all things] πανταστεγει, This word is

also variously interpreted: to endure, bear, sustain, cover,

conceal, contain. Bishop Pearce contends that it should be

translated covereth all things, and produces several plausible

reasons for this translation; the most forcible of which is, that

the common translation confounds it with endureth all things, in

the same verse. We well know that it is a grand and

distinguishing property of love to cover and conceal the fault

of another; and it is certainly better to consider the passage in

this light than in that which our common version holds out; and

this perfectly agrees with what St. Peter says of charity, 1Pe 4:8:

It shall cover the multitude of sins; but there is not sufficient

evidence that the original will fully bear this sense; and perhaps

it would be better to take it in the sense of contain, keep in, as

a vessel does liquor; thus Plato compared the souls of foolish men

to a sieve, and not able, στεγεινδιααπιστιαντεκαιληθην, to

contain any thing through unfaithfulness and forgetfulness. See

Parkhurst and Wetstein. Some of the versions have στεργει,

loveth, or is warmly affectioned to all things or persons. But

the true import must be found either in cover or contain. Love

conceals every thing that should be concealed; betrays no secret;

retains the grace given; and goes on to continual increase. A

person under the influence of this love never makes the sins,

follies, faults, or imperfections of any man, the subject either

of censure or conversation. He covers them as far as he can; and

if alone privy to them, he retains the knowledge of them in his

own bosom as far as he ought.

(13.) Believeth all things] πανταπιστευει. Is ever ready to

believe the best of every person, and will credit no evil of any

but on the most positive evidence; gladly receives whatever may

tend to the advantage of any person whose character may have

suffered from obloquy and detraction; or even justly, because of

his misconduct.

(14.) Hopeth all things.] πανταελπιζει. When there is no

place left for believing good of a person, then love comes in with

its hope, where it could not work by its faith; and begins

immediately to make allowances and excuses, as far as a good

conscience can permit; and farther, anticipates the repentance of

the transgressor, and his restoration to the good opinion of

society and his place in the Church of God, from which he had


(15.) Endureth all things.] πανταυπομενει. Bears up under

all persecutions and mal-treatment from open enemies and professed

friends; bears adversities with an even mind, as it submits with

perfect resignation to every dispensation of the providence of

God; and never says of any trial, affliction, or insult, this

cannot be endured.

Verse 8. (16.) Charity never faileth] ηαγαπηουδεποτε

εκπιπτει. This love never falleth off, because it bears,

believes, hopes, and endures all things; and while it does so it

cannot fail; it is the means of preserving all other graces;

indeed, properly speaking, it includes them all; and all receive

their perfection from it. Love to God and man can never be

dispensed with. It is essential to social and religious life;

without it no communion can be kept up with God; nor can any man

have a preparation for eternal glory whose heart and soul are not

deeply imbued with it. Without it there never was true religion,

nor ever can be; and it not only is necessary through life, but

will exist throughout eternity. What were a state of blessedness

if it did not comprehend love to God and human spirits in the most

exquisite, refined, and perfect degrees?

Prophecies-shall fail] Whether the word imply predicting

future events, or teaching the truths of religion to men, all such

shall soon be rendered useless. Though the accurate prophet and

the eloquent, persuasive preacher be useful in their day, they

shall not be always so; nor shall their gifts fit them for glory;

nothing short of the love above described can fit a soul for the

kingdom of God.

Tongues-shall cease] The miraculous gift of different

languages, that soon shall cease, as being unnecessary.

Knowledge-shall vanish away.] All human arts and sciences, as

being utterly useless in the eternal world, though so highly

extolled and useful here.

Verse 9. For we know in part] We have here but little

knowledge even of earthly, and much less of heavenly, things. He

that knows most knows little in comparison of what is known by

angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. And as we know

so very little, how deficient must we be if we have not much love!

Angels may wonder at the imperfection of our knowledge; and

separate spirits may wonder at the perfection of their own, having

obtained so much more in consequence of being separated from the

body, than they could conceive to be possible while in that body.

When Sir Isaac Newton had made such astonishing discoveries in the

laws of nature, far surpassing any thing that had been done by all

his predecessors in science from the days of Solomon; one of our

poets, considering the scantiness of human knowledge when compared

with that which is possessed by the inhabitants of heaven, reduced

his meditations on the subject to the following nervous and

expressive epigram:--

Superior beings, when of late they saw

A mortal man explain all nature's law,

Admired such wisdom in an earthly shape,

And show'd our NEWTON as we show an ape.

These fine lines are a paraphrase from a saying of Plato, from

whom our poet borrows without acknowledging the debt. The words

are these: ανθρωπονοσοφωτατοςπροςθεονπιθηκοςφανειται. "The

wisest of mortals will appear but an ape in the estimation of

God." Vid. Hipp. Maj. vol. xi. p. 21. Edit. Bipont.

We prophesy in part] Even the sublimest prophets have been

able to say but little of the heavenly state; and the best

preachers have left the Spirit of God very much to supply. And

had we no more religious knowledge than we can derive from men and

books, and had we no farther instruction in the knowledge of God

and ourselves than we derive from preaching, our religious

experience would be low indeed. Yet it is our duty to acquire all

the knowledge we possibly can; and as preaching is the ordinary

means by which God is pleased to instruct and convert the soul, we

should diligently and thankfully use it. For we have neither

reason nor Scripture to suppose that God will give us that

immediately from himself which he has promised to convey only by

the use of means. Even this his blessing makes effectual; and,

after all, his Spirit supplies much that man cannot teach. Every

preacher should take care to inculcate this on the hearts of his

hearers. When you have learned all you can from your ministers,

remember you have much to learn from God; and for this you should

diligently wait on him by the reading of his word, and by

incessant prayer.

Verse 10. But when that which is perfect] The state of

eternal blessedness; then that which is in part-that which is

imperfect, shall be done away; the imperfect as well as the

probationary state shall cease for ever.

Verse 11. When I was a child] This future state of

blessedness is as far beyond the utmost perfection that can be

attained in this world, as our adult state of Christianity is

above our state of natural infancy, in which we understand only as

children understand; speak only a few broken articulate words, and

reason only as children reason; having few ideas, little knowledge

but what may be called mere instinct, and that much less perfect

than the instinct of the brute creation; and having no experience.

But when we became men-adults, having gained much knowledge of

men and things, we spoke and reasoned more correctly, having left

off all the manners and habits of our childhood.

Verse 12. Now we see through a glass, darkly] διεσοπτρουεν

αινιγματι. Of these words some literal explanation is necessary.

The word εσοπτρον which we translate a glass, literally signifies

a mirror or reflector, from εις, into, and οπτομαι, I look;

and among the ancients mirrors were certainly made of fine

polished metal. The word here may signify any thing by which the

image of a person is reflected, as in our looking, or look in glass.

The word is not used for a glass to look through; nor would such

an image have suited with the apostle's design.

The εσοπτρον or mirror, is mentioned by some of the most

ancient Greek writers; so Anacreon, Ode xi. ver. 1:-





The women tell me,

Anacreon, thou art grown old;

Take thy mirror, and view

How few of thy hairs remain.

And again, in Ode xx. ver. 5:-



I wish I were a mirror

That thou mightst always look into me.

In Ex 38:8,

we meet with the term looking glasses; but the original is

maroth, and should be translated mirrors; as out of those very

articles, which we absurdly translate looking GLASSES, the brazen

laver was made!

In the Greek version the word εσοπτρον is not found but twice,

and that in the apocryphal books.

In the book of the Wisdom of Solomon, chap. 7:26, speaking of

wisdom the author says: "She is the brightness of the everlasting

light, καιεσοπτρονακηλιδωτον, and the unspotted mirror of the

power of God, and the image of his goodness."

In Ecclus. xii. 11, exhorting to put no trust in an enemy, he

says: "Though he humble himself, and go crouching, yet take good

heed and beware of him, and thou shalt be unto him, ωςεκμεμαχως

εσοπτρον, as if thou hadst wiped a looking glass, (mirror,) and

thou shalt know that his rust hath not altogether been wiped

away." All these passages must be understood of polished metal,

not of glass, which, though it existed among the Romans and

others, yet was brought to very little perfection; and as to

grinding and silvering of glass, they are modern inventions.

Some have thought that the apostle refers to something of the

telescopic kind, by which distant and small objects become

visible, although their surfaces become dim in proportion to the

quantum of the magnifying power; but this is too refined; he

appears simply to refer to a mirror by which images were rejected,

and not to any diaphanous and magnifying powers, through which

objects were perceived.

Possibly the true meaning of the words διεσοπτρουεν

αινιγματι, through a glass darkly, may be found among the Jewish

writers, who use a similar term to express nearly the same thing

to which the apostle refers. A revelation of the will of God, in

clear and express terms, is called by them

aspecularia maira, a clear or lucid glass, or specular in

reference, specularibus lapidibus, to the diaphanous polished

stones, used by the ancients for windows instead of glass. An

obscure prophecy they termed aspecularia dela

naharia, "a specular which is not clear."

Nu 12:6:

If there be a prophet-I the Lord will make myself known unto him

in a vision, and I will speak unto him in a dream; Rab. Tanchum

thus explains: "My Shechinah shall not be revealed to him,

beaspecularia maira, in a lucid specular, but

only in a dream and a vision."

On Eze 1:4, 5:

And I looked, and behold a whirlwind-a great cloud, and a fire

unfolding itself, &c.; Sohar Chadash, fol. 33, says: "This is a

vision beaspecularia dela nahara, by an

obscure or dark specular."

From a great variety of examples produced by Schoettgen it

appears that the rabbins make a great deal of difference between

seeing through the lucid glass or specular, and seeing through the

obscure one. The first is attributed only to Moses, who conversed

with God face to face, i.e. through the lucid specular; and

between the other prophets, who saw him in dreams and visions,

i.e. through the obscure specular. In these distinctions and

sayings of the ancient Jews we must seek for that to which the

apostle alludes. See Schoettgen.

The word αινιγματι, which we render darkly, will help us to the

true meaning of the place. The following is Mr. Parkhurst's

definition of the term and of the thing: "αινιγμα, from

ηνιγμαι, the perfect passive of ισυιττω, to hint, intimate,

signify with some degree of obscurity; an enigma, in which one

thing answers or stands in correspondence to, or as the

representative of, another, which is in some respects similar to

it; occurs 1Co 13:12:

Now-in this life, we see by means of a mirror reflecting the

images of heavenly and spiritual things, εναινιγματι, in an

enigmatical manner, invisible things being represented by visible,

spiritual by natural, eternal by temporal; but then-in the eternal

world, face to face, every thing being seen in itself, and not by

means of a representative or similitude."

Now I know in part] Though I have an immediate revelation from

God concerning his great design in the dispensation of the Gospel,

yet there are lengths, breadths, depths, and heights of this

design, which even that revelation has not discovered; nor can

they be known and apprehended in the present imperfect state.

Eternity alone can unfold the whole scheme of the Gospel.

As-I am known.] In the same manner in which disembodied

spirits know and understand.

Verse 13. And now [in this present life] abideth faith, hope,

charity] These three supply the place of that direct vision

which no human embodied spirit can have; these abide or remain

for the present state. Faith, by which we apprehend spiritual

blessings, and walk with God. Hope, by which we view and expect

eternal blessedness, and pass through things temporal so as not to

lose those which are eternal. Charity or love, by which we show

forth the virtues of the grace which we receive by faith in living

a life of obedience to God, and of good will and usefulness to


But the greatest of these is charity.] Without faith it is

impossible to please God; and without it, we can not partake of

the grace of our Lord Jesus: without hope we could not endure, as

seeing him who is invisible; nor have any adequate notion of the

eternal world; nor bear up under the afflictions and difficulties

of life: but great and useful and indispensably necessary as these

are, yet charity or love is greater: LOVE is the fulfilling of

the law; but this is never said of faith or hope.

IT may be necessary to enter more particularly into a

consideration of the conclusion of this very important chapter.

1. Love is properly the image of God in the soul; for God is

LOVE. By faith we receive from our Maker; by hope we expect

a future and eternal good; but by love we resemble God; and by it

alone are we qualified to enjoy heaven, and be one with him

throughout eternity. Faith, says one, is the foundation of the

Christian life, and of good works; hope rears the superstructure;

but love finishes, completes, and crowns it in a blessed eternity.

Faith and hope respect ourselves alone; love takes in both

GOD and MAN. Faith helps, and hope sustains us; but love to God

and man makes us obedient and useful. This one consideration is

sufficient to show that love is greater than either faith or


2. Some say love is the greatest because it remains throughout

eternity, whereas faith and hope proceed only through life; hence

we say that there faith is lost in sight, and hope in fruition.

But does the apostle say so? Or does any man inspired by God say

so? I believe not. Faith and hope will as necessarily enter into

eternal glory as love will. The perfections of God are absolute

in their nature, infinite in number, and eternal in their

duration. However high, glorious, or sublime the soul may be in

that eternal state, it will ever, in respect to God, be limited in

its powers, and must be improved and expanded by the

communications of the supreme Being. Hence it will have infinite

glories in the nature of God to apprehend by faith, to anticipate

by hope, and enjoy by love.

3. From the nature of the Divine perfections there must be

infinite glories in them which must be objects of faith to

disembodied spirits; because it is impossible that they should be

experimentally or possessively known by any creature. Even in the

heaven of heavens we shall, in reference to the infinite and

eternal excellences of God, walk by faith, and not by sight. We

shall credit the existence of infinite and illimitable glories in

him, which, from their absolute and infinite nature, must be

incommunicable. And as the very nature of the soul shows it to be

capable of eternal growth and improvement; so the communications

from the Deity, which are to produce this growth, and effect this

improvement, must be objects of faith to the pure spirit; and, if

objects of faith, consequently objects of hope; for as hope

is "the expectation of future good," it is inseparable from the

nature of the soul, to know of the existence of any attainable

good without making it immediately the object of desire or hope.

And is it not this that shall constitute the eternal and

progressive happiness of the immortal spirit; viz. knowing, from

what it has received, that there is infinitely more to be

received; and desiring to be put in possession of every

communicable good which it knows to exist?

4. As faith goes forward to view, so hope goes forward to

desire; and God continues to communicate, every communication

making way for another, by preparing the soul for greater

enjoyment, and this enjoyment must produce love. To say that the

soul can have neither faith nor hope in a future state is to say

that, as soon as it enters heaven, it is as happy as it can

possibly be; and this goes to exclude all growth in the eternal

state, and all progressive manifestations and communications of

God; and consequently to fix a spirit, which is a composition of

infinite desires, in a state of eternal sameness, in which it must

be greatly changed in its constitution to find endless


5. To sum up the reasoning on this subject I think it necessary

to observe, 1. That the term faith is here to be taken in the

general sense of the word, for that belief which a soul has of the

infinite sufficiency and goodness of God, in consequence of the

discoveries he has made of himself and his designs, either by

revelation, or immediately by his Spirit. Now we know that God

has revealed himself not only in reference to this world, but in

reference to eternity; and much of our faith is employed in things

pertaining to the eternal world, and the enjoyments in that state.

2. That hope is to be taken in its common acceptation, the

expectation of future good; which expectation is necessarily

founded on faith, as faith is founded on knowledge. God gives a

revelation which concerns both worlds, containing exceeding great

and precious promises relative to both. We believe what he has

said on his own veracity; and we hope to enjoy the promised

blessings in both worlds, because he is faithful who has promised.

3. As the promises stand in reference to both worlds, so also must

the faith and hope to which these promises stand as objects.

4. The enjoyments in the eternal world are all spiritual, and must

proceed immediately from God himself. 5. God, in the plenitude of

his excellences, is as incomprehensible to a glorified spirit, as

he is to a spirit resident in flesh and blood. 6. Every created,

intellectual nature is capable of eternal improvement. 7. If

seeing God as he is be essential to the eternal happiness of

beatified spirits, then the discoveries which he makes of himself

must be gradual; forasmuch as it is impossible that an infinite,

eternal nature can be manifested to a created and limited nature

in any other way. 8. As the perfections of God are infinite, they

are capable of being eternally manifested, and, after all

manifestations, there must be an infinitude of perfections still

to be brought to view. 9. As every soul that has any just notion

of God must know that he is possessed of all possible perfections,

so these perfections, being objects of knowledge, must be objects

of faith. 10. Every holy spirit feels itself possessed of

unlimited desires for the enjoyment of spiritual good, and faith

in the infinite goodness of God necessarily implies that he will

satisfy every desire he has excited. 11. The power to gratify, in

the Divine Being, and the capacity to be gratified, in the

immortal spirit, will necessarily excite continual desires, which

desires, on the evidence of faith, will as necessarily produce

hope, which is the expectation of future good. 12. All possible

perfections in God are the objects of faith; and the communication

of all possible blessedness, the object of hope. 13. Faith goes

forward to apprehend, and hope to anticipate, as God continues to

discover his unbounded glories and perfections. 14. Thus

discovered and desired, their influences become communicated, love

possesses them, and is excited and increased by the

communication. 15. With respect to those which are communicated,

faith and hope cease, and go forward to new apprehensions and

anticipations, while love continues to retain and enjoy the

whole. 16. Thus an eternal interest is kept up, and infinite

blessings, in endless succession, apprehended, anticipated and


6. My opinion that faith and hope, as well as love, will

continue in a future state, will no doubt appear singular to many

who have generally considered the two former as necessarily

terminating in this lower world; but this arises from an improper

notion of the beatified state, and from inattention to the state

and capacity of the soul. If it have the same faculties there

which it has here, howsoever improved they may be, it must acquire

its happiness from the supreme Being in the way of communication,

and this communication must necessarily be gradual for the reasons

already alleged; and if gradual, then there must be (if in that

state we have any knowledge at all of the Divine nature) faith

that such things exist, and may be communicated; desire to possess

them because they are good; and hope that these good things shall

be communicated.

7. I conclude, therefore, from these and a multitude of other

reasonings which might be brought to bear on this subject, that

faith and hope will exist in the eternal world as well as love;

and that there, as well as here, it may endlessly be said, the

greatest of these is love. With great propriety therefore does

the apostle exhort, Follow after love, it being so essential to

our comfort and happiness here, and to our beatification in the

eternal world; and how necessary faith and hope are to the same

end we have already seen.

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