Imágenes de páginas

juggling in them, the first . preachers of christianity proved that they were acting under the immediate influence and protection of God; and, consequently, that the religion they taught was divine. Among these gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are all particularly mentioned in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, was the gift of tongues ; which being particularly useful in explaining the faith to the people of foreign countries, and thereby bringing the Gentiles to CHRIST, was much prized and sought after by the members of the first churches,

These early christians, who had been converted by the Apostles, were, in the main, holy, and sincere ; but, it should seem, ibat some among them had many remains of human infirmity about them, and had not 6 so learned CHRIST," as to have gotten the better of those weaknesses and prejudices, which are so common to human nature, in its present corrupt and fallen state. In consequence of this, they sought these gifts of the Holy Spirit, not so much for the sake of edifying others, as of magnifying themselves ; of making a figure, and acquiring a reputation, among the people. This improper view of the purpose for which these gifts were bestowed, occasioned the members

of the churches to dispute and quarrel about them, each maintained that the one he possessed was more useful than that of his brother christian; and, while they thus debated, charity to others, and humility in themselves, were lost sight of; and divisions, equally fatal to their piety and their peace, sprang up, and strengthened among them. To put an end to these divisions, and to correct these false notions in the Corinthian church, was the object of St. Paul in the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of his first epistle to them. In the first of these chapters, he proves that all these gifts, whatever they might be, and on whomsoever bestowed, were from the Holy Ghost, and consequently were not intended for the purposes of quar. relling and rivalship, but“ to profit withal;' to be used to the glory of God, and the welfare of mankind. He then shews them, that all these gifts were highly useful, if properly applied; and, therefore, that no christian should undervalue, or lose his charity for, his neighbour, because he did not possess the same gifts as himself; and by comparing the christian church to the human body, he points out how necessary all its members, in their several degrees, were to each other; and consequently, that they were bound to use their own gifts with humility, and respect those which others


might possess.

He concludes the chapter with saying, that, whatever their miraculous endowments were, he would shew them one christian grace, which even the poorest, the meanest, and the most unenlightened believer might acquire ; and which was of more value in itself, than all the gifts about which they had so much disputed and quarrelled. This grace,-the virtue of christian love, or charity,—he fully describes in the epistle for the day; which is one of the most beautiful chapters in the New Testament. I will explain it verse by verse, making a few observations on each as I proceed.

“ 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.” Though a christian be endowed, in the highest possible degree, with the gift of speaking in languages he had not learned ; (a gift which was so earnestly coveted by the members of the Corinthian church;) yet, if this endowment were not accompanied by charity, or brotherly love, it would be of no more use, in promoting the glory of God, che welfare of mankind, and the everlasting benefit of its possessor, than the most empty and unmeaning sounds.

6 And though I have the gift of prophecy, " and understand all mysteries, and all know

ledge ; and though I have all faith, so so that I could remove mountains, and have o not charity, I am nothing." St. Paul here • alludes to the different miraculous gifts which were bestowed upon the early converts; but his words will apply to christians of the present day, and convince us, that no advantages of learning, or knowledge, or situation ; that no pretences to faith, or professions of religion, will be of any avail to procure the favour of God, or to promote our own salvation, if we have not that religion of the heart, which will shew itself in the unfeigned love of our brethren in the world.

" And though I bestow all my goods to “ feed the poor, and give my body to be

burned, and have not charity, it profiteth « me nothing.” The word charity is

, generally understood to mean the virtue of relieving the needy by alms, or other means; but it is clear, from the verse before us, that this (though a material part) is still only a branch of that “ excellent way.

Were charity confined to the act of giving away, it could only be practised by a small part of mankind, because, most of them are in a situation rather to require than bestow assistance of this description. But the way to the favour of God is open to the poor as well as the rich man; and though the former cannot exercise the delightful virtue of sup. plying the wants of the necessitous on account of his own narrow circumstances in life, yet he

may stand higher in the approbation of God, than even a prince or a martyr, if he practise, and they neglect, that great christian grace, which the Apostle, in the next verse, goes on to explain.

“ Charity,” says he, “ suffereth long, and “ is kind ; charity envieth not; charity “ vaunteth not itself.” In passing through the world, my friends, full as it is of bad and mischievous men, we shall frequently meet with insults and injuries; which are too apt to stir up anger in us; and which the weak- . ness of our nature will sometimes tempt us to revenge. But such feelings, and such behaviour, as this, are breaches of christian charity, which " suffereth long, and is kind." Instead of swelling with rage and malice upon these occasions, it brings every thought and feeling into obedience to CHRIST, and endeavours to imitate the meekness of the Redeemer. It “ looks to Jesus, the &c author and finisher of our faith;” remembers his blessed example under insult and persecution; and “committerh" itself and its cause “to him who judgeth righteously.' And as it thus bears insult and injury in a manly and christian way, so it forbears

« AnteriorContinuar »