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will “glorify our Father which is in heaven.”
The beams that illumine our eyes, at noon-day, are not a more certain indication of the sun's presence, than an exemplary course of action is a proof that our ways are well-pleasing to God, and that the rays of his love shine upon us from Himself, who is the source and the recipient of all glory. It should therefore, be our care to establish ourselves in every good work, and to advance in practical holiness by every means within our power. God will
God will then esteem us very highly for our work's sake. His honour, of which he is too jealous to permit its being transferred to another, will appear, in his own sight, to have been promoted and highly esteemed, by us his servants. He will, in return, dignify us with “that honour which cometh of Him only:"—for the riches of his love will be our recompense and joy.
To be indolent in his service, and regardless of his high majesty, would be to neglect the best interests of our own souls. His “glory, honour, and peace” are reserved for those only who are faithful in their duty, and workers of good. If then, “there be any honour," which, as coming of his gift, is to be esteemed above all other ;-" if there be any praise,” in which, from its undeceiving and unfading worth, our souls can delight for ever ;-let us think on these things.”
THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY OF CHARITY.
1 CORINTHIANS xii. 31.
But covet earnestly the best gifts; and yet shew I unto you a
more excellent way.
At the time of St. Paul's writing this Epistle, there was no small emulation among the principal members of the Corinthian Church ; but it was an emulation not altogether justifiable as to its object. The extraordinary abilities with which many of them were endowed, with a view to their being serviceable to the whole community of Christians, had filled them with conceit and pride, and had excited a spirit of contention. One person was distinguished for his skill in the “word of wisdom," or in the doctrine of the gospel ;-another excelled in the" word of knowledge,” or in the true meaning of the Old Testament. One had the power of working miracles ;-another had the gift of prophecy,—another, the gift of speaking with ease and fluency, a variety of languages. Each of these strove for preference and superiority over the rest ; every one thinking his own abilities the most shining, and himself the most valuable person on that account. As this was the case, it happened, by a natural consequence, that their character as Christians suffered for want of charity ;-for their disputings as to who was the wisest, the most learned, or the most accomplished, and who, therefore, ought to be the most valued and respected, had impaired their kindly feelings towards each other, and, so far, broken down that law of love which our Saviour required to be observed habitually by his disciples. St. Paul's intention was, to correct this unhappy state of things, and to bring back their minds to a benevolent temper. His advice to them, therefore, was, in the words of the text, “ Covet earnestly the best gifts; and yet shew I unto you a more excellent
If we take the former part of this text as a precept, and suppose that the Apostle recommends the persons to whom he is writing, to be earnest in their emulation for the best gifts, his words may, in this sense, be defended ; for the miraculous endowments which those persons possessed, were of great public benefit, when rightly exercised ; and, therefore, might reasonably be objects of human desire. This, however, does not appear to be St. Paul's meaning ; for his purpose, throughout this chapter, is evidently to warn them, by gentle hints, not to vie with each other for superiority, as to any such endowments. Besides, the text will grammatically admit of another
construction, more consistent with the drift of his argument, and with the connexion of the sense throughout this part of the Epistle. In this view, the words are an assertion, not a precept ; and the reading will be, “You are earnestly coveting the best gifts ; and yet shew I unto you a more excellent
---" You are eagerly zealous and contending as to superiority of gifts ; you are enviously desirous of outshining each other ;-but I point out to you a mode of conduct which is incomparably preferable,a method both excellent and effectual, of becoming more truly valuable in yourselves, and more worthy of the Christian name.”
The use I shall make, at present, of the text is, to shew the injudiciousness of men's setting the highest value upon qualities, which, considered in themselves, are not deserving of it ;--for, by so doing, they lessen the influence that would possibly attend them, if they were not overvalued ;-and, at the same time, they neglect to cultivate within themselves those qualities which are intrinsically amiable and excellent.
The great and extraordinary abilities that were conferred on some of the earliest professors of Christianity, are, in Scripture, styled gifts. Now a gift does not necessarily imply merit in the person who receives it, nor does it convey any real or additional merit with it. If any thing is conferred upon a person, on account of worthy qualities which he before possessed, that, strictly speaking, is not so much a gift, as a just and equitable reward.
For a gift
cannot be said to be deserved, before it was bestowed ; though it may afterwards prove to be matter of desert to the receiver, if he employs it in such a manner, as to shew that he was not unworthy of it. This, however, is subsequent, and not precedent to the gift itself; which is a matter of worth and merit, not in the receiver, but only in the giver, and it proceeds in him, from some principle of goodness and wisdom entirely his own. Now, the miraculous effusions of the Holy Spirit were attributable to the free bounty and unmerited favour of God, and dispensed, not merely for the sake of the individuals to whom they were given as manifestations of the Divine power, but for the sake of the whole Christian community, for whose benefit, and for whose firm establishment in the faith, they were principally intended. In themselves, they conferred no merit on the receivers ; though the proper use and application of them, as being correspondent to the will of the Almighty, must have been valuable and good, and so far, must have recommended their possessors to his approbation and favour. Such truths as these St. Paul is here impressing upon the minds of his converts; and it appears, both from his declarations and his conduct, that they are such as he did not urge upon others, without feeling the full force of them himself. No one ever had a larger measure of the gifts and graces of the Spirit, than he had ; but so far was he from being inflated with pride and arrogance on that account, that, as he himself