on 1-Corinthians 13 :4
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 neighbor 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, etc., 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.
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.
Charity envieth not - Ου ζηλοι· 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 honor, and comfort of others, as they can do in their own. They are ever willing that others should be preferred before them.
Charity vaunteth not itself - Ου περπερευεται· This word is variously translated; acteth not rashly, insolently; is not inconstant, etc. 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.
Is not puffed up - Ου φυσιουται· 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 fullness 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."
on 1-Corinthians 13 :4
Charity suffereth long - Paul now proceeds to illustrate the "nature" of love, or to show how it is exemplified. His illustrations are all drawn from its effect in regulating our conduct toward others, or our contact with them. The "reason" why he made use of this illustration, rather than its nature as evinced toward "God," was, probably, because it was especially necessary for them to understand in what way it should be manifested toward each other. There were contentions and strifes among them; there were of course suspicions, and jealousies, and heart-burnings; there would be unkind judging, the imputation of improper motives, and selfishness; there were envy, and pride, and boasting, all of which were inconsistent with love; and Paul therefore evidently designed to correct these evils, and to produce a different state of things by showing them what would be produced by the exercise of love. The word used here μακροθυμεῖ makrothumei denotes "longanimity," slowness to anger or passion; longsuffering, patient endurance, forbearance. It is opposed to haste; to passionate expressions and thoughts, and to irritability. It denotes the state of mind which can bear long when oppressed, provoked, calumniated, and when one seeks to injure us; compare Romans 2:4; Romans 9:22; 2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12; 1 Timothy 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:10; 2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:15.
And is kind - The word used here denotes to be good-natured, gentle, tender, affectionate. Love is benignant. It wishes well. It is not harsh, sour, morose, ill-natured. Tyndale renders it, "is courteous." The idea is, that under all provocations and ill-usage it is gentle and mild. "Hatred" prompts to harshness, severity, unkindness of expression, anger, and a desire of revenge. But love is the reverse of all these. A man who truly loves another will be kind to him, desirous of doing him good; will be "gentle," not severe and harsh; will be "courteous" because he desires his happiness, and would not pain his feelings. And as religion is love, and prompts to love, so it follows that it requires courtesy or true politeness, and will secure it; see 1 Peter 3:8. If all people were under the influence of true religion, they would always be truly polite and courteous; for true politeness is nothing more than an expression of benignity, or a desire to promote the happiness of all around us.
Envieth not - οὐ ζηλόι ou zēloi. This word properly means to be "zealous" for or against any person or thing; that is, to be eager for, or anxious for or against anyone. It is used often in a good sense (1 Corinthians 12:31; See the 1 Corinthians 14:1, 1 Corinthians 14:39 notes; 2 Corinthians 11:2 note, etc.); but it may be used in a bad sense - to be zealous "against" a person; to be jealous of; to envy. Acts 7:9; Acts 17:5; James 4:2, "ye kill and envy." It is in this sense, evidently, that it is used here, - as denoting zeal, or ardent desire "against" any person. The sense is, love does not envy others the happiness which they enjoy; it delights in their welfare; and as their happiness is increased by their endowments, their rank, their reputation, their wealth, their health, their domestic comforts, their learning etc., those who are influenced by love "rejoice" in all this. They would not diminish it; they would not embarrass them in the possession; they would not detract from that happiness; they would not complain or repine that they themselves are not so highly favored - To envy is to feel uneasiness, mortification, or discontent at the sight of superior happiness, excellence or reputation enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; and to fret oneself on account of his real or fancied superiority.
Of course, it may be excited by anything in which another excels, or in which he is more favored than we are. It may be excited by superior wealth, beauty, learning, accomplishment, reputation, success. It may extend to any employment, or any rank in life. A man may be envied because he is happy while we are miserable; well, while we are sick; caressed, while we are neglected or overlooked; successful, while we meet with disappointment; handsome, while we are ill-formed; honored with office, while we are overlooked. He may be envied because he has a better farm than we have, or is a more skillful mechanic, or a more successful physician, lawyer, or clergyman. "Envy commonly lies in the same line of business, occupation, or rank." We do not, usually envy a monarch, a conqueror, or a nobleman, unless we are "aspiring" to the same rank. The farmer does not usually envy the blacksmith, but another farmer; the blacksmith does not usually envy the schoolmaster, or the lawyer, but another man in the same line of business with himself.
The physician envies another physician more learned or more successful; the lawyer envies another lawyer; the clergyman is jealous of another clergyman. The fashionable female who seeks admiration or flattery on account of accomplishment or beauty envies another who is more distinguished and more successful in those things. And so the poet envies a rival poet and the orator, a rival orator; and the statesman, a rival statesman. The correction of all these things is "love." If we loved others; if we rejoiced in their happiness, we should not envy them. "They are not to blame" for these superior endowments; but if those endowments are the direct gift of God, we should he thankful that he has made others happy; if they are the fruit of their own industry, and virtue, and skill and application, we should esteem them the more, and value them the more highly. They have not injured us; and we should not be unhappy, or seek to injure them, because God has blessed them, or because they have been more industrious, virtuous, and successful than we have.
Every person should have his own level in society, and we should rejoice in the happiness of all - Love will produce another effect. We should not "envy" them, because he that is under the influence of Christian love is more happy than those in the world who are usually the objects of envy. There is often much wretchedness under a clothing "of purple and fine linen." There is not always happiness in a splendid mansion; in the caresses of the great; in a post of honor; in a palace, or on a throne. Alexander the Great wept on the throne of the world. Happiness is in the heart; and contentment, and the love of God, and the hope of heaven produce happiness which rank, and wealth, and fashion, and earthly honor cannot purchase. And could the sad and heavy hearts of those in elevated ranks of life be always seen; and especially could their end be seen, there would be no occasion or disposition to envy them.
Lord, what a thoughtless wretch was I,
To mourn, and murmur, and repine,
To see the wicked placed on high,
In pride and robes of honour shine!
But oh! their end, their dreadful end!
Thy sanctuary taught me so;
On slipp'ry rocks I see them stand,
And fiery billows roll below.
on 1-Corinthians 13 :4