IT IS ALARMING to me when I am given to meditate upon the strife and confusion that exists in Zion today! It is heart-breaking to find brethren trying to devour and subdue one another! It makes me shudder to note the coldness that seems prevalent in our own midst. All this perplexity of mind has made me to inquire of the Lord for an understanding of His Spirit of love. May He define charity for us and make manifest that spirit in us.
Let us now consider the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians where Paul was inspired to write to the Church at Corinth on this grand subject. I realize the modern usage of the word is the giving of alms, but the 3rd verse of this chapter states the possibility of bestowing all goods to feed the poor, yet be destitute of charity. I am persuaded to believe that charity is the love of God, love of Christ, and love to saints. God loves us with a godly love. This same love is reciprocated and also includes Christ and the brethren. We love God because he first loved us. God's children do love one another. I think that Paul in the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians was blessed to treat upon the greatness of charity and its properties. He says, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal." To be enabled to speak with the tongues of men is a natural gift from God, but to be able to speak with the tongues of angels is a spiritual gift from God. Man naturally cannot learn the language of the truth as pertaining to god and the holy Scriptures. Though a man be spiritually blessed to speak fluently and eloquently of the doctrine of God our Savior and have not charity, he is as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. If a person be blessed so that he can understand all mysteries and knowledge and have all faith both believing and doing miracles and have not charity, he is nothing. Paul does not mean that these gifts is nothing, destitute of charity. If I bestow all my goods to feed the poor in order to gain the reputation of men or for the purpose of obtaining eternal life it would be no profit to me. These deeds must be motivated by love to God or to Christ or to the saints before they could be rightly considered as profitable for me.
Now let us consider the properties and characters of love as Paul was inspired to note them. "Charity suffereth long." The person blessed with charity is patient. He is slow to anger, and not hasty to revenge. He is enabled to bear much; has the grace of forbearance, and is blessed to forgive. "And is kind." He does good to all men, even to his enemies. "Charity envieth not." He that is possessed with this wonderful grace of God's love does not envy the temporal happiness of others. He rejoices when he beholds a brother is blessed with gifts both temporal and spiritual. He does not envy the happiness of others even though they are decidedly more blessed than he. Joseph's brethren were not charitable when they envied Joseph because he had a greater share in the affections of their father. The charitable person does not envy one of God's children whose usefulness and success in spiritual undertakings are decidedly greater (seemingly) than his. "Charity vaunteth not itself." He does not boast of either his natural or spiritual wisdom or possessions. He does not boast of what he does as his motive is love and not for the applause of men. "Is not puffed up." He is not swelled with pride but is humble. "Doth not behave itself unseemly." He is not unbecoming in his conversation or actions and has due respect for the aged and those of authority. "Seeketh not her own." He is not seeking to promote his own selfish ambitions and desires but his care and concern is to the glory of God and to the children of the kingdom. "Is not easily provoked." He is not easily offended. "Thinketh no evil." Not that he is free from evil thoughts such as are sinful and vain, for testimonies throughout the holy scriptures affirm to the contrary. God's children are forever desiring to be delivered from these sinful thoughts that are daily experienced. But I think that this character will forgive a brother his trespasses and will not try to find some way of revenge. He thinks not upon how to get even with someone who has wronged him.
"Rejoiceth not in iniquity." He mourns because of his own iniquities. He is grieved because of the sinfulness of professors. He is troubled when he meditates upon the profanity and immorality of the world. "But rejoiceth in the truth." He rejoices in the doctrine of God, our Savior, he is pleased when God is praised and man is set forth as nothing, yea less than nothing. Salvation by grace is his meat and drink. "Beareth all things." He feels that all things work together for good to them who love God, even the suffering, persecution, and affliction is not in vain. He bears them without complaint, feeling that if justice were meted out they would be more intense. He does not feel that he should revenge wrong doing. "Believeth all things." Everything that exists is according to the decrees of God. All things are for the praise of God and for the perfecting of God's saints. None of the things existing is by chance. "Hopeth all things." All things yet future is predetermined so that nothing will frustrate any of the promises of God from being fulfilled. "Endureth all things." He is confident that all things are embraced in the eternal decrees of an all-wise and all-powerful God. He endures all the afflictions and persecutions for the elect's sake and for Christ's sake. The last to be endured is death.
"Charity never faileth." It may fail in the lively exercises of it. Selfishness and the cares of the world may be prevalent at times, but the love of God will not permit a child of God to fall finally into perdition. Charity is everlasting. It is ever the same. Prophecies will be fulfilled then cease to be prophecy. Hope will become a reality thus cease to be hope. Faith will terminate into a reality. Charity will be charity in the beyond the same as it was before the beginning of time. Every object of God's love is just as certain for heaven and immortal glory as before time began. There is no change in the love of God for His people.
Now, I feel that the Lord has blessed us with a few sweet thoughts on the properties and characteristics of God's love as made manifest in brethren. Permit me to say, "By their fruits ye shall know them." I wish to suggest to the citizens of Zion, that you beware of imposters. Beware of those having a form of godliness but not manifesting the grace of charity. I believe the time has come to watch as well as pray. May God grant us the grace of charity and the eye of watchfulness.
Elder E. J. Lambert
"Tried in the Furnace" pgs 80-83