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C H A R I T Y .

IN the SIGNS for December 15th we tried to present some thoughts on the nature and function of the various gifts placed in the church by the wise Master-builder for the comfort and edification of the body of Christ. No presentation of that subject would be complete without saying something of Charity. Paul in the close of the twelfth chapter of first Corinthians, after having enumerated the various gifts, says, “Yet shew I unto you a more excellent Way.” He then continues in the thirteenth chapter to expound the best of all gifts, charity. Charity is the life, beauty and effectiveness of all ministry in the church of God. Without it one is as “sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.” The word in the original Greek which is translated charity in the ‘thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians is the same word which is translated “love “ in Galatians v. 22: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,” and is translated “love” instead of “charity “ in other places in the New Testament. Therefore we conclude that love and charity are one and the same thing. King James the First, of England, in 1604, acting on a motion made by John Reynolds, a Puritan, in Hampton Court Conference, and adopted by that body, appointed fifty-four scholars and clergymen to assemble and translate the Scriptures into the English tongue. Forty-seven of those appointed served in making this new translation, which was completed in 1611, and henceforth known as the “Authorized Version.” This version still remains the most popular with English speaking people, while very persistent efforts are being made to supersede it with a much more recent “Revised Version.” It is true that the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testaments, were written by inspiration of God, and contained no errors as originally given to holy men of old, but in making the various translations that have been made since the Scriptures were thus given by inspiration of God such translations were made by fallible men, for whom inspiration was not claimed. We would not dare say that the forty-seven men who assembled in King James’ time to translate the Scriptures into English were inspired men. On the other hand, it is to be supposed that they made mistakes, though it was not their intention to do so, as they labored diligently to have everything as correct as possible. Why these forty-seven men saw tit to translate the Greek word agapen as charity in some places and as love in others, we do not know, but as both charity and love are one and the same word in the original tongue, it is not worth while for us to try to discriminate between them, and try to make charity mean something that love does not. To our mind, it would not a whit change the meaning of the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians if the word “love” were read in every place where “charity “ is used. Nor must we confuse charity as scripturally used with charity as it is used in a common sense by the world at large to-day. People nowadays speak of. charity as something external, visible, tangible, while in the Scriptures it is an inward grace-born virtue of the heart. The outward act of benevolence in giving to alleviate the hard lot of the less fortunate of mankind is usually regarded as charity, but not so in the Scriptures. According to Paul, a man might bestow all his goods to feed the poor, and be by the world therefore called a charitable man, yet charity be wholly lacking in the act and in the sight of God. God looks upon the heart, and his judgment is according to what omniscience sees therein, while man hesitates not to call a man a christian if his outward life is all right. Just so the outer surface is clean, it matters not if the interior is full of dead men’s bones, so says men’s judgment. If the heart be pure, it matters not if the outside be in rags, so says God’s judgment. Since it is the judgment of God that concerns his people, we can afford to pass the other by with scant notice. The way in which society is constructed makes poverty necessary. “The poor ye have always with you.” It has been said that man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn. In the struggle for existence the fittest survives, the weak go to the wall. As long as man’s nature continues to be so supremely selfish as it has ever since man was made, some are bound to accumulate more than their share of ease and riches, while paupers and beggars will continue to be a by-product of so-called civilization. It frequently occurs that those who have achieved success in life by gouging out the existence of their fellow-men, seek a truce with their conscience by handing out a dole to the poor, and expect therefore to be called charitable benefactors of the race. The truth is they are but giving back to those they have robbed a mere pittance of the living taken from them. Why call this charity? If a man robs me of a hundred dollars, and then puts a ten-dollar bill on the collection plate next Sunday, does that atone for his treatment of me? Not until he comes to me and makes restitution of all he has deprived me can he make it right. So the increase of two cents a gallon on oil all over the country cannot be squared by the donation of a pipe organ to some big city church later on. The endowment of a public library by a steel magnate cannot amend for the hundreds of arms and legs and eyes and lives lost in laying the foundation for that magnate’s wealth. Why call all such things charity? They are all a hideous travesty of the truth. They are all but crumbs Hung to the masses by the princes to keep the crowd from pressing too hard upon their masters. Jesus laid the axe to the root of the tree that time that a rich young ruler came who had great possessions, yet who professed to have kept the law. Jesus told him, “One thing thou lackest.” That one thing was love, or charity. All obedience is but disobedience without love. “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Had the young ruler really loved his neighbor as himself, could he have had great possessions? Had such love really actuated him, he could have had not a moment’s rest so long as he possessed one farthing more than his neighbor. The fact that he had great possessions showed his obedience to the law to have been but formal, literal. It bespoke an entire absence of the knowledge of the spirituality of the law. Self-love, not love for the neighbor, was his guiding star. If the real charity of Christ was in a millionaire’s heart to-day, and ruling him to the exclusion of all else, he would be a poor man to-morrow, for he could not rest in peace until he had descended to the level of the poorest and the weakest. To prove this we have but to point you to Jesus. He was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet he made himself of no reputation, took upon him the form of a servant, was made in the 1ikeness of men. Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Here is charity in all its length and breadth and height. God, though the earth is his and the fullness thereof, became a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and had not where to lay his head. Did not he descend to the level of the poorest and the weakest of all his people “O Yes, he went even lower than they, he was numbered with the transgressors, and made his grave with the wicked in his death. Is not this charity in all its glory? The source of all our charity is Christ. There can be no charity in the hearts of men only as it is engendered there by the Holy Spirit. Jesus laid down his life for his people. This laying down his life applies not only to his final death upon the cross, but all the way along through his life. He was continually laying down his life for their sake. The grace of God in the hearts of his people constrains them to serve one another, to lay down their lives for one another. Paul laid down his life for the church. He counted all the former things as dung and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. He was crucified to the world and the world was crucified to him. He died daily. Here was a continual laying down of his life. Peter was told that when he should become old another would take him and bind him and carry him whither he would not. He, too, laid down his life for his brethren. Jesus calls his servants from the daily walks of life to his service, and no matter how bright the prospects before them they do his bidding and lay down their lives for the brethren. To spend and be spent in the Master’s service, without thought of reward or recompence, is the acme of true charity. We asked one who professes to be a preacher the other day, how long he thought the ministers of various creeds would keep on preaching if their salaries should be taken from them. He replied, “Not long, and I, for one, if I cannot make a living preaching, will leave it and go into something else.” Surely not much laying down one’s life for the brethren here, not much real charity, yet this same man is strenuous in sending sums to foreign missions; being charitable to the heathen, he calls it. Paul lays great stress on the importance of charity. No gift for the comfort and edification of the people of God is valuable without it. Though one speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, it is an empty sound. It lacks force and directness. One might have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, might even have the faith to remove mountains, still if charity be lacking he is nothing. One might give his substance to the poor, and his body to be burned, but without charity it profits nothing. Paul lists sixteen characteristics of charity or love: long-suffering, kindness, lack of envy, not boasting, not puffed up, decency, unselfishness, patience, right thinking, abhorring iniquity, rejoicing in truth, “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,” and never fails, and at the close of this thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians, concludes by saying, “Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Why is charity the greatest of the three? ls it because it lives longer than either faith or hope? That may be part of charity’s greatness, but it is not all of it. Faith and hope end with this time state, but charity (love) continues on through all eternity. At the close of the believer’s mortal life faith is lost in sight, and hope is swallowed up in fruition, but charity never fails. The greatness of charity consists not alone in that it is longer lived than either faith or hope, but also in that it is the very energy, the very life-blood of both faith and hope. Faith without love, hope without love, are dead things. Love is the vitality of all the gifts and graces of the Spirit. Love is the cement that compacts faith and hope. It is the knitting that binds all believers’ hearts together. We once heard a man say that he believed the doctrine that the Old School Baptists preached, and hoped in the mercy of God. This same man lived not far from an Old Baptist Church where there was regular preaching, and very seldom went to hear it. What was the matter with him? He lacked charity. His faith and hope may have been of the right sort, but charity, or love, being absent, he was of no value to the church, he profited nothing. Had charity been his it would have immediately energized his faith and hope and his steps would have immediately turned Zionward. He could not have helped it, he would have shown his faith by his works. Love is the fount of all good works. We might say that a man with faith and hope present and charity absent is like an electric light with the current turned off. The wire is there and the lamp is there, but no light is radiated. Just the moment the key is turned, however, the whole room is lighted from that same wire and lamp, owing to the energy transmitted through it. So one might have the proper faith and the good hope through grace, yet both lie dormant in inactivity until electrified by that love that passes knowledge, that current of eternal vitality which streams from the Head of life through all the members of the body at some stage in the existence of each of them. Herein, then, it seems to us the preeminence of charity lies: in that it gives faith and hope their meaning and substance, transforming them from inactive principles into flaming guiding stars of a spirit-filled life. Charity submerges the interest of the individual in the benefit of the whole, it compels the esteeming of others better than ourselves. It will not compromise with error, for it rejoices not in iniquity; it will not make a brother an offender for a word, for it thinketh no evil. Charity makes one strong to bear the infirmities of the weak. It receives into its fellowship him that is weak in the faith, but not to doubtful disputations. If smitten on one cheek, charity turns the other also. When reviled, it reviles not again, returns not railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing. It glories in infirmity, that the power of Christ may rest upon one. It suffers long, and even then does not get out of patience or become angry, but is kind. What a lofty ideal is before that believer who truly desires to be charitable. It is a goal worth striving for, but only grace can strengthen for the race. May the Lord accomplish in us all this charity that is so excellent, that our gifts may be enlivened by it, that the fragrance thereof may delight the worshippers in his holy city.   L.

Elder H. H. Lefferts

Signs of the Times
Volume 83, No. 2
January 15, 1915