A Sweet Savor Contact Miscellaneous Audio Messages Penmen


Newton County, GA., Nov.30, 1857.

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - While I was at the Oconee Association this fall, I was requested to give my views through the MESSENGER, on I Cor. 13:13. “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

This epistle was written to the Church at Corinth, to them that are sanctified {set apart} in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Its application more or less to the saints of God in all ages is clearly manifest. Among other subjects treated upon in this epistle, we find in the chapter where our text is recorded, something is said in relation to charity, and also that great gifts, and much eloquence in various ways without charity, can be of no profit. Whereby we learn that a great display in religious matters availeth nothing, if we are destitute of charity.

And now abideth. And is a connective, or conjoining word. The word now signifies at the present time. The word abideth that which continueth, or remaineth the same. We learn by this mode of expression the connection of the text with the preceding verses, and also that the subject in the text is immediately related to the subject in the context, and that the final conclusion of the whole subject treated upon, is concentrated, and settled in the last verse of the chapter. At the present time there remaineth faith, hope, charity, &c. With whom do they abide or remain? With the people of God collectively and individually. By whom are they bestowed? By the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort. If the saints of the Most High are made the recipients of faith, hope, and charity, do they not continue with the saints in every age while time endures? Most certainly they do. If so, can the Church have a manifest existence in time without them? I conclude not. In the strict sense of the word, genuine faith without charity cannot exist in the sense of our subject, neither can a genuine hope be of any real service, without charity. Yet charity is the greatest of the three.

I presume my friend wishes to know my views, particularly, of faith, and charity, and why, and in what sense charity is the greatest of the three. Faith may be used in various senses, and is often spoken of in the Scriptures, but in the text it has reference to something spiritually produced, or brought forth in every man that is born of the Spirit. It emanates from the Spirit, and springs forth into manifest existence in every person that is under heavenly teaching. Where it exists there is an assent of the mind to divine revelation. There is an actual or real knowledge of things which exist from a revelation of those things in one’s experience. Without faith, it is impossible to please God; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. We believe in the actual existence of God, of Jesus Christ, of salvation from sin, death and hell, upon the consideration that it is known by experience. Faith is a substance in the saint, which causes him to know, and believe things which really exist, though he has no knowledge of them by his natural senses, or vision. There is an actual evidence of those things, in his own mind of such an irresistible nature, that he is, at times, joyful, and made to rejoice through the inward manifestation of those things. Such is the power of unbelief, and the corrupt workings of a depraved nature, that if it was not for faith, the saint would not be able to credit God’s word, or rely upon His promises, and rejoice in things not seen by mortal vision. It is peculiarly the faith of God’s elect, for there is no other people which have it, or upon whom it is bestowed. If we belong to that people we can call it our faith. And the victory we have over the world, the flesh, and the devil, which causes us to overcome them, is our faith. It works by love, purifies the heart, and overcomes the world. The ancient saints, performed wonderful feats, by, or through faith, not that they possessed natural power, or ability to exercise faith, but it exercised them, and enabled them to be faithful unto death. It reveals a righteousness which justifies the sinner before God, and is called precious faith, or faith which justifies the ungodly. It leads to an un-wavering confidence in God, and settles the mind in a belief of the doctrine of the gospel. It produces good works, such as the Scriptures warrant, in the practice of the saints, and not what men may teach, or dictate. Having the internal evidence of things not seen or known by human vision, we walk by faith, and not by sight. We see through a glass darkly. Two things must exist to behold objects which exist. We must have eyes to see, and light to shine around us, in our eyes, and upon the object which is seen. We can neither have eyes, nor light, nor life when dead in sin, but when spiritual life is communicated, there is light, and eye-sight. The gospel glass is clear and transparent. The darkness being removed, by faith we see the land which is very far off. We cannot come into actual possession of it now, for we are yet encumbered by the body of this death which is a dark, opaque body. Therefore, faith is indispensably necessary while the saints remain in this transitory state of existence. Something further might be said respecting faith, but the present must suffice.

Hope is a partner with faith, and they are together like twin-sisters, so to speak. Though they exist in a separate capacity, yet one cannot exist without the other in relation to eternal salvation. A good hope through grace in the mercy of God is in connection with faith in the promises, and faithfulness of God. Paul says, “For we are saved by hope.” Again, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” It is an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, and entereth into that within the veil, &c. The hope of the righteous is an everlasting foundation. It is of heavenly origin, and holds the saint, as an anchor, with good anchorage, holds a ship. The reason why the saint cannot get rid of his hope, is simply upon the consideration that his hope holds him. He may sometimes feel that his hope is very small, and as though he had none at all, yet it remains as an anchor of the soul. The hope of the hypocrite is as the spider’s web. The spider spins his web out of his own bowels, and holds on to it, by its own power, so the hypocrite’s hope is something of his own production, and he holds on to it by his own prayers, resolutions, and good determinations. As the spider’s web is easily destroyed, so the hope of the hypocrite shall perish. Not so with the poor, feeble, halting soul who may feel himself lost and undone by reason of sin and transgression. His inward ejaculation is, “Lord save or I perish,” “I am oppressed, undertake for me.” His hope is in the God and Rock of his salvation. Where hope exists it signifies that the individual has not yet come into possession of that which is promised to him. A glorious inheritance of incorruptible riches is laid up in heaven for the saints. While they remain in time they cannot come into possession of it, but their hope is in Him who is faithful and true. They are subjected to a state of things which the new creature, or spiritual man does not desire, but is subjected in hope of deliverance from this bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. As soon as the saints come into possession fully of that which is promised in the complete redemption of the Church in her state, the expectation, desire, and anticipation of the saints under the exercise of faith, and hope, will be realized and enjoyed in its full fruition. And if so, faith, and hope will be no longer indispensably necessary. The saint will arrive at the climax of all he anticipated, and hoped for. Faith and hope will cease, or in other words, be swallowed up in universal love and praise.

Charity, in a theological or religious sense includes supreme love to God, and goodwill to man. Why the word was not translated love, I do not pretend to say. I think it has the same meaning. God is love, he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. The origin of true charity, or love, is in God. To love God supremely is only consequent upon the bestowment of His love upon us. To love our neighbor as ourselves, is a principle devoid of selfishness, and exists only in quickened individuals. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, &c. It is a constituted part of the new man. It pre-supposes union to God, to Christ Jesus, and to the family of God in heaven, and on earth. In the context, Paul describes the nature and effects of charity or love. According to his description, there is but little of it manifested among men. It has no connection with the mock philanthropy of the age, which will cause men, and professed christians to sacrifice truth for the sake of gratifying an aspiring, ambitious spirit. Neither does it have any connection with a sort of fleshly religious feeling which enlists the sympathy of our nature for poor sinners in telling pathetic anecdotes, and stories to arouse the religious passions of men, which conflicts with God’s purpose of saving sinners. We have no authority to have any more sympathy, or pity for sinners, in a religious point of view, than what God has revealed in the gospel of his dear Son. Self-love, or selfishness appears to be the governing principle of a large portion of the human family, and even in the visible Church of Christ, its poisoning influence, and effects is sometimes seen and felt. Where true charity aboundeth there is hatred {great dislike, or aversion} to every false way. We love God because He is a Being of spotless purity and perfection. And we love everything, creature, or being that is lovely and holy. God loved sinners, not their sins, even when they were dead in sins. He loved them in His Son, and makes them holy, and without blame before Him in love. If we love the people of God for the truth’s sake, and desire to occupy a low, humble place at the feet of Jesus, and are willing to serve our brethren, we are specially careful not to wound our brethren and dishonor the cause of truth. Any company we dislike we will avoid from choice. On my return from the North, passing through South Carolina at a certain way-station on the Railroad, a number of rowdy, boisterous fellows entered the car, and commenced and continued their noise and clamor, very much to the annoyance of the civil portion of the passengers. I though I knew what company I did not like. They left after a while at a way-station, and verily I believe their room was better than their company.

Charity is the greatest of the three; first, upon the consideration that faith, and hope, without charity or love, is nothing. Where love exists, faith and hope necessarily exist in the saints. Secondly, love is embraced in the first moving cause in the bosom of the eternal God in the salvation of sinners. He loved His people with an everlasting love. Thirdly, they are made the recipients of love in time, and when they fall asleep in Jesus, and are raised in the likeness of Christ, love will exist without alloy in the world of unsullied glory. In this world the saints, through the weakness of the flesh, and the corruptions of human nature, fail to love with that fervency of soul and ardent desire, which the spiritual man longs for, but when death is swallowed up in victory, and the end of the believer’s faith and hope comes, love will exist, without faith and hope, and will continue in its intrinsic glory forever.

The friend who requested my views on the above Scripture, I have no personal acquaintance with. His request came second-handed to me, and whether he is satisfied; or will be with my views, I cannot tell, and perhaps never shall know. If what I have written is the truth, it will stand upon its own merits. It was the truth before I expressed it. If any, or the whole of it is false, the writer of this article is responsible for it. At any rate, it is my views of the text. I would request my unknown friend to search the Scriptures and compare what I have written with that infallible standard. If he has repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, and a good hope through grace, and love to heavenly, and eternal things, he is recognized among those who are blessed of God.

J.L. Purington.