Sermon 1617. Love's Labours
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, September 4th, 1881, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
'Charity beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.''1 Corinthians 13:7.
THE grace of charity, or love, of which so much is most admirably spoken in this chapter, is absolutely essential to truegodliness. So essential is it that, if we have everything beside, but have not charity, it profiteth us nothing. The absenceof charity is absolutely fatal to vital godliness; so saith the Holy Ghost in this chapter. When, then, you read the apostle'shigh encomiums of charity, do not say, 'This is a fancy virtue to which certain special saints haveattained, and we are bound to admire them for it, but we need not imitate them.' Far from it. This charity is the common,everyday livery of the people of God. It is not the prerogative of a few; it must be the possession of all. Do not, therefore,however lofty the model may be, look up to it as though you could not reach it: you must reach it. It is put before you notonly as a thing greatly desirable, but as absolutely needful; for if you excelled in every spiritual gift, yet if you hadnotthis all the rest would profit you nothing whatever. One would think that such excellent gifts might benefit us a little,but no, the apostle sums them all up, and saith of the whole, 'it profiteth me nothing.' I pray that this may be understoodof us at the very beginning, lest we should manage to slip away from the truth taught us by the Holy Ghost in this place,and should excuse ourselves from being loving by the notion that we are so inconsiderable that such high virtue cannot berequiredof us, or so feeble that we cannot be expected to attain to it. You must attain it, or you cannot enter into eternal life,for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his, and the Spirit of Christ is sure to beget the charity of ourtext, which 'beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.'
What does this teach us at the outset, but that a salvation which leads to this must be of God, and must be wrought in usby his power? Such a comely grace can never grow out of our fallen nature. Shall such a clean thing as this be brought outof an unclean? This glorious salvation unto pure love must be grasped by faith, and wrought in us by the operation of theSpirit of God. If we consider salvation to be a little thing, we bring it, as it were, within the sphere ofhuman possibility, but if we set it forth in its true proportions as involving the possession of a pure, loving, elevatedstate of heart, then we perceive that it is a divine wonder. When we estimate the renewed nature aright we cry, 'This is thefinger of God,' and right gladly do we then subscribe to Jonah's creed, 'Salvation is of the Lord.' If charity be in any manand abound, God must have the glory of it; for assuredly it was never attained by mere natural effort, but must have beenbestowed by that same hand which made the heavens. So then, brethren, I shall hope when I conclude to leave upon yourminds the impression of your need of the grace of God for the attainment of love. I would not discourage you, but I wouldhave you feel how great a labour lies before you, and how impossible it will be unless you are girt with a strength beyondyour own. This shall be your solace that if it cannot be the outcome of your own effort, yet 'the fruit of the Spirit is love,'and theSpirit is ready and willing to bear fruit in us also.
Notice then, first, the multitude of love's difficulties; it has to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things: secondly, observe the triumph of love's labour; it does all these four things, it 'beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things': andthen, thirdly, this will bring us back to the point we have started from, the sources of love's energy, and how it is she is able thus to winher fourfold victory over countless difficulties.
I. Consider well THE MULTITUDE OF LOVE'S DIFFICULTIES. When the grace of God comes into a man he is born at once to love.He that loveth is born of God, and he that is born of God loveth. He loveth him that begat, even God, and he loveth him thatis begotten of him, even all the saved ones. He commences to obey the great command to love his neighbour as himself. Hismotto is no longer that of an earthly kingdom, Dieu et mon droit'God and my right; but he bearsanother word on his escutcheon, Dieu et mon fr're'God and my brother.
No sooner is love born than she finds herself at war. Everything is against her, for the world is full of envy, hate, andill-will. I would warn the most loving-hearted that they have entered upon a war for peace, a strife for love: they are bornto hate hatred, and to contend against contention. As the lily among thorns, so is love among the sons of men. As the hindamong the dogs, so is charity among the selfish multitude.
Evidently the difficulties of love are many, for the apostle speaks of them as 'all things,' and as if this were not enough he repeats the words, and sets forth the opposing armies as four times 'all things.' I donot know whether you can calculate this mighty host. 'All things' would seem to comprehend as much as can be, but here inthe text you have this amount multiplied by four. For, my brother, you will have to contend with all that is within yourself.Nothing in your original nature will help you. God has put within you a new life, but the old life seeks to smother it.You will find it a severe struggle to master yourself, and if you succeed therein you will be a conqueror indeed. Besidesthat you will have to contend with 'all things' in the persons whom you are called upon to love. You must have fervent charity towards the saints, but you will find very much about thebest of them which will try your patience; for, like yourself,they are imperfect, and they will not always turn their best side towards you, but sometimes sadly exhibit their infirmities.Be prepared, therefore, to contend with 'all things' in them. As for the ungodly whom you are to love to Christ, you willfind everything in them that will oppose the drawings of your love, for they, like yourself, by nature are born in sin, andthey are rooted in their iniquities. When you have mastered that kind of 'all things' you will have to contend with 'allthings' in the world, for the world lieth in the wicked one, and all its forces run towards self, and contention, and hate. Every man's hand isagainst his fellow, and few there be who honour the gentle laws of love; they know not that divine charity which 'seekethnot her own.' The seed of the serpent is at enmity with all that is kind, and tender, and self-sacrificing, for these arethe marks of the woman's seed. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. And then remember that'all things' in hell are against you. What a seething mass of rebellious life, all venomous with hate, is seen in the regions of darkness. Theprince of the power of the air leads the van, and the host of fallen spirits eagerly follow him, like bloodhounds behind theirleader. All these evil spirits will endeavour to create dissension, and enmity, and malice, and oppression among men, andthe soldier of love must wrestle against all these. See, O my brother, what a battle is yours! Speakof crusades against the Paynim, what a crusade is this against hate and evil. Yet we shrink not from the fray.
Happily, though love has many difficulties, it overcomes them all, and overcomes them four times. There is such vitality in evil that it leaps up from the field whereon it seemed to be slain,and rages with all its former fury. First, we overcome evil by patience, which 'beareth all things.' Let the injury be inflicted, we will forgive it, and not be provoked: even seventy times sevenwill we bear in silence. If this suffice not, by God's grace we willovercome by faith: we trust in Jesus Christ, we rely upon our principles, we look for divine succour, and so we 'believe all things.' We overcomea third time by hope: we rest in expectation that gentleness will win, and that long-suffering will wear out malice, for we look for the ultimatevictory of everything that is true and gracious, and so we 'hope all things.' We finish the battle by perseverance: we abide faithful to our resolve to love, we will not be irritatedinto unkindness, we will not be perverted from generous, all-forgiving affection, and so we win the battle by steadfastnon-resistance. We have set our helm towards the port of love, and towards it we will steer, come what may. Baffled often,love 'endureth all things.'
Yes, brethren, and love conquers on all four sides. Love does, as it were, make a hollow square, and she sets the face of her warriors towards all quarters of the compass.Does God seem himself to smite love with afflictions? She 'beareth all things.' Do her fellow Christians misrepresent her,and treat her ill? She believes everything that is good about them, and nothing that is injurious. Do the wicked rise againsther? When she tries to convert them, do theyreturn evil for good? She turns her hopefulness to the front in that direction, and hopes that yet the Spirit of God willbring them to a better mind. And does it happen that all her spiritual foes attack her with temptations and desperate insinuations?She lifteth up the banner of patience against them, and by the power of God's grace she putteth the infernal enemy to therout, for she 'endureth all things.' What a brave mode of battle is this! Is not love a man-of-war? Is it not invincible?Hear love's heroic cry as she shouts her defiance'
'Come one, come all, this rock shall fly,
From its firm base as soon as I.'
If once taught in the school of Christ to turn love to every point of the compass, and so to meet every assault against ourheart, we have learned the secret of victory.
It seems to me that I might read my text as if it said that love conquers in all stages of her life. She begins in conversion, and straightway those that mark her birth are angry, and the powers of evil are at once arousedto seek her destruction. Then she 'beareth all things.' Let them mock, love never renders railing for railing: Isaac is notto be provoked by Ishmael's jeers.
She gathers strength and begins to tell out to others what she knows of her Lord and his salvation. She 'believeth all things,'and so she confesses her faith, and her fellow Christians are confirmed by her witness. It is her time of energy, and so shetries to woo and win others, by teaching them the things which she believes.
She advances a little farther; and, though often disappointed by the unbelief of men and the coldness of her fellow Christians,she nevertheless 'hopes all things,' and pushes on in the expectation of winning more of them. Her dove's eyes see in thedark, and she advances to victory through ever-growing conflict.
Ay, and when infirmities thicken upon her, and old age comes, and she can do little else but sit still, and bear and believeand hope, she still perseveres, and accepts even the stroke of death itself without complaining, for love 'endureth all things.'
I do not think I need say more upon the difficulties of love. I am sure that every experienced person knows that these difficultiesare supreme, and that we require superlative grace if we are to master them. Love does not ask to have an easy life of it:self-love makes that her aim. Love denies herself, sacrifices herself, that she may win victories for God, and bring blessingson her fellow-men. Hers is no easy pathway, and hers shall be no tinsel crown.
II. Secondly, let us survey THE TRIUMPH OF LOVE'S LABOUR. Her labours are fourfold.
First, in bearing all things. The word here rendered 'bear' might as correctly have been translated 'cover.' You that have the Revised Version will findin the margin, 'Love covereth all things.' 'Covereth' is the meaning of the word in ordinary Greek, but Paul generally usesthe word in the sense of 'bear.' Our translators, therefore, had to choose between the usual meaning and the Pauline usage,and they selected Paul's meaning, and put it down in the first placeas 'beareth,' giving us in the margin the other sense of 'covereth.' The two ideas may be blended, if we understand itto mean that love bears all things in silence, concealing injuries as much as possible even from herself.
Let us just think of this word 'covers' in reference to the brethren. True love refuses to see faults, unless it be that she may kindly help in their removal. Love has no wish to see faults.Noah's younger son discovered and declared the shame of his father, but his other sons took a garment and went backward andcovered the nakedness of their father: after this fashion does love deal with the sins of her brethren. She painfully fearsthat there may be somethingwrong, but she is loath to be convinced of it: she ignores it as long as she can, and wishes that she could deny it altogether.Love covers; that is, it never proclaims the errors of good men. There are busybodies abroad who never spy out a fault ina brother but they must needs hurry off to their next neighbour with the savoury news, and then they run up and down the streetas though they had been elected common criers. It is by no means honourable to men or women to set up to be commoninformers. Yet I know some who are not half so eager to publish the gospel as to publish slander. Love stands in the presenceof a fault, with a finger on her lip. If anyone is to smite a child of God, let it not be a brother. Even if a professor bea hypocrite, love prefers that he should fall by any hand rather than her own. Love covers all injuries by being silent aboutthem, and acting as if they had never been. She sitteth alone, and keepeth silence. To speak and publish her wrong is toopainful for her, for she fears to offend against the Lord's people. She would rather suffer than murmur, and so, likea sheep before her shearers, she is dumb under injury.
I would, brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate the pearl oyster. A hurtful particle intrudes itself into its shell,and this vexes and grieves it. It cannot eject the evil, and what does it do but cover it with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turns the intruder into a pearl. Oh, that we coulddo so with the provocations we receive from our fellow Christians, so that pearls of patience, gentleness, long-suffering,andforgiveness might be bred within us by that which else had harmed us. I would desire to keep ready for my fellow Christians,a bath of silver, in which I could electroplate all their mistakes into occasions for love. As the dripping well covers withits own deposit all that is placed within its drip, so would love cover all within its range with love, thus turning evencurses into blessings. Oh that we had such love that it would cover all, and conceal all, so far as it is right and just thatit should be covered and concealed.
As to bearing all, taking the words as they stand in our version, I wish to apply the text mainly to our trials in seeking the conversionof the unconverted. Those who love the souls of men must be prepared to cover much when they deal with them, and to bear much from them in silence.When I begin to seek the conversion of anyone, I must try as much as ever I can to ignore any repulsiveness that there maybe in his character. I know that he is a sinner, elseI should not seek his salvation; but if he happens to be one who has fallen very low in the esteem of others, I must nottreat him as such, but cover his worst points. You cannot possibly bring the Samaritan woman who has had five husbands intoa right state of mind by 'wondering that he spake with the woman.' Thus the disciples acted, but not so their Master, forhe sat on the well and talked with her, and made himself her willing companion that he might be her gracious Saviour; he ignoredhersin so far as to converse with her for her good.
You will not long have begun this holy work before you will discover in the heart you seek to win much ignorance of the gospel.Bear with it, and bring forward the text which sheds light on that darkness, and teach the truth which will remove that error.Ere long you will have to contend with hardness of heart, for when a man knows the truth he is not always willing to receiveit. Bear it, and be not vexed. Did you not expect the heart to be hard? Do not you know whatbusiness you are upon? You are sent to turn men from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God. Be not astonishedif these things should not prove to be child's play. In addition to this perhaps you will have ridicule poured upon you; yourattempts to convert will be converted into jests. Bear it; bear all things! Remember how the multitude thrust out the tongueat your Lord and Master when he was dying, and be not you so proud as to think yourself too good to be laughed at. Stillspeak concerning Christ, and whatever happens, bear all things. I will not attempt to make a catalogue of your provocations,you shall make one yourself after you have tried to convert men to Christ; but all that you can possibly meet with is includedin my text, for it says, 'beareth all things.' If you should meet with some extraordinary sinner who opens his mouth with cruel speeches such as you have never heard before,and if by attempting to do him good you only excite him toribaldry and blasphemy, do not be astonished; have at him again, for charity 'beareth all things,' whatever they may be.Push on and say, 'Yes, all this proves to me how much you want saving. You are my man; if I get you to Christ there will beall the greater glory to God.' O blessed charity, which can thus cover all things and bear all things for Christ's sake.
Do you want an example of it? Would you see the very mirror and perfection of the charity that beareth all things? Beholdyour divine Lord. Oh, what he has covered! It is a tempting topic, but I will not dwell on it. How his glorious righteousness,his wondrous splendour of love, has covered all our faults and all their consequences, treating us as if he saw no sin inJacob, neither perversity in Israel. Think what he bore when he came unto his own and his own received himnot! What a covering was that when he said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' What a pitying sightof the fearful misery of man our Lord Jesus had when holy tears bedewed those sacred eyes! What a generous blindness to theirinfamous cruelty he manifested when he prayed for his bloodthirsty enemies. O beloved, you will never be tempted, and taunted,and tried as he was; yet in your own shorter measure may you possess that love which can silently bear all things for theelect's sake and for Christ's sake, that the multitude of the redeemed may be accomplished, and that Christ through youmay see of the travail of his soul.
Now let us look at the second of love's great labours. You have heard of the labours of Hercules, but the fabulous hero isfar outdone by the veritable achievements of love. Love works miracles which only grace can enable her to perform. Here isthe second of them'love 'believeth all things.' In reference, first, to our fellow Christians, love always believes the best of them. I wish we had more of this faith abroadin all the churches, for a horrid blight fallsupon some communities through suspicion and mistrust. Though everything may be pure and right, yet certain weak mindsare suddenly fevered with anxiety through the notion that all is wrong and rotten. This unholy mis-trust is in the air, ablight upon all peace: it is a sort of fusty mildew of the soul by which all sweet perfume of confidence is killed. The bestman is suspected of being a designing knave, though he is honest as the day, and the smallest fault or error is frightfullyexaggerated, till we seem to dwell among criminals and to be all villains together. If I did not believe in my brethrenI would not profess to be one of them. I believe that with all their faults they are the best people in the world, and that,although the church of God is not perfect, yet she is the bride of One who is. I have the utmost respect for her, for herLord's sake. The Roman matron said 'Where my husband is Caias I am Caia'; where Christ is King, she who stands at his righthand is'the queen in gold of Ophir.' God forbid that I should rail at her of whom her Lord says, 'Since thou wast precious inmy sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee.' True love believes good of others as long as ever it can, andwhen it is forced to fear that wrong has been done, love will not readily yield to evidence, but she gives the accused brotherthe benefit of many a doubt. When the thing is too clear, love says, 'Yes, but the friend must have been under very strongtemptation, and if I had been there I dare say I should have done worse;' or else love hopes that the erring one may haveoffended from a good though mistaken motive; she believes that the good man must have been mistaken, or he would not haveacted so. Love, as far as she can, believes in her fellows. I know some persons who habitually believe everything that isbad, but they are not the children of love. Only tell them that their minister or their brother has killed his wife, and theywouldbelieve it immediately, and send out for a policeman: but if you tell them anything good of their neighbour, they arein no such hurry to believe you. Did you ever hear of gossips tittle-tattling approval of their neighbours? I wish the chattererswould take a turn at exaggerating other people's virtues, and go from house to house trumping up pretty stories of their acquaintances.I do not recommend lying even in kindness, but that side of it would be such a novelty that I could almost bearwith its evils for a change. Love, though it will not speak an untruth in praise of another, yet has a quick eye to seethe best qualities of others, and it is habitually a little blind to their failings. Her blind eye is to the fault, and herbright is for the excellence. Somewhere or other I met with an old legend'I do not suppose it to be literally true, but itsspirit is correct. It is said that, once upon a time, in the streets of Jerusalem, there lay a dead dog, and everyone kickedat itand reviled it. One spoke of its currish breed, another of its lean and ugly form, and so forth; but one passed by whopaused a moment over the dead dog, and said, 'What white teeth it has.' Men said, as he went on his way, 'That is Jesus ofNazareth.' Surely it is ever our Lord's way to see good points wherever he can. Brethren, think as well as you can even ofa dead dog. If you should ever be led into disappointments and sorrows by thinking too well of your fellow-men, you need notgreatlyblame yourself. I met, in Anthony Farrindon's Sermons, a line which struck me. He says the old proverb has it, 'Humanumest errare,' to err is human, but, saith he, when we err by thinking too kindly of others we may say, 'Christianum est errare,' it is Christian to err in such a fashion. I would not have you credulous, but I would have you trustful, for suspicion isa cruel evil. Few fall into the blessed error of valuing their fellow Christians at too high a rate.
In reference to the unconverted this is a very important matter. Love 'believeth all things' in their case. She does not believethat the unconverted are converted, for, if so, she would not seek their conversion. She believes that they are lost and ruinedby the Fall, but she believes that God can save them. Love believes that the precious blood of Christ can redeem the bondslavesof sin and Satan, and break their iron chains; she believes that the power of the HolySpirit can change a heart of granite into a heart of flesh. Love, therefore, believing this, believes also that God cansave this sinner by herself, and she therefore begins to speak to him, expecting that the word she speaks will be God's instrumentof salvation. When she finds herself sitting next to a sinner, she believes that there was a necessity for her to be there,even as Christ must needs go through Samaria. She saith to herself, 'Now will I tell to this poor soul what Christ hathdone, for I believe that even out of my poor lips eternal life may flow, and in such a babe as I am God may perfect praiseto his own glory.' She does not refrain from preaching Christ through fear of failure, but she believes in the great possibilitieswhich lie in the gospel and in the Spirit of God, and so she deals earnestly with the man next her. She believes in her ownprinciples, she believes in the grace of God, she believes in the power of the Spirit of God, she believes in the forceof truth, she believes in the existence of conscience, and so she is moved to set about her saving work. She believethall things.
Brethren, do you want a model of this? Then I beseech you look to your divine Master once again. See him in the morning whenthe sheep are counted, missing one of them, and so full of faith is he that he can find the lost one, that he leaves the ninetyand nine, and cheerfully enters the pathless wilderness. See how he bounds over the mountains! How he descends the ravines!He is seeking his sheep until he finds it, for he is fully assured that he shall find it. He shallnot fail nor be discouraged, for his faith is great in the salvation of men, and he goes forth to it believing that sinnersshall be saved. I delight in the deep, calm faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. He had no faith in man's goodness, for 'he knewwhat was in man'; but he had great faith in what could be done in men and what could be wrought for them, and for the joythat was set before him in this he endured the cross, despising the shame. He had faith that grand things would come of hissalvation'men would be purified, error would be driven out, false-hood would be slain, and love would reign supreme.
Here is the second grand victory of love, she 'believeth all things.' Herein let us exercise ourselves till we are skilledin it.
Love's third great labour is in 'hoping all things.' Love never despairs. She believes in good things yet to come in her fellow-men, even if she cannot believe in any presentgood in them. Hope all things about your brethren. Suppose a friend is a member of the church, and you cannot see any clearsigns of grace in him, hope all things about him. Many true believers are weak in faith, and the operations of grace are dimin them; and some are placed in positionswhere the grace they have is much hindered and hampered: let us take these things into consideration. It is hard to tellhow little grace may yet suffice for salvation: it is not ours to judge. Hope all things, and if you should be forced to seesad signs in them, which make you fear that they have no grace, yet, remember that some of the brightest believers have hadtheir faults, and grave ones too. Remember yourself, lest you also be tempted. If you cannot hope that these persons are savedatall, hope that they will be, and do all that you can to promote so blessed an end.
Hope all things. If thy brother has been very angry with thee without a cause, hope that thou wilt win him; and set aboutthe task. If thou hast tried and failed, hope to succeed next time, and try again. Hope that though thou hast failed seventimes, and he still speaks bitterly, yet in his heart he is really ashamed, or at least that he will be so very soon. Neverdespair of your fellow Christians.
As to the unconverted, you will never do anything with them unless you hope great things about them. When the good Samaritanfound the poor man half dead, if he had not hoped about him he would never have poured in the oil and the wine, but wouldhave left him there to die. Cultivate great hopefulness about sinners. Always hope of them that they will be saved yet: thoughno good signs are apparent in them. If you have done your best for them, and have been disappointed anddefeated, still hope for them. Sometimes you will find cause for hope in the fact that they begin to attend a place ofworship. Grasp at that, and say, 'Who can tell? God may bless them.' Or if they have long been hearers, and no good has comeof it, still hope that the minister will one day have a shot at them, and the arrow shall pierce through the joints of theharness. When you last spoke to them there seemed a little tenderness: be thankful for it, and have hope. If there has beena littleamendment in their life, be hopeful about them. Even if you can see nothing at all hopeful in them, yet hope that theremay be something which you cannot see, and perhaps an effect has been produced which they are endeavouring to conceal. Hopebecause you are moved to pray for them. Get other people to pray for them, for as long as they have some one to pray for themtheir case is not given over. If you get others to pray, there will be another string to your bow. If they are very ill, andyoucannot get at them, or they are on their dying beds, still have hope about them, and try to send them a message in someform or other. Pray the Lord to visit and save them; and always keep up your hope about them. Till they are dead let not yourhope be dead.
Would you see a model of this? Ah, look at our blessed Lord, and all his hopefulness for US: how, despairing of none, he wentafter those whom others would have given up. If you ask a proof, remember how he went after you. Will you despair of anybody since Christ did not despair of you? Wonders of grace belong to God, and all those wonders havebeen displayed in many among us. If you and I had been there when they brought the adulterous woman taken in the very act,I am afraid that we should have said, 'This is too bad; put her away, she cannot be borne with.' But oh, the hopefulnessof the blessed Master when even to her he said, 'Woman, where are thine accusers? Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin nomore.' What wonderful patience, and gentleness, and hopefulness our Lord displayed in all his converse with the twelve! Itwas a noble hopefulness in Christ which led him to trust Peter as he did: after he had denied his Master with oaths, our Lordtrusted him to feed his sheep and lambs, and set him in the forefront of apostolic service. He has also had compassionon some of us, putting us into the ministry, and putting us in trust with the gospel, for he knew what love would do for us,and he was certain he could yet make something of us to his own glory.
The last victory of love is in enduring all things, by which I understand a patient perseverance in loving. This is perhaps the hardest work of all, for many people can be affectionateand patient for a time, but the task is to hold on year after year. I have known some men earnestly check their temper underprovocation, and bear a great many slights, but at last they have said, 'There is an end to everything: I am not going toput up with it any longer. I cannotstand it.' Blessed be God, the love that Christ gives us endureth all things. As his love endured to the end, so doesthe love which the Spirit works in us endure to the end.
In reference first to our fellow Christians, love holds out under all rebuffs. You mean that I shall not love you, my goodman, but I shall love you. You give me the rough side of your tongue, and make me see that you are not a very lovable person,but I can love you notwithstanding all. What? Will you do me a further unkindness? I will oppose you by doing you a greaterkindness than before. You said a vile thing about me; I will not hear it, but if it be possible I willsay a kind thing of you. I will cover you up with hot coals till I melt you; I will war against you with flames of lovetill your anger is consumed. I will master you by being kinder to you than you have been unkind to me. What hosts of misrepresentationsand unkindnesses there are; but if you go on to be a true Christian you must endure all these. If you have to deal with peoplewho will put up with nothing from you, take care to be doubly patient with them. What credit is there in bearingwith those who bear with you? If your brethren are angry without a cause, be sorry for them, but do not let them conqueryou by driving you into a bad temper. Stand fast in love; endure not some things, but all things, for Christ's sake; so shallyou prove yourself to be a Christian indeed.
As to your dealing with the unconverted, if ever you go into the field after souls, be sure to carry your gun with you, andthat gun is love. You gentlemen who go out shooting partridges and other birds at this time of the year, no doubt find ita pleasant pastime; but for real excitement, joy, and pleasure, commend me to soul-winning. What did our Lord say, 'I willmake you fishers of men.' If you go out fishing for souls you will have to endure all things, for it willcome to pass that some whom you have been seeking for a long time will grow worse instead of better. Endure this amongthe all things. Those whom you seek to bless may seem to be altogether unteachable, they may shut their ears and refuse tohear you; never mind, endure all things. They may grow sour and sullen, and revile you in their anger, but be not put aboutby them, let them struggle till they are wearied, and meanwhile do you quietly wait, saying to yourself, 'I must save them.' Awarder who has to take care of insane persons will frequently be attacked by them, and have to suffer hard blows; butwhat does he do? Strike the patient and make a fight of it? No, he holds him down and pins him fast; but not in anger, forhe pities him too much to be angry with him. Does a nurse with a delirious patient take any notice of his cross words, andgrumbling, and outcries? Not she. She says, 'I must try to save this man's life,' and so with great kindness she 'endurethall things.'If you were a fireman, and found a person in an upper room, and the house was on fire, would you not struggle with himrather than let him remain in the room and burn. You would say, 'I will save you in spite of yourself.' Perhaps the foolishbody would call you names, and say, 'Let me alone, why should you intrude into my chamber?' But you would say, 'Never mindmy intrusion; I will apologize afterwards for my rudeness, but you must be out of the fire first.' I pray God give you thisblessedunmannerliness, this sweet casting of all things to the wind, if by any means you may save some.
If you desire to see the mirror and the paragon of persevering endurance, look you there! I wish you could see it. I wishthese eyes could see the sight as I have sometimes seen it. Behold the cross! See the patient Sufferer and that ribald multitude:they thrust out the tongue, they sneer, they jest, they blaspheme; and there he hangs, triumphant in his patience, conqueringthe world, and death and hell by enduring 'all things.' O love, thou didst never sit on a throne soimperial as the cross, when there, in the person of the Son of God, thou didst all things endure. Oh that we might copyin some humble measure that perfect pattern which is here set before us. If you would be saviours, if you would bless yourgeneration, let no unkindness daunt you; let no considerations of your own character, or honour, or peace of mind keep youback, but of you may it be said, even as of your Lord, 'He saved others, himself he could not save.'
Have not I shown you four grand battles far excelling all the Waterloos, and Trafalgars, and Almas, and Inkermans on record?Heroes are they that fight and win them, and the Lord God of love shall crown them.
III. I close by noting THE SOURCES OF LOVE'S ENERGY. The time is gone, as I thought it would be, but it has brought us roundin a circle to where we started from. The Holy Ghost alone can teach men how to love, and give them power to do so. Love'sart is learned at no other school but at the feet of Jesus, where the Spirit of love doth rest on those who learn of him.Beloved, the Spirit of God puts love into us, and helps us to maintain it, thus'first, love wins thesevictories, for it is her nature. The nature of love is self-sacrifice. Love is the reverse of seeking her own. Love is intense; love is burning; thereforeshe burneth her way to victory. Love! Look at it in the mother. Is it any hardship to her to lose rest and peace and comfortfor her child? If it costs her pain, she makes it pleasure by the ardour of her affection. It is the nature of love to courtdifficulties, and to rejoice in suffering for the beloved object. If you have ferventlove to the souls of men, you will know how true this is.
Next to this, love has four sweet companions. There are with her tenderness that 'beareth all things,' faith that 'believeth all things,' hope that 'hopeth all things,'and patience which 'endureth all things,' and he that hath tenderness, and faith, and hope, and patience hath a brave quaternionof graces to guard him, and he need not be afraid. Best of all, love sucks her life from the wounds of Christ. Love can bear, believe, hope, and endure becauseChrist has borne, believed, and hoped, and endured for her. I have heard of one that had a twist: they say that he sawsomething that others never saw, and heard a voice that others never heard, and he became such a strange man that others wonderedat him. Oh, that I had more and more of that most solemn twist which comes through feeling a pierced hand laid on my shoulder,and hearing in my ear a sorrowful voice, that selfsame voice which cried, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' Iwould see that vision and hear that voice, and then'what then? Why, I must love; I must love; I must love. That wouldbe the soul's strange bias and sweet twist. Love makes us love; love bought us, sought us, and brought us to the Saviour'sfeet, and it shall henceforth constrain us to deeds which else would be impossible. You have heard of men sometimes in a madfit doing things that ordinary flesh and blood could never have performed. Oh to be distracted from selfishness by the loveofChrist, and maddened into self-oblivion by a supreme passion for the Crucified. I know not how otherwise to put my thoughtsinto words so that they may hint at my burning meaning. May the Lord of love look into your very eyes with those eyes whichonce were red with weeping over human sin: may he touch your hands with those hands that were nailed to the cross, and impressthe blessed nailmarks upon your feet, and then may he pierce your heart till it pour forth a life for love, and flow out instreams of kind desires, and generous deeds, and holy sacrifices for God and for his people. God grant it, for Jesus'sake. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON'1 Corinthians 13.
HYMNS FROM 'OUR OWN HYMN BOOK''797, 264, 439.