Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

Verse 4 (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."

- Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible