but when the perfect comes, the partial passes away.
I. OUR APPREHENSION AND COMMUNICATION OF TRUTH IS PARTIAL.
1. This is a result of the limitation of our powers. This may be a doctrine humbling to human pride, but it is not to be disputed. It should be observed that the apostle speaks of himself as well as of private Christians; and from this we infer that revelation and inspiration are alike conditioned by the very limited powers of man.
2. It is a result of the limitation of our opportunities. We can only know what is brought before us; we cannot create truth. It pleases God that only glimpses and whisperings of Divine truth should be afforded to us. Our knowledge is therefore partial, as is the measure of truth which its Author sets before us.
3. It is a result of the brevity of our life. Human life is short as compared with the universe in which it is passed, and which has so many sides of contact with our understanding. And if nature cannot be known in all its fulness by even the most diligent student, how shall revelation be mastered in a lifetime? There is a religious side to every truth of fact, and the man of science, if a Christian, need never be at a loss for material for religious contemplation and emotion.
II. THAT WHICH IS PARTIAL IS DESTINED TO PERISH. It cannot be meant that any truth shall cease to be truth, that any aspect of religion once justified shall so change its character as to be disowned. We have known Christ, and such knowledge is not transitory, for it is eternal life. But special gifts, like the variety of prophecy known in the primitive Church, served their purpose, and were no more. Our systems of theology, our presentations of doctrine, our modes of homiletic, are adapted, more or less, to our age and circumstances, but they are only for a season. Partial knowledge may be useful whilst perfect knowledge is impossible; but only then.
III. FOR THE PERFECT SHALL COME TO ABOLISH THE PARTIAL. The star shall not disappear because lost in the dense black cloud, but because it shall melt in the splendour of the day. Our prospect is not one to inspire melancholy; or if a shade of pensiveness pass over the soul in the prospect of the disappearance of what is so familiar and so dear, that pensiveness may well give way to content and hope when we look forward to the glory which shall be revealed. - T.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.I. WHAT HOPE HAVE WE OF IT?
1. Founded on human instinct.
2. Confirmed by revelation.
3. Secured by faith.
II. WHAT RELIEF WILL IT BRING?
1. The removal of all defect.
2. Consequently of all sorrow.
III. WHAT HAPPINESS DOES IT PROMISE? The perfection of our condition.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)I. FUTURITY IS THE GREATNESS OF MAN, AND HEREAFTER IS THE GRAND SCENE FOR THE ATTAINMENT OF THE FULNESS OF HIS EXISTENCE.
1. When depressed by conscious littleness of being, yet feeling that he should not be little, man may look to futurity and exclaim, "I shall be great yonder! the immense futurity is mine! I may be content to be poor awhile in the prospect of that!"
2. It is most gratifying to see the Divine revelation connecting the condition of perfection, on any terms, in any sense, at any future period, with human nature. Looking at man, we seem to see a vast collection of little beginnings, attempts, failures — so that the perfectibility of man is ridiculed as one of the follies of philosophic romance. Then how delightful is it to see revelation itself, pronouncing it as possible!
3. This prediction of something "perfect" to come, relates to knowledge. This is somewhat surprising. It seems much more easy to conceive of perfection in holiness. But knowledge is not a state of the dispositions, but an intellectual relation with anything which can come within the sphere of its apprehension. All things in the stupendous totality of existence are subjects for knowledge. To hear, then, of perfection in knowledge, in any, the most limited, accommodated sense, is very marvellous.
II. LET US ATTEMPT TO REALISE TO OUR IMAGINATION SUCH A STATE.
1. The lowest point we can take is the exclusion of error. So that if the manner of apprehending be intuition, the objects will be made clearly self-evident; if by reasoning, the evidence will be explicit and the reasoning process infallible. It could not but be in the heavenly state a painful thing for the spirit, after exulting in the reception of a portion of knowledge, to find out that it had been imposed on.
2. It will be perfectly adequate to the infallible direction of all the activities of the superior state. Those activities we may well believe to be of vast extent and endless variety, and an infallible knowledge — what to do, and when, and by what means — will be vouchsafed.
3. Knowledge will doubtless be perfect in that we shall possess as much of it as is indispensable to our happiness, and be sensible that we do so. We shall not be in the condition of John, who looked on the sealed book and "wept" because there was none to open it.
4. We shall possess always as much knowledge as for the time our faculties are actually capable of. Here there are a vast number of things kept in the dark from us, which we could understand if they were but declared; and there is sometimes a most restless wish to know them. Imagine then a continual enlargement of the intellectual capacity, and as it enlarges, a continual influx of new knowledge to fill it.
III. WE SHOULD TAKE SOME ADVANTAGE OF THE APOSTLE'S CONTRAST BETWEEN "THAT WHICH IS IN PART," AND THAT "PERFECT" WHICH IS TO COME. Note —
1. The imperfect, partial nature of our means of knowledge. The senses, the grand inlets of our knowledge, must and do convey it in a most imperfect manner. Through them the spirit can receive only reports and images of the things. How it wishes to come at the things themselves! Language, again, is a most imperfect medium for the conveyance of knowledge, being framed upon our imperfect knowledge and partaking of all its defects. But "when that which is perfect is come," the mode, the medium, the instruments of our receiving and conveying knowledge must be something immensely different, whether or not in analogy with the present means. If there are to be senses and any artificial instruments of knowledge analogous to the present, let them be but as much superior to these as a "spiritual body," made like the glorified body of Christ, will be superior to this "earthy," mortal one, and it will suffice. But whatever shall be the means and manner of apprehending — the apprehension must be incomparably more intimate than in this world to satisfy the exalted intelligence. And that it will be so, the apostle intimates, "I shall know even as also I am known."
2. How emphatically our present knowledge is but "in part " as to the number and extent of the things known! Just think how many can be answered of all the questions we can ask. "When that which is perfect is come," it will not bring an answer to all possible inquiries; but it will be amazing and delightful to see what a multitude of things, of which we had but the faintest glimpses before, are brought into perfect manifestation. What a revelation there may be —(1) In the vast enlargement of the mind's own proper power of knowing, while it looks from a higher eminence over a wider field.(2) In the direct disclosures and communications which the Divine Being may beneficently make.
3. But all these anticipations remind us but the more forcibly how we here "know but in part."(1) So "in part," that just the part which we want to attain is divided off from our reach. It seems as if a dissevering principle or a dark veil fell down exactly at the point where we think we are near upon the knowledge we are pursuing.(2) So "in part," that we sometimes feel as if a disproportionate weight is thrown upon our faith. In our partial view, appearances may seem against what we nevertheless are required most firmly to believe. It is difficult to maintain this faith, but is happily aided by the Divine assurance that one day we shall know "when that which is perfect is come."(3) So "in part," that in many things we see far more of the evil than of the good. But we are sure that there must be a decided predominance of good in the empire of Him who is infinite in wisdom, power, and goodness. And the anticipation of clearly seeing it so is a delightful radiance from heaven on our present dark abode.(4) So "in part," that we cannot agree one with another. The "part" itself contains those shades and perplexities among which men must greatly differ. But when the "perfect comes," the grand illumination of each spirit will be rendered inconceivably delightful by coincidence of judgment.
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