When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I set aside childish ways.
I. THE LITERAL FACT OF HUMAN NATURE AND LIFE. Childhood has its own speech, its prattle and babble; the babe utters inarticulate noises, the child speaks words, but with indistinctness and with many mistakes. Childhood has its own feelings, some of them Very deep when inspired by trivial causes; feelings succeeding one another with rapidity in striking contrast. Childhood has its own thoughts, sometimes upon the most mysterious themes, always with little knowledge of the thoughts of others; thoughts unfounded, unjustifiable; thoughts, too, which may be developed into a larger and richer experience. Now, he who becomes a man puts aside these infantile ways. His language is articulate, perhaps elegant and precise, perhaps copious and poetical. His feelings are less easily roused, but they are deeper and more lasting. His thoughts range over heaven and earth, the past and the future; they "wander through eternity."
II. THE ANALOGY OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE BASED ON THIS FACT. This the apostle suggests and leaves his readers to work out in detail. There is an obvious resemblance between the life of the individual upon earth and the larger, longer life of the soul. As is childhood to manhood, so is this present state of being to the immortality beyond. This being so, there is a measure of probability that the resemblance extends where we cannot follow it. This is the argument of analogy; alike in many points, alike probably in more.
1. The future will be a development and expansion of the present. The speech and the feeling, the thoughts and the judgments, of the man are based upon those of the child. They are not radically different. Even so our earthly faith and hope and love, our earthly consecration, obedience, and praise, are the germ of the experiences and services.of the heavenly sanctuary. Heaven will witness the manhood of that intelligent piety, that devotion of heart and energy, of which earth has witnessed the infancy and childhood.
2. The future will immensely transcend the present. Great as is the difference between the acquirements of the child and those of the man, greater will be that between the religious knowledge and experience of earth, and what is reserved for us hereafter. It is vain for us to suppose that in this present state we can form any conception of the glorious future. We are now God's children, and we know not what we shall be. This we know: "We shall put away childish things." - T.
When I was a child, I spake,... understood, .... thought as a child1. This is the only reference which the apostle makes to his childhood, and without dwelling on the connection, the reference is beautiful and touching. He was born at Tarsus, of respectable parents, tentmakers probably. Whether he had brothers we cannot tell, but he had a sister, for "his sister's son" came to him (Acts 23.) "Circumcised on the eighth day," his name was then called Saul, probably after the first king of Israel, who was of the same tribe. For the first few years of his life we may suppose him, like other children, chiefly given to play; while the daily associations of Jewish life and character would gradually mould his being. It would seem that he had a pious ancestry and kindred, for he says, "I serve God from my forefathers." Daily worship, reading from Old Testament Scripture, mingled with his earliest experiences, and unconsciously influenced his mind. That home of his childhood was intensely Jewish. A "Hebrew of the Hebrews," we must suppose him to have been educated with intense abhorrence for Christians and Christ. It is in reference to such things as these, he thought, when he used these significant words.
2. Turning from the apostle to ourselves, we might pursue a similar train of thought with regard to our childhood.(1) "When I was a child," one would say, "I was surrounded, not like Saul, with religious influence, but with everything that was bad."(2) "My childhood," another would say, "was spent in what ought to have been a happy home, but misunderstanding and discord made it anything but that, and the effect is I am a misanthrope."(3) "Mine," a third would say, "was the childhood of frivolity and fashion. In all senses my childhood and youth were 'vanity.' I was trained a trifler, and, as the result, I am mentally and morally a dwarf."(4) "When I was a child," another would say, "I was trained for heaven and for Christ, and so long as memory lasts, the recollection of my childhood will be to me an impulse to duty and a lustre to life," and so on. But now let us look at what is common to childhood as such.
I. HOW BEAUTIFUL THE DIVINE ARRANGEMENT ACCORDING TO WHICH CHILDHOOD GRADUALLY UNFOLDS! He who formed our first parents complete could as easily have done so with us. But it is best as it is.
1. God has given us forms of beauty everywhere, but nowhere more strikingly than in the openings of life.
2. More than this, He has thus multiplied enjoyment. Each age, as each season, has its peculiar joys.
3. We see, too, an indication of the way in which the great Worker works always — ever gradually. Childhood gradually unfolds into youth. We foolish creatures are in haste for results; God teaches us alike in nature, providence, and grace to wait and be patient.
4. While thus acting what benefit does He secure? How great the benefit to the young, teaching them lessons of docility, patience, submission; and to adults forbearance, watchfulness, etc. Imagine life without childhood, home without children.
5. If there were no higher advantage, what a benefit is the naturalness of the arrangement! The child speaking, thinking, understanding "as a child," not trying to do more; so often rebuking thus our unreal and artificial modes of adult life.
II. HOW IMPORTANT THAT WE SHOULD RECOGNISE THIS DIVINE ARRANGEMENT, AND SEEK TO OBEY IT!
1. Recollect the capacity of the child in your teaching. He speaks "as a child," and will only understand you as you do the same, and then not according to your meaning of the words, but his own, for he thinks "as a child."
2. Recognise this, too, in your expectations. You may not expect too much. They think and feel "as children," and not even grace will destroy the force of child nature. Nor ought you to wish it.
III. HOW OBVIOUS OUR DUTY, SUCH BEING THE CONDITION OF CHILDHOOD!
1. You, dear children, must be willing to submit to such training as your condition requires.(1) Obedience is the first lesson God expects you to learn. Nor forget that disobedience to parents, or those who for the time stand in their place, is a great sin. Remember on the one hand Hophni and Phinehas, and Absalom, and on the other Timothy and Jesus. "Honour thy father and thy mother," which is the first commandment with promise.(2) Seek the Saviour. Of Josiah we read that when but eight years old his heart was tender, and he feared God. Your hearts are tender, not yet "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin"; while they are so, submit to the guidance of Jesus!
2. Parents, teachers, see that your duty is wisely and faithfully fulfilled. Strive to have an intelligent appreciation of what your work is. In each of those minds and characters under your care are latent powers. You are to develop them. How? As the sun does the bud of the flower — by shining upon them. Only thus will they unfold to you.
IV. HOW MUCH ENCOURAGEMENT IS AFFORDED TO THOSE WHO ARE THE GUIDES AND INSTRUCTORS OF CHILDHOOD.
1. Were the material on which you are called to act stereotyped, your task would be hopeless. It is because it is so plastic that you may work with the prospect of success. We cannot tell how early the Spirit of God may work upon the opening mind of children.
2. Remember what God has said about this seed-time! "Cast thy bread upon the waters, and thou shalt find it after many days." Whence have the majority of Christian men and women had their origin? Has it not been from the ranks of pious families, Christian schools?
(J. Viney.)1. "There is a time for everything," and "God hath made everything beautiful in his time." We do not love the frost in spring. It is out of its season, but when, in December, it gives its own peculiar beauty to the landscape, we welcome it. So with the other seasons.
2. The spring, summer, autumn, and winter of our being are beautiful only in their time. Precocious childhood, prolonged infancy, or premature decay excite other feelings than those of admiration. Childishness is beautiful in its time, but only in its time. It would be a sad world if it were stripped of all the beauty and joy given to it by the innocence and playfulness of children. He is a hard man who can frown on the "childish things" so unworthy the man, but so natural in them.
3. This life of ours is a parable introduced by the apostle to describe our inner spiritual life. There are the "babes in Christ," who require to be fed with milk; "little children," in whom the good seed is giving the promise of fruit; "young men," deficient in the wisdom which long experience alone can supply, but full of hope and zeal; "strong men," the pillars of the Church, the leaders in enterprise; and fathers, who, as shocks of corn, are fully ripe and ready to be gathered into the garner. This progressive improvement we ought all to manifest.
4. There is something belonging to our childhood which we should seek always to preserve — its freshness, humility, and truthfulness. Between childlikeness and childishness there is the widest difference. Christ's life teaches us that it is possible to unite the understanding of the man with the heart of the child. What are the childish things to be put away with our advancing intelligence and experience?
1. The understanding of a child is necessarily feeble and his views crude; but we expect, as years pass on and education does its work, that the various faculties shall begin to develop themselves.
2. God dealt with the Jews as with children He did not give the substance of the truth, but only types and shadows — a series of pictures. So, too, the requirements of the law were designed for children. There was not the simple exhibition of erie great principle which the people were themselves to apply, but a multitude of distinct enactments. But the law has done its work as a schoolmaster, and now we are brought to Christ to receive other teaching, and walk after another rule, even the perfect law of liberty and love.
3. There are many, however, who would always be Jews. They love that which appeals to the senses, and have little sympathy with the purely spiritual aspects of religion. They want a system of exact law, drawing distinct lines of separation between the right and the wrong, and have no idea of that mighty, all-pervading principle of self-consecration begotten at the Cross. It is needful that we put away these childish things, and let men understand that our religion consists not in the submission to priestly authority, or the discharge of a dreary routine of sacred duties, or even in the cherishing of certain religious sentiments, but in the rule of an enlightened conscience, sprinkled from dead works in the blood of Christ, and taught by the Spirit of our God. We would walk not as those who are without law, but under the law to Christ. To feel that religion must not be a mere piece of mechanism, a skeleton without a soul, but a life of godliness — to find in well-kept Sabbaths and sacred ordinances helps to the attainment of this end — to rest with all a child's dependence on Christ, and yet to show a man's energy in Christian effort, these are among the highest attainments of Christian knowledge and the best evidence of spiritual maturity.
1. It is perfectly natural for a child to attach undue value to his own surroundings. He has never seen the great city, and he ascribes to his little town an undone importance. He has never looked on the mountain, and the little hillock is to him a towering height. He has never wandered on the banks of some wide-spreading stream, and therefore he counts the rivulet with which he is familiar a river. How strong these feelings are we may perhaps learn from our own experience. Even after time, travel, and reading have enlarged our views, we are inclined to think that the little town with which we were familiar in early days was superior to others until a visit serves to break the spell.
2. The same feature is to be found in men whose want of education leaves them still in a state little better than that of children. There are dwellers in a remote part of our coventry who astonish strangers by their simple faith in the superiority of their own district.
3. How absurd this sounds — yet is it only a type of what we may see continually in religious things.(1) There are numbers who, in this respect, are nothing but children. They have never gone beyond the narrow confines of their own little community. Their reading is restricted to a certain class of authors who look at the truth from their standpoint. The result can only be a cramped intellect and a narrow heart. They do not see that there are other sides of truth. Their own poor sect is to them the Church of Christ. Such men are holding fast by "childish things." Greater breadth of view and truer charity of sentiment should characterise those who have become men. We cannot read the story of the Church without seeing that God has honoured men of the most opposite views and temperaments. We cannot take up our books of praise without having the same truth impressed upon us.(2) Here, however, as almost everywhere, there are opposite extremes against which we have to guard. The very idea of breadth has been brought into disrepute by the way in which some have employed it. The man who holds fast by his own deep and intelligent convictions of doctrine and duty is pronounced narrow. On the other hand, if a man desires to tone down the gospel to the supposed tastes of men until it has been robbed of all that is distinctive and glorious in its revelations, he is esteemed broad. No wonder that devout men should look with some feeling of dread upon these broad views of Christianity. Yet is it deeply to be lamented if in their recoil they are provoked to an un-Christian narrowness. Because others indulge in a latitudinarianism which trenches on unbelief, we are not to yield ourselves to the sway of a bigotry which can tolerate no difference of opinion. Liberty is a precious Christian right, not to be surrendered or compromised, even though unwise friends have abused its privileges. Charity is the chief of the graces, and though its sacred name may often be employed to cloak indifference, or even to excuse hostility to Divine truth, yet must we not fail to cultivate and manifest it in all our controversies. He shows the breadth of Christian manhood who is able to preserve fidelity without the sacrifice of charity.
1. A child is necessarily weak, and only by slow degrees gains that muscular strength necessary for the discharge of the various functions of his physical life. His first efforts are sure to be failures. He lacks confidence even more than strength, for as yet he knows not his own power. But when the child becomes a man, we desire to see robustness and vigour.
2. So may it be expected that the first efforts of the Christian after holiness will be marked by weakness and attended with frequent failure. In the glow of his first love the young disciple fancies that nothing will be too hard for him to achieve. But soon experience teaches him — the evils of years cannot be repaired in a day — habits cannot easily be abandoned — passions that have been masters are not content to become subjects. But we have a right to expect that advancing years will bring with them increasing strength. What we have most to deplore is, that so many fail to manifest this progress. They are content to be as they have been for years. They sin and repent, make confession of their guilt, and straightway return to sin again. Possibly life is not extinguished, but assuredly it is very feeble and unhealthy.
(J. G. Rogers, B.A.)
I. THE ADVANCE FROM JUDAISM TO CHRISTIANITY. Judaism was the childhood of the Church. I do not say this to insinuate any doubt of its Divine origin. The child is as much the creature of God as the man: just so, it is as clear that He spake by Moses as by Christ. But still there is a marked difference between the two dispensations.
1. Judaism was adapted to those who, in religious knowledge and experience, were children. You teach the little ones chiefly through the eye: give them picture books, and assume pictorial attitudes. So the tabernacle was a picture-gallery, teaching precious truth — but to the senses mainly to reach the mind.
2. How different are the institutions of the gospel! Here are no altars, no priests. The Church has got out of the nursery into the study; and Christians are treated not as children, but as men. We are taught — especially in the Epistle to the Hebrews — that the ordinances of Judaism were merely figures for the time till Christ should come; but now what need of the type, when we have the antitype? Our sacraments are just the exceptions that prove the rule.
3. But see the tendency of the present day. It is to crush the manhood of the Church of Christ, and bring us back to a religion of ceremonies again. Ritualism is a second Judaising of the Church — a coming back to the nursery and babyhood again.
II. THE ADVANCE FROM EARLY PIETY TO MATURE.
1. Early piety is one of the loveliest things I know — like the blossoms of the apple-tree in spring, or the first faint light on the horizon. Yet it is a very imperfect thing. The blossoms are not the fruit — the dawning is not the day. The young Christian is only a little child in the family of God.
2. But let him become a man in Christ Jesus — what an advance! The blossoms have gone — but here is the tree filled with the fruits of righteousness; the dawning has disappeared — but it is only swallowed up in the sunrise. There was a time when Paul knew little more than that he bad been a great sinner, and lay wholly at the mercy of the Lord. But he lived "to comprehend with all saints the breadth and length," etc. Oh, to attain a full manhood of Christian character! to have the greatest peace, to do the greatest good, to bring God the greatest glory!
III. THE ADVANCE FROM THE EARTHLY STATE TO THE HEAVENLY. This was what the apostle had chiefly in his mind.
1. He describes the earthly state of Christians as imperfect. What a lesson of humility! This great gifted man acknowledges how much he cannot teach! "We know in part." And so with the very aptest of scholars. John Howe says, "Many of our conceits, which we thought wise, we shall then see cause to put away as common trash"; and Owen, "Notwithstanding all our confidence of our high attainments, all our notions of God are but childish in respect of His infinite perfections." Down, then, with our foolish pride, our arrogant assumption!
2. But what is there awaiting us? We are looking through a dim window now, and things outside are a riddle; but then the window will be thrown open, and we shall see face to face (ver. 12; 1 John 3:2), and the clear sight of Jesus shall complete our transformation. All that was dim in us shall become luminous, and we shall perfectly reflect the image of our Lord.
3. The change must begin here. We must be new-born babes on earth, if we are ever to reach maturity in heaven. "Except a man be born again," etc. Then we shall look down on this dim spot, and say, Then I was a child, but now I am a man.
(F. Tucker, B.A.)
(C. Hodge, D.D.)I. THE SAINT'S CHILDHOOD.
1. Speech corresponds with tongues (ver. 8).
2. Understanding with prophecy.
3. Thought with knowledge.
II. THE SAINT'S MANHOOD.
1. Perfect power of expression.
2. Glorified intellect.
3. Full revelation of God.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)
I. SPEECH. "I spake as a child." The Christian's speech in eternity will be characterised —
1. By clearness. Our speech here, like that of children, is often unintelligible, mere jargon. The reason is our conceptions are ill-defined. Clear speech requires a clear head. In heaven thoughts are clear, and complete as balls of radiant crystal.
2. By reality. Our speech here, like that of children, is frequently nothing more than the vehicle of mental fantasies and conjecture. But speech in eternity is the organ of reality. Words there are things. They are truths made vocal.
3. By comprehensiveness. How meagre the vocabulary of a child! Our speech here, like that of children, is limited to a very small range of things. Not so in heaven. The soul will range over the whole domain of facts, receive true impressions of all, and speak them out.
4. By sublimity. Our speech here, like that of children, is not of the most exalted and soul-inspiring character. In heaven every word will be electric, every sentence radiant, and quickening as the sunbeam.
II. UNDERSTANDING, "I understood as a child." The Christian's understanding here is like that of a child in several respects.
1. In feebleness. The child's intellect, like his body, in the first stages is very feeble. It is incapable of any great effort. It is thus with the Christian here. We say of such a man — he has a great intellect. But in reality what a small amount of truth can the most vigorous hold within his grasp! In heaven the understanding will be strong, unencumbered by matter, unchecked by disease, unclouded by sin. It will grow young with age and strong with exercise.
2. In sensuousness. A child's understanding is under the control of the senses. It judges by appearances. Is it not so with the Christian? He is prone to "mind earthly things," "to judge after the flesh."
3. In relativeness. The child judges of all things by their relation to himself. His father may be an author or a statesman, but the child knows nothing of him in those relations. As a father only he knows him. So with the understanding of a Christian. His conceptions of God are purely relative. Redeemer, Father, Master. Thus only is He regarded. What He is in Himself, what He is in the universe, he understands nothing. In eternity we shall "see Him as He is."
4. In servility. The child yields his understanding up to others. So it is often with Christians here. Not so in heaven. Each with a full consciousness of his individuality will be independent in his investigations and conclusions.
III. REASONING. "I thought as a child." How does the child reason? From an insufficiency of data. Having neither the power nor the opportunity of making an adequate observation and comparison, he draws his conclusions from passing impressions and unfounded conjectures. Thus it is often with the Christian here. His knowledge of the facts of God and the universe on which he reasons is so limited, that his conclusions are often inconclusive and puerile.
2. From the impulse of desire. In all cases his wish is the father to the thought. It is too often so with the Christian here. Their likings control their logic. Not so in heaven.Conclusion: This subject teaches —
1. The educational character of this life. The true view of this life is that it is a school for eternity. Be reconciled to this state. Struggle on till you "put away childish things." We shall leave this school soon for the family mansion and the grand inheritance.
2. The organic unity of man through all the scenes and stages of his being. Though the man here talks and judges and reasons very differently to what he did when a child, he is nevertheless the same being. Man in heaven is but the child matured. We shall never be greater than men.
3. The necessity of modesty in the maintenance of our theological views.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
I. SILLINESS. There are many things that we pardon in a child because it is a child. If a child makes a foolish remark, or does a foolish act, we say, in excuse, "He is but a child — he will be wiser by and by." But if, when the child grows up, and is still not wiser, we say, by way of reproach, that he is childish and ought, at his age, to know better.
II. SELFISHNESS. All young children show this more or less. Hence the greediness in children and their egotism, the frequent use in their mouth of the words "I" and "me." And this is a fault which all parents should try to correct. But a selfish child has the excuse of ignorance; but a selfish young man or woman has not this excuse. They do know better. While this fault remains uncorrected in us we have not made, and we cannot make, any progress in true religion Learn from your Lord and Example to think of, to care for, to give to others. It is more blessed to give than to receive!
III. WANT OF SELF CONTROL. They only are to be accounted manly who are masters of themselves, who act from reason not from passion. Remember what St. Paul says, "Every one that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things" — in meat, drink, speech, pleasure, pursuit of earthly gains. The way to self-mastery is to be on the watch against all excess, all inordinate affection; to bring your bodies into subjection to the law of your mind; to look in all you do, not at what is most pleasant; but at what reason and conscience enjoin.
(R.D. B. Rawnsley, M.A.)
1. Let us, therefore, consider that our present existence, compared with our future, is a childhood in respect of its duration. We are to exist for ever. What, then, is this life? How justly may it be called our childhood? The strict truth is, that it is no more than our entrance into being — our birth into the vast creation — the first glimmering of light at the dawn of day.
2. A gain, this life is our childhood in respect of improvement. At our best state in this world we may say of ourselves, with the utmost propriety, that we know nothing, and are nothing. We now mistake presumption for knowledge, a strange imagination for a sound understanding, and the delusions of passion for the perceptions of truth. Hereafter our intellectual powers will acquire vigour. We shall see intuitively those truths which we now are obliged to make out by long and intricate deductions.
3. I might go on to observe to you that we are now children in respect of power and dignity. Fluctuating at best and very feeble is our present condition. Hereafter our condition will be more fixed and stable. Our powers will be enlarged, and we shall rise to a dignity and weight in the universe of which we can now form no conception.
4. But it is necessary that I should endeavour to give you a yet more accurate view of this subject by observing to you that this life answers to the idea of a childhood, as it is an introduction to, and a state of education for, another and a higher state. Infancy prepares for childhood, and childhood for manhood. As we pass through these several stages, we are continually becoming more and more familiarised to the scene in which we are placed. And it is easy to perceive that were we to be brought into life full grown, or to be made men without passing through infancy and childhood, we should be totally incapable of relishing life, and as unfit for it as we should be for conversation, had we never been taught language; or for enjoyment and happiness, were we destitute of senses. Thus is the beginning of our existence here a natural and necessary preparation for mature life; and in like manner the whole of our mature life itself is a necessary preparation for that future life on which we are to enter at death. Should you ask me here in what manner, and by what means, this life is thus an education for another, I would answer, that it is so particularly by the instruction and the habits which are the necessary consequence to all of passing through this life; but that it is so principally by that instruction in righteousness, and those habits of self-government and virtue which we are put upon acquiring in this life. Virtue, you must always remember, is the grand condition of happiness under the Divine government. Without this we cannot be qualified for permanent existence, or any honourable situation in the universe. It is this, therefore, that we must chiefly be placed here to learn. It is proper to add, that as the Author of nature has so ordered our circumstances in this world as to make early life fit to be an education for mature life, so likewise has He so ordered our circumstances in mature life as to adapt it to the purpose of an education in virtue. We cannot proceed a step in life without finding opportunities for practising some virtue, without being required to resist some temptation, to check some wrong tendency, to discharge some duty, to govern some passion, to cherish some grace, or to stand some trial. Another sense in which our education in this world for another corresponds with our education in early or mature life, is the necessity we are under in both capacities of submitting to spirit and, sometimes, painful discipline, the reason and uses of which we may not be able to understand. Children are trained up by restraint and correction, the tendency of which they do not see, and which, therefore, they are apt to think hard and severe. So it is with us, as probationers and candidates for eternity. It is obvious that our happiness when men depends in a great degree on our conduct when young; and that the turn we take, the habits we contract, and the bent that is given us as we grow up from infancy to maturity, determine the colour and fate of all our subsequent days. Idleness and laziness in youth form a manhood void of worth and dignity; and a worthless and vicious manhood forms a wretched old age. On the contrary, virtuous, faithful, modest, sober, and well-educated youths always come out with advantage into the world. Such is the dependence of our happiness in the successive stages of the present life on our conduct in those which have preceded them; and such, likewise, is the dependence of our happiness in our future stages of existence on our conduct in our present existence. Every particular of what I have just observed of the latter, holds with respect to the former, and our seeing this to be the order of the Divine government in the one case, should silence all objections to the credibility of it in the other. Our education in youth for manhood (we all know) may miscarry, and through negligence and vice leave us deficient, ignorant, worthless, and unhappy; or, on the contrary, it may attain its end, lay the foundation of subsequent honour, and make us wise, and worthy, and respectable. The same is true of our whole education here for eternity. This also may miscarry; and instead of qualifying us for the habitations of the just, and a place among superior beings, it may leave us fit associates only for evil beings, or issue in our ruin; and one of the most terrifying of all reflections is, that in both cases these miscarriages are common.I shall conclude with desiring your attention to the following reflections.
1. It leads us to reflect on the wisdom of God in ordering the scenes of our existence. He causes us to rise gradually, and to qualify ourselves for happiness, as a necessary condition of obtaining it.
2. The subject on which I have been discoursing should teach us patience under the trials of life, and reconcile us to all present difficulties.
3. The observations I have made should render us earnest in our endeavours to make this life what it is designed — a preparation for a better life — an introduction to glory — an education for the joys of angels.
(R. Price, D.D.)I. The apostle, by placing the characteristic of childhood in the SPEECH, may possibly be understood to intimate that a child speaks before he thinks. Whether this be here particularly intended or not, it is certainly a fault very observable in such children as are not restrained, but very unbecoming and inconvenient in men. We readily and fully excuse a child who speaks without care or thought. Gaiety and inattention are natural to his age, and neither the subject nor the matter of his prate can be important. He talks of trifles only, and as they appear to his puerile conception. But when the mind is employed upon many subjects, the speech will of course be deliberate; some degree of slowness and gravity will still prevail in it, and a greater degree when the points under consideration are more difficult or more interesting. A mature understanding has constant, gentle exercise in the government of the tongue; and either remissness on the one hand, or eagerness on the other, will certainly betray itself in the discourse. Faults of these opposite kinds are to be found in young men of different dispositions; but both are to be referred to the same childish folly of speaking before they think. And thus a young man, by declaring opinions before he has well considered them, becomes afterwards unable ever to consider them without prejudice, and his thoughts, which should have governed his speech, are enslaved by it. Another part of the character of a child is, that he speaks all he thinks. Intending no ill, and suspecting none, he communicates all his sentiments and designs without reserve or caution. But the same unlimited openness is not suitable to the transactions among men. He cannot expect any success, nor indeed any reputation among them, who has not some degree of discretion and reserve and habitual secrecy. Nor is it only in the conduct of business, and to guard his own interests, that a prudent man will be often silent. He will not too freely discuss the characters of other men, nor speak too much of himself, lest he incur the reproach, in one case, of envy or ill-nature; in the other, of self-conceit or arrogance.
II. The next note, by which the apostle distinguishes the characters of a man and a child, is taken from the difference of their INCLINATIONS. Those of a child are always governed by trifles. The things which strike his fancy, which offer him immediate pleasure, how minute, how momentary soever, are the objects of his pursuit. But manly prudence includes in it attention to different kinds of good; the power of comparing them with regard both to their itenseness and duration; and the habit of resisting the allurements of trifling, short-lived pleasures, and of being directed by views of greater and more lasting happiness. He who suffers his mind to be continually engaged by mere amusements, and drawn away by them from every serious employment worthy of a rational being, whether of furnishing himself with useful knowledge and virtuous habits at one period of life, or at another of providing for the interests of a family, a neighbourhood, or the public; though his years may not be few, nor his amusements the same as in his childhood, is yet in the eye of reason still a child: not indeed in innocence, for a constant attachment to things of little value is not a little criminal; but in folly and perverseness.
III. In the JUDGMENT consists the third great distinction between the characters of a man and child. With little experience, and less exercise of his rational faculties, a child cannot have formed for himself any principles on which he may build real knowledge. He must of necessity learn many truths without the proper evidence of them, which yet he may afterwards by slow degrees discover. Nor are they the principles of knowledge only which he receives implicitly. Rules of conduct also he gathers from examples before he is able to understand their foundations. But it becomes a man to judge and act for himself: to examine as a critic, not receive as a disciple, all the reasoning proposed to him, and to direct his conduct by his own judgment, not by a blind submission to examples. He who takes his opinions without inquiry, though from the most accurate philosopher, has no more real knowledge than the child who takes them from his nurse. For in science that only is our own which we have earned by our attention and labour. What is cast upon us from the stores of others, without our claim or merit, loses its value in passing, and cannot enrich us. And he who in the regulation of his life is influenced by foolish fashions of which he has formed no judgment, or can give no approbation, may be justly charged with the negligence or the weakness of a child.
(W. S. Powell, D.D.)
I. THAT THE ATTAINMENT TO MANHOOD IN LOVE COSTS AN EFFORT. You are not only to develop out of the child's love, but you are to "put away childish things."
II. MANHOOD IN LOVE PUTS AWAY ONLY CHILDISHNESS, NOT CHILDLIKENESS. All that is good is to be kept by the growing man. The child's love is gentle, sincere, confiding, honest, simple; retain all this, and add to it, by putting away the "childish" peevishness, and ignorance, and vacillations.
1. One of the weaknesses of a child is his longing to outgrow childhood. the apple-tree in blossom is beautiful. So is the perfect tree. A child when a child, a man when a man, are alike beautiful.
2. One of the greatest magnets on earth is a little child. A child is a purifier of our evil thoughts and passions. All that is thus excellent in the child retain, cultivate, put not away.
III. THE CULTIVATION OF A MANLY LOVE, FREE FROM CHILDISHNESS, IS WORTHY OF MANHOOD.
1. When the powers of manly love are enlarged, it is easy to rid ourselves of childishness.
2. Manly love is quite likely to assert itself as we approach manhood.
3. Manly love is of the highest worth "Greatest of these" is love.
4. Manly love moves the hand as well as the heart. It is self-sacrificing and yielding.
5. It is invincible. Becomes strong by "long suffering." It "endures all things."In conclusion —
1. How can we be content with the unripe and the imperfect? We should become men; not be fickle, impulsive, ignorant in our love.
2. Paul's love enabled him to endure as a good soldier. His life was not child's play. Be strong, be manly; "put away childish things" in manly love.
(Thomas Armitage, D.D.)
I. I begin with observing that the first duty of those who are become men is, as the text expresses it, TO PUT AWAY CHILDISH THINGS. The season of youthful levities, follies, and passions is now over. Some things may even be graceful in youth, which, if not criminal, are at least ridiculous, in persons of maturer years. It is a great trial of wisdom to make our retreat from youth with propriety. It becomes us neither to overleap those boundaries by a transition too hasty and violent; nor to hover too long on one side of the limit when nature calls us to pass over to the other. There are particularly two things in which middle age should preserve its distinction and separation from youth; these are levities of behaviour, and intemperate indulgence of pleasure. Higher occupations, more serious cares, await you. Turn your mind to the steady and vigorous discharge of the part you are called to act. This leads me —
II. TO POINT OUT THE PARTICULAR DUTIES WHICH OPEN TO THOSE WHO ARE IN THE MIDDLE PERIOD OF LIFE. The time of youth was the preparation for future action. In old age our active part is supposed to be finished, and rest is permitted. Middle age is the season when we are expected to display the fruits which education had prepared and ripened. In this world all of us were formed to be assistants to one another. The wants of society call for every man's labour, and require various departments to be filled up. No one is permitted to be a mere blank in the world. This is the precept of God. This is the voice of nature. This is the just demand of the human race upon one another. One of the first questions, therefore, which every man who is in the vigour of his age should put to himself is, "What am I doing in this world? What have I yet done, whereby I may glorify God, and be useful to my fellows? Do I properly fill up the place which belongs to my rank and station?" In fine, industry, in all its virtuous forms, ought to inspirit and invigorate manhood. This will add to it both satisfaction and dignity; will make the current of our years, as they roll, flow along in a clear and equable stream, without the putrid stagnation of sloth and idleness. Idleness is the great corrupter of youth, and the bane and dishonour of middle age.
III. TO GUARD WITH VIGILANCE AGAINST THE PECULIAR DANGERS WHICH ATTEND THE PERIOD OF MIDDLE LIFE. It is much to be regretted that in the present state of things there is no period of man's age in which his virtue is not exposed to perils. Pleasure lays its snares for youth; and, after the season of youthful follies is past, other temptations, no less formidable to virtue, presently arise. The love of pleasure is succeeded by the passion for interest. In this passion the whole mind is too often absorbed; and the change thereby induced on the character is of no amiable kind. It deadens the feeling of everything that is sublime or refined. It contracts the affections within a narrow circle, and extinguishes all those sparks of generosity and tenderness which once glowed in the breast. In proportion as worldly pursuits multiply, and competitions rise, ambition, jealousy, and envy combine with interest to excite bad passions, and to increase the corruption of the heart. To these, and many more dangers of the same kind, is the man exposed who is deeply engaged in active life. No small degree of firmness in religious principle, and of constancy in virtue, is requisite, in order to prevent his being assimilated to the spirit of the world, and carried away by the multitude of evildoers. Let him therefore call to mind those principles which ought to fortify him against such temptations to vice. Let not the affairs of the world entirely engross his time and thoughts. From that contagious air which be breathes in the midst of it, let him sometimes retreat into the salutary shade consecrated to devotion and to wisdom. In order to render this medicine of the mind more effectual, it will be highly proper —
IV. THAT, AS WE ADVANCE IN THE COURSE OF YEARS, WE OFTEN ATTEND TO THE LAPSE OF TIME AND LIFE, AND TO THE REVOLUTIONS WHICH THESE ARE EVER EFFECTING. In this meditation, one of the first reflections which should occur is, how much we owe to that God who hath hitherto helped us; who hath guided us through the slippery paths of youth, and now enables us to flourish in the strength of manhood. Bring to mind the various revolutions which you have beheld in human affairs, since you became actors on this busy theatre. To the future, we are often casting an eager eye, and fondly storing it, in our imagination, with many a pleasing scene. But if we would look to it, like wise men, let it be under the persuasion that it is nearly to resemble the past in bringing forward a mixture of alternate hopes and fears, of griefs and joys. While we thus study to correct the errors, and to provide against the dangers which are peculiar to this stage of life, let us also —
V. LAY FOUNDATION FOR COMFORT IN OLD AGE. That is a period which all expect and hope to see; and to which, amidst the toils of the world, men sometimes look forward, not without satisfaction, as to the period of retreat and rest. But let them not deceive themselves. A joyless and dreary season it will prove if they arrive at it with an unimproved or corrupted mind. First, he who wishes to render his old age comfortable, should study betimes to enlarge and improve his mind; and by thought and inquiry, by reading and reflecting, to acquire a taste for useful knowledge. This will provide for him a great and noble entertainment when other entertainments leave him. Among the measures thus taken for the latter scenes of life, let me admonish every one not to forget to put his worldly affairs in order in due time.
(H. Blair, D.D.)
Scientific Illustration.The narrow dogma makes no allowance for the expansion of men's hearts and brains, and therefore becomes obsolete. The society which is based on rigid bigoted small rules and pedantic formulas breaks up, because no arrangements have been made for the inevitable expansion of the hopes and opinions of its members. There must be room for expansion. This is perfectly well understood in the arts, and practical men make proper arrangements in obedience to this law. The bars of furnaces must not be fitted tightly at their extremities, but at least must be free at one end, otherwise in expanding they would split the masonry. In making railways a small space is left between the successive rails, for if they touched, the force of expansion would cause them to curve or would break the chairs. Water pipes are fitted to one another by means of telescopic joints, which allow room for expansion. In every department there must be provision made for expansion.
Scientific Illustration.It frequently happens that the very insects which we most admire, which are decorated with the most brilliant colours, and which soar on the most ethereal wings, have passed the greater portions of their lives as burrowers beneath the surface of the earth. The well-known Mayfly or ephemera, so delicate in its gauzy wings, so marvellous in its muscular power, which enables the newborn being to disport itself in the air for a period which, in comparison with our own lives, is equal to at least forty years, and passing the greater portion of its terrestrial existence as an inhabitant of the air — has spent a life of some three years or more hidden from human gaze. Let this fact remind young people who are impatiently anxious to soar high in the world's notice, that there are preparatory processes necessary for aerial spirits.. The orator sustains the flight of his eloquence all the better, and the figures of his rhetoric are all the brighter, because he spends the first portion of his life burrowing in the useful obscurity of a library. Away from all distractions, in the seclusion of reading and meditation, he acquires the intellectual powers which enable him to rise to his proper sphere.
(Scientific Illustration.)I. MAN IN THE INFANCY OF HIS BEING.
1. His speech imperfect, childish.
2. His understanding weak, limited, easily deceived.
3. His thought and reasoning, trifling, foolish, erring.
II. MAN IN THE COURSE OF DEVELOPMENT.
1. Under instruction and discipline.
2. Accumulating experience.
3. Looking forward in hope,
III. MAN IN HIS MATURITY.
1. Fully developed in heaven.
2. Bids farewell to the toys of earth.
3. Has clearer perceptions, grander views, nobler objects.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)
I. IN REGARD TO MANKIND IN GENERAL. Man is a more noble being than he appears, and was designed for nobler ends than he attains.
1. If God expended so much labour in creating men and the world they live in, that they might be happy and illustrate His glory, their present existence, unconnected with a future state, shows neither His wisdom, goodness, nor justice, but casts obscurity over them all. Men do not here receive the punishment due to their sins nor arrive at the perfection either of their powers or happiness.
2. The Author of our being, who designed us for immortality, placed us in this infant state to ripen as for a glorious and eternal manhood. Our greatest growth here, compared with our future dimensions, does not transcend the size of children. This world is only the nursery, or the cradle in which souls yet in swaddling bands are rocked for immortality.
3. How miserably do they overlook the dignity of man who contemplate him only in the present life. What wretched miscalculation to consume all their cares in making provisions for this infant state, and neglect to provide for the happiness of a vigorous and eternal manhood.
II. IN REGARD TO WORLDLY MEN. Their views, tastes, knowledge, pleasures, etc., all bespeak them children. Compared with the high and noble end for which they were made, what trifles they are pleased with and they pursue! Compared with the dimensions and dignity of a glorified saint, the wealth of Croesus and the honours of Caesar are mere playthings. Are they not children? Mark how they pursue their little pleasures without any dignified and manly aim — what want of foresight for their future well-being. Subject to disappointments and sorrows, the children often fret and cry. They speak as a child, understand as a child, etc. Ah! when will they become men and put away childish things? Cast aside your toys and raise your thoughts to objects worthy of men — to the kingdom and glory of God — to infinite interests and immortal concerns. Many deem it manly to neglect religion, and account it childish to yield to piety. But they appear to angels as one would appear to us who at the age of fifty should busy himself in making houses in the sand. And it would have been better for them always to have remained children. A child is satisfied with his baubles: but they, possessed of capacities which nothing but God can fill, remain restless and uneasy with all their toys about them.
III. IN REGARD TO CHRISTIANS THEMSELVES.
1. They speak of Divine things as a child, using expressions which no more reach the extent of the subject than the prattling of children about the moon conveys a full idea of that luminary. They had no other language for these subjects than that of Scripture, which, being adapted to the weakness of our apprehensions, is little more than an association of images borrowed from sensible objects. But when they arrive at manhood they will use a language expressive of things as they are — a language no longer darkened with the shadow of figures, but taken from the very light of the subjects themselves, and as luminous as truth.
2. Here their conceptions of heavenly things are extremely crude. All are largely mingled with ideas borrowed from sensible objects. But when they arrive at manhood their conceptions will be correct.
3. In this life their understandings are feeble and contracted, are darkened by ignorance, are perverted by prejudice, are liable to errors and misconstructions of the Word of God. But in heaven they will all see eye to eye, and be united in the most sublime and delightful views of Divine truth. Here they are limited to a very imperfect knowledge of God's will, and are often pressed with doubts respecting their duty; but there all duty will be made plain. Here their views are confined to a small circle; "there they will take in the universe, Here, with all the helps they enjoy, they know but little of God; there they will see as they are seen and know as they are known. No longer limited to the hopes and anticipations of childhood, they will have arrived at the full attainment of their supreme good. No longer confined to the company of children, they will enjoy the society of the glorious army of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, etc. No longer limited to the low pursuits of this infant state, all their faculties will be employed in the most noble, parts of the Divine service. How vastly their powers will be enlarged cannot now be told. Was Newton a child? Was Solomon a child? What then is a man?
(E. D. Griffin, D.D.)
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