Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man…
All Churches, all ordinances, all doctrines, all sorts of moral teachers, are ordained for the sake of making perfect men; and Christianity may be said to be, in a general way, the art of being whole men, in distinction from partial men, and make-believe men. It is not enough to say that Christianity tends to make men better. Its aim is to develop a perfect manhood. "Till we all come unto a perfect man." And that manhood can never be reached except in Christ Jesus. We hold a nature in common with the Divine nature. When we can work out from it the accidental, the transient, the local, that which is left is strictly Divine — it is like Christ. No man can be Divine in scope and degree; but in kind he may. Every oak tree in the nursery is like the oak tree of a hundred years. Not in size, but in nature, it is just as much an oak tree as the biggest. We are not of the Divine magnitude, nor of the Divine scope, nor of the Divine power; but we are of the Divine nature. There is no picture that was ever painted, there is no statue that was ever carved, there was no work of art ever conceived of, that was half so beautiful as is a living man, thoroughly developed upon the pattern of Christ Jesus.
1. To live well for the life to come is the surest way of living well for this world. And to live rightly for this world is the surest way of living rightly for the world to come. The world is grandly constituted to develop manhood in those who know how to use it. But how base and ignoble are they who squander their manhood in this world; who pass through the most wondrously organized system of education — namely, the natural, civil, and social world — and parcel out their noble nature, as it were, for sale; who coin conscience; who suppress their spiritual nature; who dignify success in worldly things; who live, not for manhood, but for selfishness, for pride, for pitiful pelf! How does a tool or machine pass through the various shops in its construction? It goes in a lump of pig-iron. Melted and rudely shaped it is at first. It passes out from the first set of hands into the second. There something more is given to it, not of fineness, not of polish, but of shape, adapting it to its final uses. The next shop takes something from it, it may be, trimming away the clumsiness, reducing it in bulk, that it may be finer in adaptation. And, still going on from shop to shop, it passes through some twenty different sets of hands, and gains something from every single man that touches it. And it is a perfect tool or machine when it issues from the other side. This great world, my young friends, is God's workshop. You are put in on one side, and every single shop, every single experience, is to take from you something that you are better without, or add something to you that shall fit you for use. And blessed is the man, who gathers as he goes, symmetry, shapeliness, temper, quality, adaptation, so that when he issues from the further side he is a perfect man. But what a base thing for a man to be put into God's workshop, which was set up on purpose to make man, and come out on the other side without a single attribute of manhood. Ah 1 such wastes as there are! For a man to walk through cities and towns, and see what becomes of manhood, is enough to turn his head into a fountain of tears. It is enough to see the wastes of antiquity — the battered statues; the toppled-down columns; the fractured walls; the ruins of the Parthenon. But of all the destructions that have gone on in this world, and that are now going on every day in the great cities which are grinding and crushing out manhood, the destruction of men is the saddest. And woe be to the man that is burned, or that is crushed, and that comes out worthless, and goes into the rubbish heap of the universe!
2. I call you, young men, to a Christian life, not simply because it is the way of duty, but because it is the only way in which you can find your own selves. There are reasons springing from the eternal government of God, from the rightful authority of God, from the issues of the eternal world, why you should be Christians; but there are other reasons springing from the nature of your own soul — from your makeup. I hold that no man can be a man who is not a Christian. I hold that the true Christian is the noblest man, the strongest man, the freest man, the largest man. He is like a harp, not subjected to rude and random, touches, but handled by a skilful player. His soul is so organized and acted upon that there is melody produced from every single chord, and from all of them matchless harmonies.
3. I call you to discriminate between God's men and the Church's men. I do not call you to be men in the Church, or to be men according to the sects, whether they have prevailed in times past, or do now prevail. As a vine, growing in a garden by the side of the road, does not confine all its flowers and clusters to the garden side, but hangs over the wall, and bears blossoms and clusters in the road; so a man, wherever he grows, should be larger than the thing he grows in. Wherever you go, let your manhood be bigger than any human institution. It is a shame for an institution to be bigger than the man it has reared. God did not call you to be canary birds in a little cage, and to hop up and down on three sticks, within a space no larger than the size of the cage. God calls you to be eagles, and to fly from sun to sun, over continents.
4. I use this truth as a matter of criticism, to ask you to discern between the true man and the current gentleman of life. life man has occasion for pride of gentlemanliness whose manhood has nothing in it of religion. A man must be a Christian who would be a gentleman. Christianity, as I have said, is the science of being a whole man.
5. Let me beseech you to take heed to the substitution of class character for manhood. Beware of classes and "sets." Be larger than any class will ever let its members be.
6. Beware of the narrowness of professional character, which will be your temptation. For no profession has so many claims upon a man as mankind has. No man can afford to live for his profession, and in his profession. No man can afford, by the side of the sounding sea, to build his but on a little rivulet that runs into it, and never go down to wet his feet in the flood, or try its depths. Men need mixing. Men need to feel a sympathy with the whole of human life, Therefore, remember that you are not to be educated out from among your fellow men, but for them.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: