On the Duties Belonging to Middle Age
1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man…

As there are duties which belong to particular situations of fortune, so there are duties also which result from particular periods of human life.

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.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

WEB: When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things.

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