1 Corinthians 15:41-42
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars…
I. THE IDEA OF IDENTITY AND VARIETY MINISTERING TO EACH OTHER.
1. St. Paul bases the argument for immortality upon the richness and splendour of this mortal life. Often have men made heaven a compensation for the woes of earth; St. Paul makes it not a compensation, but a development. How much nobler is this! For he who finds the manifold glories of this mortal life to be the symbols of immortality, will always be led to live this life as intensely and profoundly as he can, in order that the higher life may become real and attractive to him.
2. Identity and variety express the tone and feeling which life demands. Identity is sound, solid, and substantial; variety is vital, interesting, and novel. To quicken identity with variety, to steady variety with identity, is to make a man always keep himself and yet always feel the power of new conditions around him. Think of the best men you have known, and you will find in them these qualities in their highest union.
3. See how largely this union pervades the universe, and how, wherever it appears, it gives richness and depth.
(1) Take nature. Lark and lily, sunbeam and cloud, river and mountain, ocean and land; it takes but the most elementary knowledge to feel the oneness of them all; still all our senses are tingling with the tidings of their differences that they are always sending to us.
(2) Take the history of man. This cannot be rightly understood unless illumined by this double truth. Ages come and go, each stamped with its own character. There are ages of war and ages of peace, centuries of thought and centuries of action, etc., etc. Each has its own glory. In the eyes of the inhabitants of each it seems as if all other times were inglorious. We rejoice in the nineteenth century; but greater is the sum of all centuries, this ever changing life of man. The ages of the cloisters and castles, of dreams and of mysteries, are all needed; each of them, while it is different, may be proud of all the rest.
(3) So with nations. England, France, America — each is a living being with a character unlike all the others, and yet bearing a true identity with them because both it and they are made up of men, and have shaped all their ways and institutions out of the needs of the same old manhood, living on the same old earth. Nations, like children, match themselves with each other, and are as apt to envy or contemn others as they are great or small; but Palestine, Greece, Rome, America, or England, who can decide which is greater? "There is one glory of the sun," etc.; and, altogether, they fill the radiant sky.
(4) Take the occupations of mankind. Three men are close together in the street; one of them makes shoes, another writes books, another is the mayor. It is foolish and false to say that there is no rank or precedence here. One of them demands higher powers and education than the others. It is perfectly right that the shoemaker, if he has power to rise, should leave his bench and write a book, or become mayor. But there are other truths besides this.
(a) That each of these arts has its own absolute standard, its own good or bad ways of doing its own work.
(b) That each art, so far as it lives up to its own standard, becomes a true utterance of the universal human nature, which gets its value from the fact that it is at once identical with and different from all other utterances. These truths make the richness and harmony of all active life.
(5) And so with men. We have the greatest varieties of man, the thoughtful or the active, the Conservative or the Radical, etc.; but below all men are men, and every man is man. If variety fails, mankind is a great dreary, undistinguishable monotony; if identity fails, mankind is a great tumult of confused and inharmonious particles. How unchristian either of these views is the Incarnation teaches. Christ is at once the inspiration of the individual and the assertion of the identity of man. He is the revealer of the Fatherhood of God, and thus builds mankind into a family where each is distinct and yet all are one.
II. ITS CONSEQUENCES, AND THE SORT OF LIFE AND CHARACTER IT WILL MAKE IN HIM WHO ENTERTAINS AND ACCEPTS IT.
1. It will produce self-respect. Here are you, seemingly insignificant, yet —
(1) You are a different creature from any that the world has ever seen.
(2) You are a branch of the tree of life from which sprang Isaiah and St. John. God forbid if you are really a sun and not a star, that any compulsion of your fellow-men should keep you in the star's place, and shut you out of the sun's. But you do know yourself; you are a star, and not a sun; your place is subordinate, secondary. What then? If you do your work with perfect faithfulness, you are making just as genuine a contribution to the substance of the universal good as is the most brilliant worker. It is the fable of the mountain and the squirrel: "If I cannot carry a forest on my back, neither can you crack a nut." "There is one glory of the sun," etc.
2. Respect for others is bound up in such self-respect as this. The philanthropist, all eager to set right the world, is apt to become furious at the sight of the scholar; and the scholar, in his turn, is ready to despise the bustling restlessness of the man who is for ever organising committees, petitioning legislators, and screwing up the loosened machinery of charity. "There is one glory of the sun," etc. Surely it must be possible for men to be devoted to their own work and yet thankful for the work which other men are doing, which they can neither do nor understand. "All things are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
3. This truth may also apply to the different degrees and conditions in which our own lives are passing. You and I are this to-day; to-morrow or the next year we may be something quite different. To-day we may be insignificant, to-morrow or the next year we may be prominent, or vice versa. How shall we look upon this uncertainty of human life? Let us look upon each as a distinct thing, with its own values and meaning, and yet feel how our human life may still be the same, ever spreading itself out to larger things. This harmonises everything. Conclusion: To Paul this truth was a proof of immortality. He would have men live upon earth, yet conscious of their capacity for heaven. Is not that what we want — the life of earth now, the life of heaven by and by, each clear with its own glory, and our humanity capable of them both? We must not lose either of them in the other. We must not be so full of hope of the future that we cannot do our daily work here upon the road. We must not be so lost in dull work on the earth that we shall not be perpetually inspired by the hope of heaven.
(Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.