Present Knowledge Imperfect But Sufficient
1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

I. WE SEE DARKLY — very darkly.

1. We are in a world full of mystery. Every step we take, the great, deep problems strike us which we are unable to solve.

(1) Day fades away into night, the night blossoms out into day; the stars walk up and down the vault of night. We cannot but wonder why. Say that it is because the earth revolves on its axis, and moves round in its orbit, but where is the force that drives it along its path? Astronomy only magnifies the mystery. I see other worlds flying in every conceivable direction and at all possible velocities; and yet the power, the thing I want, does not come out to me. I push the mystery perhaps one step, and taking that step, I plunge again into the darkness, to ride on as my fathers have been riding through all the past, unsoothed by definitions, and formulas.

(2) But somebody says, "Why, it is gravity that holds the world in its path." And so I dig down to the earth for this giant whose arms are so long and whose grip is so almighty, but I do not find him; and after my weary search I sit back in despair, muttering "Gravity!" and I know no more than I did before. Nature, like the man who gave the empty casket to the highwayman and kept the jewels, has given us names and kept the secret — the power.

(3) Oh I but you say, chemistry settles that. She has gone into the world and parcelled it out, saying, "This is oxygen, that is nitrogen, and that is carbon," etc. So I walk along quietly after her, and say, What is oxygen, what is carbon? I'll call this carbon every time I see it in the future. I used to call it coal: and yet my soul is fed no more by carbon than it was by coal. The term does not change the fact. My poor heart cries out for the power behind this. Where did it come from? Who stored the fires in its dark bosom? Who gathered the sunbeams of so many centuries and stored them into coal? That is the power I want, and not the name.

(4) But chemistry has taken up the microscope, and says, "Now we have it; we have got things in the very act of beginning to be; we have seen them actually wriggling up into life." Yes, wriggle before they existed. I am sure I see very darkly here.

(5) Suppose we go into the domain of my thoughts. This is something that you may call psychology — what can that do after all? Why, it takes up what I call my thought — gives its outer history, tells somewhat of its worth; but that is all it does. There is something behind the thought; here is the mystery it cannot touch at all.

2. Now, we are in this one universe, and should it be strange if, when we come to the things concerning eternal verities, there should be some darkness; if nature has cast a shadow over all things here, need we stumble, or be alarmed, if concerning spiritual and eternal things we see through a glass darkly? What if I cannot understand the mysteries of the incarnation, the Trinity, regeneration and resurrection — what of all that? Is it not rather the demonstration that we are under the administration of one God. May I not bring as many difficulties and arguments against the facts of your personal experience in every-day life as you can bring against the experience and facts of this spiritual and eternal life?

II. BUT WE DO SEE SOMETHING. Though we cannot define it. Look at two or three mountain-peaks that indicate to us the inner line that possibly we cannot pass, and even surveying may not definitely define.

1. One mountain-peak is the fact of revelation itself. I do not mean the arguments by which we sustain that this book is from God, but rather the fact of the communication of God to us. There it stands. Here we are in the universe; somebody brought us here; we did not make ourselves; we cannot trace our pedigree back through the ages. Yet we are here, and so circumstanced that we must do somebody's will in order to have peace; and to do it, we must know it. We cannot reach it with our reason. We have not instinct. The animals monopolise that. Will He not come out to me? Will he take such wonderful care of His meanest creatures, and leave His best to die in the darkness? I do not see very clearly, but I see something.

2. Here is another peak — the Book itself, said to be from God. A wonderful document! — too much in it for us to comprehend; full of mysteries, yet so simple and plain in most of its parts, that it has been the food of the common people for all the centuries. It is so compact and self-sustaining, that it has defied the sharpest criticism of eighteen centuries. There it is; fifteen hundred years in the shop being made, written by forty different men, separated, as far as possible, both in station and in culture. Yet somehow these forty men tell one story, and so telling it, that as we read it we feel that it is true, because they got one inspiration. They tell the history of the race into sin, and through sin up into redemption; and where one lets go, another takes hold, so that it is one story. I do not know how it was inspired; but there is the fact. It may be dark about the depths of the book, but it is infinitely darker outside of it. Outside we have nothing; here we do have something. I do see One said to be the Son of God, the Lamb of. God who taketh away the sin of the world, giving to me the fact of peace. I cannot fathom it. Indeed, I do not know why I am cold or why I am warm; but I know when I am cold and when I am warm. I am not able to understand exactly how it is that this that I see lifted on Calvary lifts me up into a better life, but it does.

3. Here is the Church opposed by every possible power, with no human instrumentality to commend it, and yet here it is. Yesterday it was a weakling, with only a dozen followers; to-day it masters all the peoples of the earth and brings them toward itself.

(Bp. Fowler.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

WEB: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known.

Present Knowledge and Future
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