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…
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.