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. This is the only reference which the apostle makes to his childhood, and without dwelling on the connection, the reference is beautiful and touching. He was born at Tarsus, of respectable parents, tentmakers probably. Whether he had brothers we cannot tell, but he had a sister, for "his sister's son" came to him (Acts 23.) "Circumcised on the eighth day," his name was then called Saul, probably after the first king of Israel, who was of the same tribe. For the first few years of his life we may suppose him, like other children, chiefly given to play; while the daily associations of Jewish life and character would gradually mould his being. It would seem that he had a pious ancestry and kindred, for he says, "I serve God from my forefathers." Daily worship, reading from Old Testament Scripture, mingled with his earliest experiences, and unconsciously influenced his mind. That home of his childhood was intensely Jewish. A "Hebrew of the Hebrews," we must suppose him to have been educated with intense abhorrence for Christians and Christ. It is in reference to such things as these, he thought, when he used these significant words.
2. Turning from the apostle to ourselves, we might pursue a similar train of thought with regard to our childhood.
(1) "When I was a child," one would say, "I was surrounded, not like Saul, with religious influence, but with everything that was bad."(2) "My childhood," another would say, "was spent in what ought to have been a happy home, but misunderstanding and discord made it anything but that, and the effect is I am a misanthrope."(3) "Mine," a third would say, "was the childhood of frivolity and fashion. In all senses my childhood and youth were 'vanity.' I was trained a trifler, and, as the result, I am mentally and morally a dwarf."(4) "When I was a child," another would say, "I was trained for heaven and for Christ, and so long as memory lasts, the recollection of my childhood will be to me an impulse to duty and a lustre to life," and so on. But now let us look at what is common to childhood as such.
I. HOW BEAUTIFUL THE DIVINE ARRANGEMENT ACCORDING TO WHICH CHILDHOOD GRADUALLY UNFOLDS! He who formed our first parents complete could as easily have done so with us. But it is best as it is.
1. God has given us forms of beauty everywhere, but nowhere more strikingly than in the openings of life.
2. More than this, He has thus multiplied enjoyment. Each age, as each season, has its peculiar joys.
3. We see, too, an indication of the way in which the great Worker works always — ever gradually. Childhood gradually unfolds into youth. We foolish creatures are in haste for results; God teaches us alike in nature, providence, and grace to wait and be patient.
4. While thus acting what benefit does He secure? How great the benefit to the young, teaching them lessons of docility, patience, submission; and to adults forbearance, watchfulness, etc. Imagine life without childhood, home without children.
5. If there were no higher advantage, what a benefit is the naturalness of the arrangement! The child speaking, thinking, understanding "as a child," not trying to do more; so often rebuking thus our unreal and artificial modes of adult life.
II. HOW IMPORTANT THAT WE SHOULD RECOGNISE THIS DIVINE ARRANGEMENT, AND SEEK TO OBEY IT!
1. Recollect the capacity of the child in your teaching. He speaks "as a child," and will only understand you as you do the same, and then not according to your meaning of the words, but his own, for he thinks "as a child."
2. Recognise this, too, in your expectations. You may not expect too much. They think and feel "as children," and not even grace will destroy the force of child nature. Nor ought you to wish it.
III. HOW OBVIOUS OUR DUTY, SUCH BEING THE CONDITION OF CHILDHOOD!
1. You, dear children, must be willing to submit to such training as your condition requires.
(1) Obedience is the first lesson God expects you to learn. Nor forget that disobedience to parents, or those who for the time stand in their place, is a great sin. Remember on the one hand Hophni and Phinehas, and Absalom, and on the other Timothy and Jesus. "Honour thy father and thy mother," which is the first commandment with promise.
(2) Seek the Saviour. Of Josiah we read that when but eight years old his heart was tender, and he feared God. Your hearts are tender, not yet "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin"; while they are so, submit to the guidance of Jesus!
2. Parents, teachers, see that your duty is wisely and faithfully fulfilled. Strive to have an intelligent appreciation of what your work is. In each of those minds and characters under your care are latent powers. You are to develop them. How? As the sun does the bud of the flower — by shining upon them. Only thus will they unfold to you.
IV. HOW MUCH ENCOURAGEMENT IS AFFORDED TO THOSE WHO ARE THE GUIDES AND INSTRUCTORS OF CHILDHOOD.
1. Were the material on which you are called to act stereotyped, your task would be hopeless. It is because it is so plastic that you may work with the prospect of success. We cannot tell how early the Spirit of God may work upon the opening mind of children.
2. Remember what God has said about this seed-time! "Cast thy bread upon the waters, and thou shalt find it after many days." Whence have the majority of Christian men and women had their origin? Has it not been from the ranks of pious families, Christian schools?
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.