1 Corinthians 13:8-10
Charity never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease…
The Scriptures abound in reflections upon the weakness and short-sightedness of the human mind. Now, it is observable that the atheist and sceptic have taken up the strain of Scripture, and striven to turn,, its weapons against itself and its friends. "How blind and weak, how poor and miserable," they repeat, "the creature to whom you yet assign so splendid a destiny! "I accept the issue which atheism and infidelity thus present. I will reason for the magnificent prospects of man on the very ground here taken, of his weaknesses and diseases, his griefs and fears. I will show that there is no incongruity in Holy Writ, when in one breath it tells of man's miseries and vanities, and in the next of his unending life and glories. For, "I know in part": what does this mean, but that I have an idea of more knowledge than I actually possess, believe myself capable of greater acquisitions, and see the domain of wisdom stretching out beyond my present reach, and inviting my further pursuit? Why be straitened in my limits, but that my true element is the unbounded? Could we glorify man's present spiritual advances, and celebrate the complete beauty of his intellectual furniture, the argument for immortality would not be so strong. We might think the mind had drunk its fill here, and accomplished its destiny. The same argument might be pushed as to all the limitations, sadnesses, and defects of our nature. With what a wreck of plans and hopes, enterprises and calculations, is the shore of eternity strewn! If the soul's measure be in this weaver's shuttle of time, with no threads woven to reach across the span of earth, death is untimely and the tomb premature. Look out upon all nature, and see the exquisite perfection of every object there. From the blade of grass to the everlasting stars, there is no deviation from the law of order or the line of beauty. Everything seems to accomplish its work, and fulfil its design. There is nothing more to be wished or expected. The astronomer detects no lawless course, no really, however for a time apparently, irregular or straying motion. So perfect is nature, from the fine dust of the balance to the revolutions of the sky. But the human mind rises up the vast, lonely exception to this hair-breadth completeness of the world. Recogniser of the perfection of all things else, itself alone is imperfect. It conceives of a knowledge transcendent. It conceives of a purity shaming its pollution. It conceives of a blessedness to which earth's joys are but glimpses of light and breakings in a stormy sky. Now God, the perfect One, deals not in fragments, like some weak human artist who may overlay the walls of his chamber with attempts at an entire beauty. But if this human soul, in the very beginning of its aspirings, is to cease at death, then there is a fragment indeed, one colossal frustration and stupendous anomaly. Man, whom He made the lord of the universe, is the broken column, while everything beside is whole! Were there any sign of the soul's filling out its defects and putting away its limitations, the argument would be less strong. But its growth, marked at any point, followed in any direction, requires still a lengthened being. A late traveller observed in the city of Jerusalem the fragment of an arch on the wall of the temple; and, tracing it according to the principles of its construction, concluded it must have been designed to spring as a bridge across the adjoining valley. So, if this little arc of the human mind, which we can here trace, be constructed upon true principles, it must mount over the dark valley of the shadow of death, the stream of time must flow away beneath it. while the course of an immortal destination opens before it. Else, denying this, we charge the Supreme Architect with fault. I would, then, found an argument for immortality on the apostle's declaration, "Now I know in part." Even did I adopt Hume's philosophy of universal scepticism, I should still say the intellect is made for truth, and must have time for its inquiry and doubt to end in the satisfactions of knowledge. I know this is the commonly accepted mode of reasoning. I know it is usual to draw religious arguments from man's positive abilities; but I would draw them from his vast defects. It is usual to draw them from his great triumphs; I would draw them from his signal failures. The train of reflections to which our text has led, accords with the old tenor of Scripture. The gospel of Christ speaks no flattering words to our vanity; it paints in no high colours our powers and acquirements. It rather digs beneath the highblown pride, fond fancy, and blind self-complacency of the human soul, to lay the foundation of that structure, which shall reach to heaven, in its feeling of weakness, in its confession of ignorance, in its sense of unworthiness, in its pangs of grief, and prayers for Divine aid.
(C. A. Bartol.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.