The Successive Stages of Life
1 John 2:13
I write to you, fathers, because you have known him that is from the beginning. I write to you, young men…

Here the aged apostle has a message of affection for every class and age of Christian disciples. And is it not wise for Christian teachers occasionally to proclaim to Christians some message designedly appropriate to each particular stage? For the cycle of man's fleeting life, like the cycle of the revolving year, has its succession of seasons — its springtime of childhood, its summer of youth, its autumn of maturity, and its winter of old age. Each of these succeeding seasons of life has its own joys and sorrows, weakness and strength, temptations, besetting sins, and preventing graces. And the gospel has a message appropriate for each period in life.

I. It has, first of all, a message for LITTLE CHILDREN. Very beautiful and wonderful it is to think of Jesus, the Son of God, as the Babe of Bethlehem, passing through every stage of infancy, with all a child's trials, thoughts, hopes, fears, imaginings. Never before, in the history of the world, had any religion taken little children so closely and so warmly to its heart. And do not little children stand in need of the gospel of Christ? A child's life is often a very mingled life. Heaven often lies about us in our infancy, but often also heaven seems to flee quite far away. In every fortress of innocence there lurks some evil traitor, waiting to hand over the keys of the citadel to the temptations crouching at the gates. Little children, therefore, need all the help which parental discipline and affection, Combined with religious education and good companionship, can render in their conflict against evil. But, my children, you cannot lead good and beautiful lives by simply trusting to your training. In religion, as in all things else, self-help and firm resolve are of the greatest importance.

II. Now pass from childhood to the second stage of life — YOUTH. The season of youth is a very glad and glorious time. It has all the freshness of spring and all the fertility of summer. Yet it is a season of great and frequent perils. And Jesus, the Son of God, under stood both its glory and its danger (Mark 10:17-22). The self-sacrificing love of Christ is the most powerful of all magnets for attracting the devotion of the young. What young man who steadfastly gazes upon the spectacle of the Cross can withstand its blessed influence and its strong, appealing power? To show thee the pitiless violence of sin, as well as to enable thee to conquer it, Christ gave Himself up for thee with broken heart, yet unbending determination, upon the cruel Cross. Wilt thou not, then, make Him thy hero, thy model, thy all-inspiring friend?

III. Our text has also a message for THE AGED. Old age, like every other season of life, has its own besetting sins and its own appropriate graces. The forms of sin change with the changing course of years. As the hot fires of vigour die down into cold cinders of decrepitude, the gay, thoughtless, and softly indulgent youth hardens into the cynical, envious, covetous, ambitious old man. On the other hand, old age has also its special graces. Especially do these graces shine in those who, "from the beginning," have been true and faithful unto Christ. He will not disdain the gleanings of your latest years, if with all your heart you truly seek Him. But for you, conscript fathers of the Church of Christ, there is a richer and a brighter message. You have known Christ from the beginning of your pilgrimage. You were faithful in the bursting freshness of spring, in the wearying heats of summer. You know by this time what God is; you have proved Him to the uttermost in childhood, youth, and maturer years. Experience has taught you that He never fails. And so for you there remains the special grace of the aged — the grace which transfigures the wrinkled face with the radiance of inward joy, and sets the golden crown of perfect peace upon the snowy head. For you, the seed graces of spring and the flower graces of summer, have developed into the rich fruit graces of autumn. Self-control has ripened into self-conquest; kindness has been hallowed into love; the heavy morning of self-denial has brightened into the cloudless day of self-repose; the toil of the ascent has been repaid by the landscape from the summit. Nor is this all. The sunset, too, is glorious. And after sunset, as the twilight of evening deepens into the darkness of night, the stars begin to peep in the roof of heaven, stars which were invisible by day. And when death itself shall appear to you, ye old and faithful servants of the Lord, it will be not death, but victory.

(Canon Diggle.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.

WEB: I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, little children, because you know the Father.

The Strength of Young Men
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