1 Corinthians 13:9-10
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.…
We wish we knew more. To appreciate the fact that we know but little, and to understand some of the reasons why, will help us to be more reconciled to our own ignorance and to that of others, and will contribute to remove some of the obstacles that lie in the way of a completer knowledge.
I. WE ARE BORN WITH AN EYE GRADUATED TO SOME PARTICULAR TRUTH OR TRUTHS, and not with a vision that spreads itself with equal facility over all truths.
1. It is no fault of ours that we cannot see the Southern Cross. That constellation does not form part of the heavens under which God intended us to live. If it had fallen to our lot to dwell in Patagonia, then we should have lived under its blaze, and it would then have been impossible for us to make out the Great Bear. No eye is able to see everything, and each eye has an outlook of its own.
2. Truth is like a diamond, and you must shift your position in order to catch the particular flash from each individual facet; which is what in the matter of truth we do not and cannot do. We can migrate from latitude to latitude, and skip from street to street; but as regards truth, we can change neither our nationality nor our address; truth is fixed, and we are born fixed in our relation to it. We are individually created into a specific angle with the truth. Truth individualises itself to each eye and makes only minute donations to each. It is with us in this respect much as it is with objects in their relation to a sunbeam, where one sort of material will pull the blue out of it; another the green; another the red, and so on through the entire bundle of colour bound up in a white ray. In the same way, each mind picks the particular truth that is native to it.
3. It is the way we are made. It has its advantages; some one aspect of truth we have power to take hold of and to feel keenly. It results in each man having his own little patch of truth to cultivate, and by that means he doubtless gets more produce on to the world's market than he would do if he had a whole hundred acre lot to cultivate scatteringly.
4. That ought to keep us steadily at work on constructive lines, not destructive ones; telling what little we do see and know, and letting the rest go. A star is not brilliant because I happen to see it; it is brilliant because — it is brilliant. Exactly so it is of a truth. If there is some reality that your mind looks right into, but that your Christian neighbour has no sense of and no care for, it is not because he is a theological idiot, but because your little star does not happen to shine where he stands.
II. WE ALLOW THE ONE PARTICULAR BENT THAT WE ARE BORN WITH TO ASSERT A DESPOTISM OVER US.
1. If, e.g., there is some particular truth of God's Word that we have a native bias for, we shall be almost certain to make that determine for us the portions of Scripture that we shall admit to our thought and our confidence; much as the one glowing constellation that is in the direct range of our vision will be almost certain to prevent our scouring around to detect others imperfectly disclosed.
2. The same holds of other books as well as of the Bible. Look at the library of any Christian thinker, and you will be able to determine what his theological bent is. The very particularity of his view operates to keep it narrow, and his will only be those that he can use as whet-stones upon which to whet his particularity down to a thinner edge.
3. Then, too, the habit of thinking along some congenial line, not only weakens our interest in truth lying upon other lines, but sometimes even impairs our power of appreciating truth lying upon them. Just as a creature needs a different bodily construction to enable him to live upon land from what he does to exist in water, so, to a certain degree, a different equipment is required to live and think in a region of spirit from what is required to adapt one to a world of matter; and the more exclusively we are habituated to the former, the more awkward it will make us when we undertake to make any headway in the latter. Some of us use our scientific faculties so little that they become aborted and we lose all power to appreciate scientific facts. And the converse of that is equally true.
4. So that in these days, when there is being so strong a pressure brought to bear in behalf of those branches of knowledge that deal with matter only, if you want your boy to be a Christian, see to it that he gets his mind trained in those faculties that will especially be called in play in the discernment and appreciation of spiritual truth.
III. BY A DELIBERATE ACT OF OUR OWN WILL WE VETO THE TRUTH.
1. Truth depends for its power upon the concurrence of the mind as much as light depends for its power on the concurrence of the eye. A truth coming to us always knocks at the door and then stands outside waiting till some one comes and answers. No man is likely to be persuaded against his will. We personally decide just how much God's Word shall do for us and how far it shall go with us. The preacher never drives it in; we let it in, and just as far as we choose. Good hearing is a far more difficult art than good preaching.
2. Christ had perfect confidence in the truth, and He had just as much confidence that when once the heart had taken the truth fairly in, something would come of it; the parable of the sower teaches that. It may rain as hard as ever it did in the days of old Noah, but the rain will start no grass so long as the downpour falls on to frozen ground.
IV. THERE ARE CERTAIN ELEMENTS OF CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE THAT CAN COME ONLY WITH THE YEARS AND INDEED WITH THE CENTURIES.
1. Experience is the only perfect teacher. We can of course crowd ourselves with facts, but that is not wisdom. Wisdom is gained by the process of somehow letting the threads of truth weave themselves into the tissue of our own life; and therefore it is not a thing to be hurried any more than you can hurry the growing of the corn. You will have to visit the country before ever you will quite understand what you have so painstakingly learned. Experience is expository; the Bible illuminates us but we illuminate the Bible. We make the Bible ours by our becoming its. We do not understand the publican until we have been on our knees by his side. We do not fathom the story of the prodigal until we have returned from the far country and have known what it is to stand in restored relations with that father. Is there any one of us who feels that he has more than merely begun to understand this chapter?
2. The simple change, too, that comes with our steady departure from childhood to manhood brings us on to a new side of some matters. Perhaps we have found out that life is not what we once thought it was going to be. Possibly the present is not quite so real as it used to be, and very likely the great future is growing upon us. One day I was looking at two large telescopic photographs of the moon, one taken when it was at its full, the other a week later. In the latter, some of the mountains that showed dull and lustreless in the earlier view, came out bright, as in the meantime the sun had passed along to the point where it could illumine the evening slopes, I remarked this to the dealer whose hair had been whitened by the years. "Yes," he said, very quietly, but quite cheerily, withal, "Yes, the lights are very differently arranged when you get into the last quarter."
(C. H. Parkhurst, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.