1 Corinthians 13:2
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith…
1. Ours is an age of great intellectual activity. In former times, first physical strength, then birth or hereditary rank, then and almost till now, wealth, have successively been the measures of greatness. But now the aristocracy of the world is an aristocracy of intellect. But there is danger that, while we rejoice in having found something better than men used to seek and strive for, we may not recognise that which alone is supremely good. Religion is the life of the affections; and in the reverence now paid to intellect there is danger that religion be undervalued, and that the affections, which are its throne, receive much less than their due regard and cultivation.
2. By the religious life I mean a life, not of mere proprieties, but of love. It includes, first, the thankful recognition of a present God, and the exercise of the affections in worship and obedience; then and thence, the cherishing of sincere brotherly love towards our fellow-men.
I. THE LIFE OF THE AFFECTIONS IS ESSENTIAL TO THE FULL DEVELOPMENT AND HEALTHY WORKING OF THE INTELLECT. The affections are our highest faculties. They have the nearest view of truth, and the strongest hold upon it. Of the men who have essentially connected their names with the progress of the race, there has been hardly one whose mind was not trained by religious faith. There exists an essential connection of cause and effect between the life of the heart and that of the mind, and the highest walks of intellectual greatness cannot be reached without the keenness, breadth, and loftiness of vision which religion alone can supply. There are many men who exert no intellectual influence, simply because they have no moral power. They are shrewd, well-informed, and of admirable executive capacity; and yet you cannot render them confidence, because their views are all sordid, narrow, and selfish.
II. COMPARE THE LIFE OF THE AFFECTIONS AND THAT OF THE INTELLECT AS TO THE PROMISE OF SUCCESS AND ATTAINMENT. In every path of intellectual effort the prizes are but for few. But the high places of moral excellence are within the reach of all. How much nearer absolute perfection can we approach in the moral than in the intellectual life! Our growth in knowledge is growth in conscious ignorance. But of the life of the affections, of that love which mounts to the throne of God, and excludes none of His children from its embrace, the Divine Teacher has said, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." The wisest men have always been outgrown in a few generations. We look down on all ancient wisdom as men used to look up to it; and future generations will learn in their infant schools truths that have but just dawned upon the greatest minds of the present day. But a good man the world never outgrows, never looks down upon.
III. COMPARE THE LIFE OF MERE INTELLECT WITH THAT OF THE AFFFCTIONS AS TO THE POWER OF RESISTING TEMPTATION. It is a common idea that a clear mind and an accurate perception of the qualities and tendencies of actions are enough to save one from moral degradation. But I have known men, second to none of our day in mental power and culture, ensnared in palpable and gross meanness, and many of the highest mental endowments sleep in early graves dug by their own profligacy. But the affections, fixed on a present God, and filling the life with charity, have power over every meaner propensity of our nature. The soul that prays has ever at hand a name in which it can bid the tempter depart.
IV. THE LIFE OF INTELLECT HAS ITS MERIDIAN AND THEN ITS DECLINE. One must expect to see more recent wisdom preferred to his own. And he who is thus set aside, if possessed of no moral resources, grows almost uniformly unhappy and misanthropic. But moral qualities fade not with declining years. The plants of our Heavenly Father's planting are all evergreens. Nor yet is the good man, in his old age, thrust aside, or willingly spared from his post of duty. Veneration and love for him only grow the more intense and tender as his steps tremble on the margin of eternity.
V. IT BECOMES EVERY PRUDENT MAN to take some account of that only event, death, which is sure to all. Did you know death to be close at hand, as it may be, is there anything in mere attainments which would nerve you to meet the last hour with serenity, confidence, and hope?
(A. Peabody, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.