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…
I might observe that our pursuits, our cares, our sorrows, and our joys are too often like those of children, low, trifling, and frivolous. Were we properly affected and informed, we should pursue nothing eagerly but virtue. But how far is this from being the general temper of mankind! Where can we find true manliness and integrity — a steadiness not to be shaken by low passions — a love of truth not to be warped by silly prejudices, and an elevation of mind not to be depressed by the temptations and trials of this world? Children are apt to be wayward, and fickle, and capricious — one moment displeased with what the moment before they admired — delighted with toys, and grieving when a foolish fancy cannot be gratified. Such is also the case with men; nor can I view a courtier, who sets his heart upon a ribbon, in any higher light than I do a child who cries for a trinket, or is proud of his fine clothes. Our levities and inconstancies, our variable and peevish humours, our groundless attachments, our unreasonable prejudices and gross mistakes, all show our weakness, and prove us to be in the infancy of our existence. But it will be proper to explain this subject more distinctly, and to carry our ideas a little higher.
1. Let us, therefore, consider that our present existence, compared with our future, is a childhood in respect of its duration. We are to exist for ever. What, then, is this life? How justly may it be called our childhood? The strict truth is, that it is no more than our entrance into being — our birth into the vast creation — the first glimmering of light at the dawn of day.
2. A gain, this life is our childhood in respect of improvement. At our best state in this world we may say of ourselves, with the utmost propriety, that we know nothing, and are nothing. We now mistake presumption for knowledge, a strange imagination for a sound understanding, and the delusions of passion for the perceptions of truth. Hereafter our intellectual powers will acquire vigour. We shall see intuitively those truths which we now are obliged to make out by long and intricate deductions.
3. I might go on to observe to you that we are now children in respect of power and dignity. Fluctuating at best and very feeble is our present condition. Hereafter our condition will be more fixed and stable. Our powers will be enlarged, and we shall rise to a dignity and weight in the universe of which we can now form no conception.
4. But it is necessary that I should endeavour to give you a yet more accurate view of this subject by observing to you that this life answers to the idea of a childhood, as it is an introduction to, and a state of education for, another and a higher state. Infancy prepares for childhood, and childhood for manhood. As we pass through these several stages, we are continually becoming more and more familiarised to the scene in which we are placed. And it is easy to perceive that were we to be brought into life full grown, or to be made men without passing through infancy and childhood, we should be totally incapable of relishing life, and as unfit for it as we should be for conversation, had we never been taught language; or for enjoyment and happiness, were we destitute of senses. Thus is the beginning of our existence here a natural and necessary preparation for mature life; and in like manner the whole of our mature life itself is a necessary preparation for that future life on which we are to enter at death. Should you ask me here in what manner, and by what means, this life is thus an education for another, I would answer, that it is so particularly by the instruction and the habits which are the necessary consequence to all of passing through this life; but that it is so principally by that instruction in righteousness, and those habits of self-government and virtue which we are put upon acquiring in this life. Virtue, you must always remember, is the grand condition of happiness under the Divine government. Without this we cannot be qualified for permanent existence, or any honourable situation in the universe. It is this, therefore, that we must chiefly be placed here to learn. It is proper to add, that as the Author of nature has so ordered our circumstances in this world as to make early life fit to be an education for mature life, so likewise has He so ordered our circumstances in mature life as to adapt it to the purpose of an education in virtue. We cannot proceed a step in life without finding opportunities for practising some virtue, without being required to resist some temptation, to check some wrong tendency, to discharge some duty, to govern some passion, to cherish some grace, or to stand some trial. Another sense in which our education in this world for another corresponds with our education in early or mature life, is the necessity we are under in both capacities of submitting to spirit and, sometimes, painful discipline, the reason and uses of which we may not be able to understand. Children are trained up by restraint and correction, the tendency of which they do not see, and which, therefore, they are apt to think hard and severe. So it is with us, as probationers and candidates for eternity. It is obvious that our happiness when men depends in a great degree on our conduct when young; and that the turn we take, the habits we contract, and the bent that is given us as we grow up from infancy to maturity, determine the colour and fate of all our subsequent days. Idleness and laziness in youth form a manhood void of worth and dignity; and a worthless and vicious manhood forms a wretched old age. On the contrary, virtuous, faithful, modest, sober, and well-educated youths always come out with advantage into the world. Such is the dependence of our happiness in the successive stages of the present life on our conduct in those which have preceded them; and such, likewise, is the dependence of our happiness in our future stages of existence on our conduct in our present existence. Every particular of what I have just observed of the latter, holds with respect to the former, and our seeing this to be the order of the Divine government in the one case, should silence all objections to the credibility of it in the other. Our education in youth for manhood (we all know) may miscarry, and through negligence and vice leave us deficient, ignorant, worthless, and unhappy; or, on the contrary, it may attain its end, lay the foundation of subsequent honour, and make us wise, and worthy, and respectable. The same is true of our whole education here for eternity. This also may miscarry; and instead of qualifying us for the habitations of the just, and a place among superior beings, it may leave us fit associates only for evil beings, or issue in our ruin; and one of the most terrifying of all reflections is, that in both cases these miscarriages are common.I shall conclude with desiring your attention to the following reflections.
1. It leads us to reflect on the wisdom of God in ordering the scenes of our existence. He causes us to rise gradually, and to qualify ourselves for happiness, as a necessary condition of obtaining it.
2. The subject on which I have been discoursing should teach us patience under the trials of life, and reconcile us to all present difficulties.
3. The observations I have made should render us earnest in our endeavours to make this life what it is designed — a preparation for a better life — an introduction to glory — an education for the joys of angels.
(R. Price, D.D.)
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.