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and it is his delight to bless them as well as us, with the common bounties of the creation, and to do them good. If such is the conduct of his beneficence,how can we do less, as candidates for his especial favour, and for the influences of his paternal love, than extend our kindnesses towards all men,-not only as possessing one common nature with ourselves, but as acknowledging the same God, and dependent on the interceding mercies of the same Redeemer ? The God, “of whom the whole family both in heaven and in earth is named ;” —the Lord Jesus Christ - who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of them that believes,”—require this of us; and if we fulfil the injunction, “great will be our reward in heaven."
IMPERFECTION OF OUR PRESENT KNOWLEDGE.
1 Cor. xiii. 12.
For now, we see through a glass, darkly; but then, face to
face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I also am known.
It has pleased the Divine Wisdom to place man at the head of the earthly creation : and the consequence of this, as respects man himself, is, that he too often presumes upon his superiority, and lays claim to more wisdom and power than belongs to him. He sees nothing in nature that can vie with him, and therefore he thinks that he really is the uncontrolled lord of this lower world. He is not likely to learn humility, unless he views himself as only a dependent link in the chain of the great creation. Something is wanting to bring down his pride, and to make him sensible of his true position :-and this something is religion. God who created man, has condescended to be his instructor ;-and happy are all they who receive such instruction with willingness, and with a teachable mind.
The Corinthians to whom St. Paul wrote, seem to have been inflated with notions of self-importance. They had been brought up amidst the pride of philosophy ; and their conversion to the Christian faith had not eradicated its effects. His Epistle, therefore, to them is altogether admonitory, full of gentle cautions and mild rebukes, as to the errors into which this national conceit had led them — for even the spiritual gifts that had been bestowed upon them, were perverted into materials for nurturing their pride and arrogance. There were contentions among them, upon the point of superiority ; and they were beginning to separate into parties,-one declaring himself to be a disciple of Paul, -another, of Apollos; -another, of Cephas ;-and another of Christ. * They seem to have had, in common with the rest of the Greeks, an overweening regard for human wisdom, in contradistinction to the simplicity of the Gospel. They were, as St. Paul told them, “carnal,”_bent upon strife, and envy, and divisions, tand inclined to litigation. They did not draw a correct line between idolaters and Christians, so as to associate with the one class without giving offence to the other.Their conduct, when they assembled to eat the Lord's Supper, was disorderly ; so much So, that they made the sacrament itself a scene of
* Cor. i. 11, 12. † Ib. iii. 3. I Ib. vi. 1. $ Ib. viii. x.
drunkenness.* These irregularities, and particularly their jealousy and rivalry as to spiritual gifts, drew from the Apostle that animated and incomparable admonition, which, addressed to them as a description of Charity, forms the subject of the chapter from which the text is taken. He represents to them particularly, as connected with our present point of enquiry, the permanence of Charity, and the opposite nature of those spiritual gifts. His own words are:-“Charity never faileth : but whether there be prophesies, they shall fail,—whether there be tongues, they shall cease, - whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” And here, the mention of knowledge, the thing upon which the Corinthians prided themselves the most, leads the Apostle to dilate upon that subject, with a view of rectifying their notions, and teaching them to think soberly of themselves. He suggests to them, that all human knowledge, not excepting even that which is communicated as a spiritual gift from God, is defective, and must of necessity be so, considering the limited faculties of man in the present life. “We know," says he, “in part, and we prophesy in part.” He intimates, however, that a time will come, when these deficiences and imperfections shall be remedied: for he tells them that “when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” Here, by “that which is perfect,” he evidently means the fulness of knowledge that shall open upon
* Cor. xi. 20.
man's mind in the future state of blessedness. He supposes that our present state of ignorance, as compared with that future state of knowledge, may bear some resemblance to that of the child whose mind is not yet matured or informed, as compared with that of a full-grown man, whose judgment has been disciplined, and whose intellect has been stored by learning and experience..-“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.” And then he concludes this part of his subject in the words of the text: “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part ; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.'
What we behold in a glass or mirror, is not the thing itself which that mirror represents to us, but is only the image or reflected appearance of that thing. The comparison which the Apostle borrows from this fact, to describe the imperfection of our knowledge in our earthly state, is as just, as it is ingenious and elegant. Our minds are busied with the appearances of things ; but how little of their reality do we know ! We observe their outward qualities ; we are conscious of the impressions they make on our senses : and yet, of their essential nature, and of that which makes them to be whạt they are, and nothing else, we are and always have been utterly ignorant. Whatever may be the extent of our observations, and how great soever may be the store of facts upon which we rea