"When I became a man, I put away childish things."
—I Cor. xiii. 11.
I Must bid farewell to the light-hearted gaiety of the little child. For, take it as a whole, childhood brims over with happiness, and carries no burdens of responsibility, and is full of laughter and buoyancy and song. There are parallel experiences of the spirit, when the sense of pardon and the great love of God and the new sun that brings the new year are all fresh and novel and gladdening. The liberty and the joy are to continue ; but other elements must come in soon to modify and solemnise them. I must be strenuous, serious, awake to the possibilities and tasks and dangers of life. Thought, prayer, decision, energy, are requisite. I have no right to be simply gay and untroubled.
Side by side with the child's license is the child's limitation ; and that, also, must diminish as my life matures. In infancy and youth I am set in a sphere of definite precepts." Parents first season us ; then schoolmasters deliver us to laws." Thus it is that I begin to live in the family of the redeemed, asking a guidance that is very specific, and afraid to take a step without the sanction of God's Thou shalt. It is a beautiful anxiety, and it will never be quite abandoned. But a man, if he is to be manly, must be ordered by deep principles rather than by minute commandments. Let me steep myself in the atmosphere of the Word and the Spirit, and I shall leave nursery and schoolroom.
The child's intelligence, moreover, is crude and elementary, however quaint and suggestive the fancies and surmises of the little one often are. His ideas need correction, adjustment, expansion. And in the dawn of my new day, I have but a few themes which absorb me utterly—the magnitude of my sin, and the magnitude of my Lord's forgiving grace. I would never lose my vivid realisation of these magnitudes. But I have many things yet to learn: truth and holiness, service and patience and courage, the sweet uses of adversity and the strong comforts of hope. In understanding I should be a man ; and I maim myself and mar my testimony if I tarry a child.
It is a childish religion, also, which attaches an excessive value to outward forms, making godliness an affair of ceremonies and sacraments, an honouring of days and weeks and months and years. There is a prettiness, an allurement, an appeal about stately rites and priestly functions. But they are puerile, and fitted for a state of pupillage and minority. Now abideth faith, hope, love : that is a man's religion, and up to that St. Paul summons me to rise. I need the Bible, indeed, and the Sabbath, and the historical Christ; but let me probe down to their inward and saving significance, and let me stand fast in the liberty wherewith I have been made free, refusing stoutly to be entangled in any yoke of bondage.