CLXXIV. The Limitation of Knowledge.

1 COR. xvii. 9. “Now we know in part.”

ST. PAUL is placing knowledge in contrast with love. He
implies that knowledge belongs to the present in its essence;
love only in its form. But love abideth for ever, and know-
ledge is the minister of love.
1. Our knowledge is limited, (1) in range, (2) in form, (3)
by circumstances. But Paul teaches us to see that these
mysteries are an important factor in our lives. He rounds
off life on this side and that, not with a sleep, but with the
glory of the invisible.
II. The fullest recognition of the limitations of knowledge
is not only helpful but essential for the fulfilment of our
several tasks. We are tempted to make our own knowledge,
our own thoughts, our own experience, an absolute standard.
On the other hand, we are tempted to apply a dominant
method to subjects that do not admit it. It requires a
serious effort to acknowledge that others have the power
of seeing what we cannot see, and watchful self-denial to ad-
mit that a method rich in splendid results and great promise
has no place in the highest subjects of human interest.
III. These words describe the powers by which our efforts
are made effective. We advance towards the limits of an
attainable knowledge by every fragmentary movement. We
look upon the fullest vision of the truth in the combination
of parts held separately. This is the Divine law of spiritual
progress and spiritual apprehension. The manifold endow-
ments of the nations are made contributory to the evolving
of the everlasting Gospel.
IV. This paradox is the very joy of life. We know all,
and we have still much to learn. Our strength is to feel that
the end given to us is not yet gained. It is no disrespect
to our fathers if we allow that their words were not final;
it is no flattery to our sons if we bid them make good new
conquests.
Perfect knowledge would be the sentence of spiritual
death: “The whole can increase no more, is dwarfed, and
dies.” But let us thank God we know in part: and we
know Him that is true. That is the double thought able
to move us and to calm us; to move us by the call of
indisputable sovereignty, to calm us by the presence of
unfailing love.
Brooke Foss Westcott

print
Spread God's love