The New England Primer, the first textbook printed in America, was the beginning textbook for school children for about the first 200 years of our country (1690 to 1900). The initial lessons of the Primer introduce the alphabet with a biblical rhyme for each letter:
A—In Adam’s fall / We sinned all.
B—Heaven to find, / The Bible mind.
C—Christ crucify’d / For sinners dy’d.
On several occasions when I was in graduate school, I heard a certain older Christian brother use the particular expression “A is for Adam, and C is for Christ” when he was speaking to college students. He was obviously playing off of the children’s rhyme from The New England Primer and applying it to our pursuit of good grades in school. He would share with the college students that Christ is our life and the church is our living, and that, as students, we should not develop a habit of letting our education get in the way of us giving ourselves to morning revival, Bible reading, attending the regular meetings of the church, or even attending the conferences. Otherwise, later in life we will have many more excuses for missing the meetings with the Lord and with the church, and we will be robbed of the experience of Christ and the church life.
Some student might argue, “I have a paper due tomorrow, so I cannot attend the prayer meeting tonight.” Another may claim, “I have two exams next week, so I cannot attend the college conference this weekend.” This older brother’s phrase was addressing this kind of thought or attitude without mincing words: “A is for Adam, and C is for Christ.” In other words, if you study all weekend (and that is a big if), you might get an “A” on your exams, but you missed Christ. Would you rather get an “A” and miss Christ, or get a “C” and gain Christ? Old Adam will always have a good excuse, a valid excuse, an excuse that no one can argue with. No, this older brother was not promoting that we neglect our human responsibilities, but he knew full well that the college years were a person’s golden years. A person has more free time in his college years than he ever will for the rest of his life. If he makes excuses for missing morning revival or Bible reading or the meetings of the church when he is in college, do we think that he will have fewer excuses when he is working for IBM, when he has a wife, when he has children? Surely the excuses (and very good and reasonable excuses) will be endless then. But if the college student develops the habit of giving Christ the preeminence, then the impact on the rest of his life is far-reaching indeed. Incidentally, we heard many stories of students who, despite having exams the week after the conference, went to the conference and gained Christ and also did well on their exams. They did their best to organize their time and study beforehand, and the Lord really honored their consecration.
I will never forget the summer of 1993. That was the time I was wrapping up my PhD dissertation and preparing for the defense. It was also time for a semi-annual training on Joshua, Judges, and Ruth (28 messages). The training would last for two weeks and end on July 19th. My defense was scheduled for the morning of Monday, July 20th. Should I forego the training this year and study like crazy for these two weeks? By the Lord’s mercy I chose Christ and registered for the training. The initial impression I had in the first messages is unforgettable: “Moses My servant is dead; now then arise, and cross over this Jordan, you and all this people…. And the waters [of the Jordan]…stood and rose up in a heap a great distance away” (Joshua 1:2; 3:16a). On July 20th, 1993, something almost unheard of occurred. I stepped into the “Jordan River”, the waters rolled back in a heap, and I walked through on dry land—the oral defense in front of the faculty of that Department took about 15 minutes, and I walked into the full-time service of my Lord.
“A is for Adam, and C is for Christ” is an expression that is absolutely full of rich meaning for me. Having been married now for more than two decades and in the process of raising two children, I can testify that the habits I developed in college (because of the kind of speaking outlined above) are still paying dividends today. I have never regretted giving Christ the preeminence in my life in many practical ways.
Colossians 1:18—And He is the Head of the Body, the church; He is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead, that He Himself might have the first place in all things;