Acts 1:7
Jesus replied, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.
Sermons
The Unknown To-MorrowAlexander MaclarenActs 1:7
Christ's Mission and OursS. Conway Acts 1:1-8
A True Commencement Must have Respect to What has Gone BeforeH. C. Trumbull, D. D.Acts 1:1-12
Aspects of Christ on the EarthActs 1:1-12
Christ Directs Thought to HeavenActs 1:1-12
Christ Preceding His Apostles to HeavenA. Maclaren, D. DActs 1:1-12
Christ's Finished and Unfinished WorkA. Maclaren, D. DActs 1:1-12
Jesus LivesJ. Stoughton.Acts 1:1-12
Literary HistoriesW. R. Campbell.Acts 1:1-12
St. Luke a Model for the Bible StudentR. Burgess, B. D.Acts 1:1-12
Teaching to be Combined with DoingGf. Pentecost.Acts 1:1-12
The Ascending LordMonday ClubActs 1:1-12
The Ascension of ChristJ W. Hamilton.Acts 1:1-12
The Ascension: its Central PositionNesselmann.Acts 1:1-12
The Beginning of Apostolicity (1J. Parker, D. D.Acts 1:1-12
The Beginning of Apostolicity (2J. Parker, D. D.Acts 1:1-12
The Coronation of ChristW. B. Campbell.Acts 1:1-12
The Ever-Active ChristA. Verran.Acts 1:1-12
The Gospels and the ActsW. Arnot, D. D.Acts 1:1-12
The Gospels the Living Picture of ChristLittle's "Historical Lights."Acts 1:1-12
The Last Days of the Gospel PeriodW. Hudson.Acts 1:1-12
The Memorabilia of ChristActs 1:1-12
The Ministry of Jesus a BeginningW. Hudson.Acts 1:1-12
The Permanence of Christ in HistoryA. Maclaren, D. DActs 1:1-12
The Pre-Eminence of the Doctrine of Christ IncarnateEvangelical MagazineActs 1:1-12
The Resurrection and Ascension of ChristD. Jennings.Acts 1:1-12
The Unchanged PlanW. R. Campbell.Acts 1:1-12
The Uniqueness of Christ's Earthly MinistryD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 1:1-12
TheophilusBp. Jacobsen.Acts 1:1-12
A Witnessing ChurchG. Smeaton, D. D.Acts 1:4-8
Last WordsJ. R. Thomson, M. A.Acts 1:4-8
No Better for the Baptism of FireW. M. Punshon.Acts 1:4-8
Our Need of the Holy SpiritH. W. Beecher.Acts 1:4-8
The Ascension of ChristD. J. Burrell, D. D.Acts 1:4-8
The Baptism of the Holy GhostT. W. Jenkyn, D. D.Acts 1:4-8
The Disciples Waiting At Jerusalem for the Promise of the FatherW. Cousin.Acts 1:4-8
The Gospel First Tested At JerusalemWilliams of Wern.Acts 1:4-8
The Lord's Last Command to His DisciplesW. Hudson.Acts 1:4-8
The Need of WaitingW. E. Chadwick, M. A.Acts 1:4-8
The Power of the Holy SpiritActs 1:4-8
The Promise of the FatherS. S. TimesActs 1:4-8
The Promise of the SpiritC. Hodge, D. D.Acts 1:4-8
The Saviour's Last ChargeW. Halls.Acts 1:4-8
The Spirit Essential to the Establishment of the Christian ChurchJ. Morgan, D. D.Acts 1:4-8
True BaptismPreacher's AnalystActs 1:4-8
Waiting for the Promise of the FatherC. J. Brown, D. D.Acts 1:4-8
Waiting Upon God in His OrdinancesActs 1:4-8
Carnal Conceptions of Christ's KingdomR. Tuck Acts 1:6, 7
Before the AscensionT. H. Barnett.Acts 1:6-8
Christ's Last Instruction to His ApostlesW. Hudson.Acts 1:6-8
Christ's Last Words to His DisciplesD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 1:6-8
Craving for Forbidden KnowledgeP.C. Barker Acts 1:6-8
Ensnared by InquisitivenessScientific IllustrationsActs 1:6-8
God has His Own PlansH. W. Beecher.Acts 1:6-8
God's Decisions UnknownLyman Abbott, D. D.Acts 1:6-8
God's Plans are in His Own KeepingPhillips Brooks.Acts 1:6-8
Human Knowledge LimitedF. N. Peloubet.Acts 1:6-8
Last WordsE. Johnson Acts 1:6-8
Limitation of Human KnowledgeT. De Witt Talmage.Acts 1:6-8
Mysteries in NatureProf. C. A. Young.Acts 1:6-8
Prophecy: Fantastic Interpretation OfC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 1:6-8
Prophecy: Purpose OfH. W. Beecher.Acts 1:6-8
Speculations Versus DutyC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 1:6-8
The Benefits to Character of Ignorance of the FutureT. D. Woolsey, D. D.Acts 1:6-8
The Disciples' QuestionJ. P. Lunge, D. D.Acts 1:6-8
The Sufficiency of Human KnowledgeT. Carlyle.Acts 1:6-8
Times and SeasonsF. W. Brown.Acts 1:6-8
Times and Seasons not to be Known by the Best of MenT. Horton, D. D.Acts 1:6-8
Times MisinterpretedJ. Jacox, B. A.Acts 1:6-8
The Ascension. Heaven and Earth Visibly UnitedR.A. Redford Acts 1:6-11

I. WISTFULNESS ABOUT THE FUTURE. A curiosity mingled of fear and hope stirs in the disciples minds. The present oppresses; we seek escape into dreams of a happy past or future. There is an clement of truth and of illusion in these cravings.

II. ILLUSORY THOUGHTS OF THE FUTURE. The cherished dream of Israel for five centuries had been the restoration of the temporal power of David's throne. It was a fixed idea, and here reappears. So have we all our fixed ideas, and cannot conceive a happy future out of their sphere. But God's unfolding realities prove better than our sensuous dreams.

III. DIVINE EVASION OF HUMAN QUESTIONINGS ABOUT THE FUTURE.

1. No fixed knowledge of the future, its changes, and those epochs, can be ours. With all our science we cannot touch the beginnings, therefore not the issues, of things. History is a Divine poem, and God does not permit us to guess at the denouement or catastrophe of events. The unexpected happens, and Providence is full of surprises. Enough for us to read the unrolling page from day to day, and subdue our wishes to the actual, rather than measure the actual by our wishes.

2. Strength for the future is enough, and this may be ours. Power, inner power, spiritual power, in other words, a full and vigorous life-consciousness, is what we need. This is promised. But not if we are seeking sensual and selfish ends. Power is imparted for God's ends. Only on condition that we are given up to God's will can we work for God's ends, or enjoy the power thereto. The laws of the kingdom are as strict as any we learn from nature. The narrowing of Divine thoughts to our own petty notions of advantage means desertion and weakness; the inclusion of our purposes within the infinite purpose means strength. All true life-acting may be regarded as witness. Each man stands for some principle, expresses some leading thought in his action. What do we represent? What tale does our life tell from day to day? What negative or what positive is it that our individual life makes clear in the scheme of things? The pessimism of unbelief or the optimism of profound faith in the laws of God's world? To witness for the eternal Truth and Love gives joy and zest to existence; to have no report or message to bring to others of aught felt or tasted of the good of life is vacancy and sadness. The Christian witness is above all of the life of which mere words are a poor transcript. If in some way or other our life clearly affirms the goodness of God by reflecting him, this is witness for him. And the ways of witness are manifold as the glory of the stars, the colors and forms of the flowers. There are special testimonies to special facts or truths which have their place and season and no other; but in all places and times the whole life-witness silently tells. The "living epistle "is intelligible in every tongue and to all orders of minds. - J.







Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
I. THE QUESTION OF THE APOSTLES.

1. The great awe produced by the first appearances of the risen Christ has worn off during the forty days. He and His are engaged in familiar converse as in days of old.

2. The apostles are not backward to ask a question; and it reveals their old notions of Messianic dominion still indulged. They still think of the restoration of "the kingdom to Israel."

3. But their expectations are now high and eager.(1) They feel the power of God's kingdom in their hearts.(2) They have been told of the "promise of the Father" (ver. 4), of a "baptism of the Holy Ghost."(3) They expect now, "at this time," a glorious manifestation of "the kingdom."(a) How prone we are to mistake God's times and God's ways, which are not as ours (Isaiah 55:8, 9).(b) How anxious we are to hurry on God's dispensations; not considering the Divine slowness (1 Peter 3:9), which waits for our salvation, though we are so impatient for manifestations of great results in the work of His kingdom. Apply this to missionary efforts.(c) How careful we ought to be, not, as it were, to suggest or dictate to Him the how or the when, since "He doeth all things well."

II. THE ANSWER OF OUR LORD was —

1. A concealment (ver. 7). It is not for the apostles to pry into the "secret things" of God. These are "put in His own power," and even Jesus, as Son of Man, may not possess them (Mark 13:32). Learn —(1) Ascension-tide and the Second Advent are closely connected in many points. The moment Jesus had gone, the minds of the apostles were to be fixed on His return (ver. 11). He was then to them what He has been to Christians in all ages, ὁ ἔρχομενος.(2) We stand at the threshold of the Second Advent, as they did at that of the Ascension. Our curiosity in religious things often centres on it. And of it Jesus answers just as He did to the apostles (Matthew 24:36).(3) The fact is certain, the time is concealed from us.

2. A revelation (ver. 8), in which Jesus gives —(1) A reminder of His departure, because the Holy Ghost was not to come until He had gone.(2) A promise of spiritual strength. A certain "power" was to be given them.(3) A prediction of the spread of the gospel, by a set progress in a definite order, beginning at Jerusalem, ending only at the compass of the globe.Learn:

1. There are certain things put in man's "power," just as there are some kept in God's.

2. These are, chiefly, to know the mind and will of God by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, which He has promised, and which He gives.

3. In receiving the Holy Ghost, we "receive power," not only to know, but to do God's will (see Deuteronomy 29:29). Spiritual knowledge and strength are that we may work, not speculate.

4. We are to be "witnesses" of the ascended Jesus —(1) By our own heavenly lives (Colossians 3:1, 2);(2) by our realisation of His mediatorial work (Hebrews 7:23);(3) by our co-operation in all efforts for the making ready of His way to return and take to Him His great power and reign.

(T. H. Barnett.)

I. AUTHORISED as a question of —

1. Strong faith which expects the kingdom.

2. Tender love which wishes the salvation of the world.

3. Holy grief which feels for the miseries of the times.

II. UNAUTHORISED as a question of —

1. Carnal impatience which wishes to see the Kingdom of God coming with external show.

2. Spiritual curiosity which will pry into what the Father has reserved for Himself.

3. Pious indolence which, with folded hands, looks at the clouds instead of working for the Kingdom of God in the calling entrusted to it.

(J. P. Lunge, D. D.)

Frequent were the interviews which Christ had with them previous to His death; ten times He was with them after His resurrection; but here is the final interview. The best things on earth must come to a close. The Divine drama is now over. These are words of —

I. CORRECTION. The old prejudice came up — the making of Jerusalem imperial mistress of the world. This had been the brilliant dream of their race for ages.

1. The question indicated the working of several wrong elements.(1) Materialism. It was asked in spite of the spirituality of their Master's teaching. The empire of truth and love which Christ came to establish, compared with which all earthly kingdoms were passing shadows, had not yet penetrated them with its transcendent glory.(2) Prejudice. Such temporal dominion they had been taught in their childhood to anticipate. The idea was reached not by conviction but tradition; and without examination it had been allowed to grow with their growth. Christ's teaching which bore directly against it had failed to shatter it.(3) Ambition. Probably they expected to be leading ministers.(4) Curiosity. They were prying into that which lay out of their province, and should have directed their inquisitiveness not to kingdoms, but to duties.

2. Christ corrects this morally mistaken state of mind. He does not say that there shall be no restoration; He leaves that with the enlightening Spirit about to descend. His words served —(1) To check the spirit of idle curiosity concerning the future. Let the future alone; that is to reveal itself in history, and is not to be ascertained by human inquiry. Your duty is with the present, out of which the future grows. Would that modern prophet-mongers would listen to this.(2) As a ground for unbounded trust, "The Father hath put in His own authority. All futurities are in a Father's hands, and are hidden out of love. Were the veil to be withdrawn, our social arrangements would be shattered, our free agency destroyed, our powers of action paralysed.

II. ENCOURAGEMENT. "But ye shall receive power."

1. Miraculous.

2. Moral — the power that made them brave, faithful, magnanimous, self-sacrificing, successful — the greater of the two. This encouragement was opportune coming as it did after His caustic rebuke. The power promised transcends the political power of kingdoms. It is a power to change the heart of kings, to regulate the springs of empire, to mould the governments of the world. The old theocratic kingdom of Israel was but a faint type of Christ's.

III. DIRECTION. "Ye shall be witnesses."

1. The nature of their ministry — "witnesses." Hence their preaching at first was little more than a honest and fervent declaration of facts (Acts 2:22-36; Acts 3:12-33; 4:8-12; 5:29-82). These men left all the theorising for weaker but more pretentious men of later ages.

2. Its universality and its philanthropy embraces the world.

3. Its method. "Beginning," etc. This they followed (chaps. 2., 8.; Romans 10:18; Colossians 1:6-23). In this method we see —

(1)Unexampled mercy. Offering the gospel to His greatest enemies.

(2)Consummate policy.

IV. BENEDICTION (see Luke 24:50).

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. THE QUESTION OF THE DISCIPLES disclosed —

1. Their ignorance.

2. Their belief that there was a kingdom of God. They could not forget the Theocracy, nor lose the conviction that it would be restored. Why, then, not now, and by the King?

3. Their benevolence and patriotism.

4. Their inquisitiveness and impatience.

II. THE ANSWER OF THE MASTER suggests —

1. That He can bear the inevitable ignorance of the good.

2. That His followers should cheek vain curiosity.

3. That there are times and seasons, eras and epochs, in the development of the affairs of the kingdom of God. The meaning of this is plain now, to a degree impossible then. Pentecost, the death of Stephen, the conversion of Saul, were "times." The apostolic age, with its wonderful diffusion of the gospel, was a "season." This age with its revivals, scientific spirit, and scepticism is also a "season." Other times and seasons have yet to follow. How wonderful the wisdom which could plan them, and the authority which can put and hold them under full control.

4. That the pre-vision of these times and seasons is withheld from man. The wonders of Pentecost had to be waited for and felt and seen before their nature could be known. So with other epochs.

(W. Hudson.)

It is not for you to know the times or the seasons
I. THE FAITH OF THE FIRST DISCIPLES, IN A BRIGHTER FUTURE FOR THE WORLD. That faith was founded on the predictions of the Old Testament and of our Lord. Patriotism and philanthropy inspired them to hope for great things for their countrymen; but piety lifted them into the faith that a new kingdom would be set up and Jesus be all in all. The Christian Church has never lost faith in the dawn of a better day for the world, and has laboured and prayed for it. We show ourselves unworthy of the apostles — in whose steps we profess to tread — if we do not "attempt great things for God, and expect great things from God." Christ has promised a golden age, and though earth and heaven pass away, His words shall not pass away; "The kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of our God," etc.

II. THE ERROR OF THE FIRST DISCIPLES, IN ALLOWING THEIR FAITH IN A BRIGHTER FUTURE TO LEAD THEM INTO PRESUMPTUOUS CURIOSITY. The disciples sought to be endowed with the faculty of pre-vision, but such an endowment was denied them. The old prophets were inspired to make known coming events, but the day and hour were hidden; and the apostles, no more than the prophets, could know when the events predicted concerning Israel and the world would occur. The error of the apostles has been repeated down to the present day. But age after age "would-be prophets" have had to revise their dates, and shift their scenes, and own, with shame that they had ventured out of their depth. The "second coming of Christ" and the "end of the world," they are events about which even the angels in heaven do not know; the Father has them in His own hands, and they are safe there, and sure to be brought about in His own good time and way.

III. THE DUTY OF THE FIRST DISCIPLES IN RELATION TO THEIR FAITH IN A BRIGHTER FUTURE FOR THE WORLD AS SHOWN BY THE REPLY OF THEIR MASTER TO THE QUESTIONING OF THEIR PRESUMPTUOUS CURIOSITY. Their duty was to be "witnesses," to speak of what they had seen and heard, and not of what was hidden from them. It must have been a great joy to them to know that the future was in the hands of the Father, who is too wise to err and too good to be unkind. And it ought to calm and cheer us that the times and seasons are not in the hands of a demon or an angel; and not in the clumsy and capricious hands of men, but in the hands of Him who can make the wrath of man to praise Him, and cause all things to work together for good.

(F. W. Brown.)

I. WHAT IS IMPLIED in the text. That there are times and seasons which God hath appropriated to Himself, both to order and to dispose them.

1. The times and seasons of the world in general. As God first made it, so He governs it. He set a time for the beginning and for the ending of it. And He orders all its affairs (Acts 17:24, 26, 31).

2. The times and seasons of States in particular. These are also appointed by God. He gives them being and continuance (Job 12:23; Deuteronomy 32:8; Daniel 2:20, 21; Daniel 4:17, 25, 32). And when He has once written vanity upon them they come to nothing.

3. The times and seasons of individuals (Psalm 31:15; Psalm 39:4; Job 14:5). All men's times are put in God's own power, in regard of their space and quality, whether prosperous or afflicted. All this is to show us what great cause we have to wait upon God upon all occasions. He who is the Lord of our times should have the command of our services.

II. WHAT IS EXPRESSED. That it is not for you to know these times and seasons.

1. It is not your business. For the right understanding of this we must be mindful of the context. It is not said, it is not for you to know any times or seasons but those "which the Father hath put in His own power." Consider —(1) How far it is proper for us to know the times and seasons.(a) Take it in a natural sense. It is proper for us to know the times and seasons of day and night, seedtime and harvest, winter and summer, and the like. These, it is true, God hath put in His own power, but they are not such as He hath kept to Himself, and accordingly we may take notice of them, for the improving of the opportunities of them.(b) Take it in a civil sense — the times for buying and selling, war and peace (Ecclesiastes 3:8).(c) Take it in a spiritual sense — the seasons of grace, the opportunities of salvation, the times of improvement (Luke 19:43; Jeremiah 8:7; so Ecclesiastes 9:12; 1 Chronicles 12:39.). To speak distinctly on this point, it concerns all men to know the sins and the miscarriages of the times (2 Peter 3:17). The judgments and calamities of the times (Proverbs 28:5; Isaiah 26:11). The duties and engagement of the times (Romans 12:11).(2) The sense in which it is impertinent. The change of affairs in States, the end and consummation of the world, etc.: such times and seasons as these it is not for you to know (Deuteronomy 30:20).

2. It is not profitable for you. It might please, as a matter of speculation, and so there are divers that busy themselves about it, but it cannot profit to edification. Nay, it is rather prejudicial and inconvenient: partly as it perplexes, and partly as it takes men off from their duty.

3. It is not within your reach. The Father hath put them in His own power, and so out of ours (Mark 13:32). It is not for you, that is, for you —(1) As men, by the strength and power of reason (Ecclesiastes 7:27).(2) As Christians, by supernatural illumination. There are many things which are not known by the light of nature, which yet are known by the light of the Spirit; but this is not known by either (1 John 2:20, 27). Refers to things necessary to salvation, whereof this is none.(3) As apostles, by Divine inspiration, or extraordinary revelation. As Christians have knowledge of more things than ordinary men, so apostles had knowledge of more things than ordinary Christians; and yet for all that they had not the knowledge of this. Consider this point —(a) As it meets with men's vain curiosity and affectation. There are many who trouble both their own and other men's heads with such questions. But this answer of our Saviour puts them off from such scrutinies; for if it be not for you to know, then it is not for you to inquire. There are many things which are necessary — the deceitfulness of our hearts, the depths of Satan, the will of the Lord. Therefore seek to know these.(b) As with men's curiosity in inquiring, so with their presumption in resolving. It is not for you to know it, therefore it is not for you to determine it. There are a great many persons who not only make a search into this mystery, but also positively fix it.Conclusion: It is not for you to know, but —

1. It is for you to believe; not to know the time, but to believe the thing; to believe that this day will come, though we know not when it will come (2 Peter 3:3, 4).

2. It is for you to expect; not to know when it will be, but to wait for it; to be always upon our watch and in readiness against the coming of our Master (Job 14:14; 2 Peter 3:11-14).

3. It is for you to pray; not to know when it will be, but to pray that it may be; and to desire that it may be as soon as may be (Revelation 22:17; Song of Solomon 8:14).

4. It is not for you to know the times and seasons which God hath put in His own power, but it is for you to know the times and seasons which God hath put in yours. The times and seasons of affliction and correction, to be troubled for them; and the times and seasons of mercy and deliverance, to be thankful for them.

(T. Horton, D. D.)

If not for them, then for whom? Yet every age has had those who profess to be in the secret. They were in the Thessalonian Church, and Paul had to warn the disciples there to be on their guard against them. When Gallus renewed the persecution carried on by Decius thought the judgment close at hand, and Milner remarks on this, "God hath made the present so much the exclusive object of our duty that He will scarce suffer His wisest and best servants to gain reputation for skill and foresight by any conjectures concerning the times and seasons which He hath reserved," etc. More than a generation ago an Edinburgh reviewer was not speaking without cause when he said of men who could see in the Apocalypse the current condition of Europe, and who told a British statesman to adopt that book for a political manual, that they were carrying on madness "upon too sublime a scale for our interference. We were brought up in the humble creed of looking at the prophecies chiefly in connection not with the future, but with the past; where a cautious divinity, looking backward, might shadow out marks of anticipation and promise, and lead our faith by marks of Divine foreknowledge, to an apparent accomplishment of the Divine will. But to use them as this year's almanack; to put the millennium backwards and forwards, according as the facts of the last twelvemonth have falsified the predictions of the last edition; to jeopardise the State rather than tolerate a policy which might spoil a favourite criticism on some ambiguous text is to turn the apocalyptic eagle into the cuckoo of the spring." Horace Smith had his fling at "Dr. C., who one month writes a book to expound the Apocalypse, and next month Another to refute his own argument." The thoughtful and erudite author of "Small Books on Great Subjects" professes an ever-increasing disinclination to the study of prophecy, further than in its great features, remarking that man is not formed for the knowledge of futurity, and that it is seldom that he knows how to make use of it, being too apt to put himself in the place of God, and instead of looking on the affairs of the world as a course of things directed to the final amelioration of the human race, to denounce this or that men, sure or man as impious, this or that event as a judgment on evildoers. Wycliffe and Luther both expected the judgment in their century, Napier at the close of the nineteenth, and Sir David Lindsay at the close of the twentieth. These ventures serve to bring to nought the wisdom of the wise, and to show what false steps may be confidently taken in a darkness that is not felt; for if felt it would crave warier walking.

(J. Jacox, B. A.)

I. MAN'S IGNORANCE OF THE FUTURE. One department of knowledge God has in part spread before us, and is leading us continually further into His deeper counsels. The laws of nature, when we have once gathered them from the examination of the past. become our almost certain guides for the future. But even here all things are not naked and open. The phenomena of the atmosphere cannot be predicted with unerring accuracy, and the earth still contains many secrets which may never be reached. There is, however, another department, where knowledge cannot be reduced to simple laws, and where the future is hidden. This is the department in which the agencies of God and man meet, where the plan of the great Ruler and the plans of countless finite beings run across one another. So many agents and interactions create a confusion and complication which none but infinite skill can disentangle, the results of which only God can foresee. In illustration of this, note —

1. That we find in our own experience, that the times and seasons of human life God has put in His own power. All of us can testily that an unexpected future has been unrolling itself. We make new acquaintances, and they affect our condition and prospects. Our plans are ever interrupted by events wholly unforeseen. Disease, misfortune, prosperity, and joy are as much hid from us as if the lot determined them.

2. The strange mistakes of the most practised men, as they stand on the threshold of great events. There are vast revolutions which alter the course of the world, and must have had deep foundations in the past; yet the statesmen and philosophers of the time are slumbering without anxiety on the sides of the volcano. Nay, if some one, confident in the sway of general law, assured that the Divine government will have its way, ventures to predict in vague terms a coming disaster, the men of his time laugh at him. But the storm has come, and has left desolations which the predicter himself did not anticipate. Thus how little did the Senatorial party augur, when they required Caesar to resign his command, that they were urging on measures which would destroy the power of the aristocracy, change Rome into an empire, and bring on a revolution in society, law, and government! How little did Caiaphas or Pilate dream of the power that would go forth from that submissive man who lay under their hand! How little did Leo X. and the leading Italians imagine that Martin Luther would make an era, and start a movement that would never stop! Who thought a little before the French revolution, unless some dreamer regarded as wild, that all the thrones of Europe would be shaken, or that a man of Corsica would hold half the continent under his foot? "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps."

3. The prophets and apostles were kept to a great degree in ignorance of the future, §o that the times and seasons were not brought within their view. Some persons imagine that a prophet acquired a telescopic sight which penetrated all the details of the future. But Paul says, "We prophesy in part," i.e., imperfectly.

II. THE MORAL USES WHICH THIS ARRANGEMENT IS INTENDED TO SERVE.

1. In the province of individual effort uncertainty as to the future, united with probability of success, taxes the energies of man and develops his character in a desirable way.(1) The man who is certain of future good feels no impulse to secure it by his own exertions. The man who is uncertain has every motive to prevent ill-success, and will avail himself of all helps and guard against those faults which can obstruct his way. Thus are we hardened, made wary and careful; and the virtues of prudence, forethought, diligence, vigilance, courage, etc., are cherished in our souls.(2) But how does this law act in respect to our spiritual and eternal interests? It is plain that entire inability to estimate the course of our future life would cut off motive, and entire certainty might plunge us into despair if the foreseen end were evil, and into carelessness if it were good. But now we have the highest motives to exertion — a probability of success, if our efforts are commensurate to the greatness of the issue, and a certainty of failure if we let earthly things take the control of our lives.(3) As for the interests of the kingdom of God — as long as the law is that nothing is brought to pass but by the co-operation of God and man, that nothing but ultimate success and no immediate, sudden triumph is held out; it is plain that all this is most favourable to strenuous exertion.

2. It is well that we cannot foresee the mass of difficulties which may discourage us, and that all our trials do not press on us at once. Suppose that ignorance were exchanged for certainty; is it not evident that the mass of them would seem too great for human strength to move? Ignorance, the,,, is a great blessing, and without it we should not have courage to undertake anything good and great. We now encounter our toils and anxieties one by one; we conquer them in detail, and sweet hope lives through all the efforts.(1) If a successful inventor could have taken one clear, full look of his long, dreary conflict with difficulties, would he not have fled from such a career? and thus is not the world indebted for much of its progress, for many improvements in science and art, to man's ignorance of the future?(2) Before a victorious war, if we had foreseen its length, its costliness in money and life; if the soldiers could have foreseen their hardships, wounds, defeats, is it not more titan probable that the majority would have shrunk from the contest, although certain of ultimate success? Of how many public and private efforts the same thing can be said.(3) So also, when a man has devoted himself to the work of preaching Christ's gospel, it is best for him to live in ignorance of the future. The apostles saw trials, etc., before them, but it was a mercy that they did not see the slow rate at which Christian truth has moved, the days of Mohammed, of papal darkness, of a divided, distracted Church.(4) Who of us is not painfully conscious of fruitless struggles against sins, of a slow and fitful progress, of frequent declensions, etc. Now if all this had been foreseen, who could have collected courage enough to endure so much for the attainment of so little?

3. Man's ignorance of the future aids the spirit of piety.(1) It helps us to realise that God has a plan for us and for the world.(2) It suggests to us our dependence and awakens our faith.Conclusion:

1. According to analogy, prophecy will never shed more than a dim, uncertain light upon the future before its fulfilment. Christ gave no satisfaction here, and when Peter asked what should befall John, he received but an ambiguous answer — "If I will that he tarry," etc. And so Paul went to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that should befall him there, etc. And the history of interpretation shows that thus far the Church has made little progress in applying prophecies to particular events.

2. He who gains character out of the uncertainties of life is a great gainer. He has learned in the dark not only those qualities of character which make him a good actor in these earthly scenes and which generally insure success; but he has learned also how to depend on God, to trust in His providence, and to secure His co-operation. He is thus fitted for eternal life, for its employment, for its revelations.

(T. D. Woolsey, D. D.)

Dr. Ludlow, my professor in the Theological Seminary, taught me a lesson I have never forgotten. While putting a variety of questions to him that were perplexing, he turned upon me somewhat in sternness, but more in love, and said, "Mr. Talmage, you will have to let God know some things that you don't."

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

You cannot set the world right, or the times, but you can do something for the truth; and all you can do will certainly tell if the work you do is for the Master, who gives you your share, and so the burden of responsibility is lifted off. This assurance makes peace, satisfaction, and repose possible even in the partial work done upon earth. Go to the man who is carving a stone for a building; ask him where is that stone going, to what part of the temple, and how is he going to get it into place, and what does he do? He points you to the builder's plans. This is only one stone of many. So, when men shall ask where and how is your little achievement going into God's plan, point them to your Master, who keeps the plans, and then go on doing your little service as faithfully as if the whole temple were yours to build.

(Phillips Brooks.)

At this time, all ever the trees, and throughout the grass, is deposited the condensed moisture o! the air; and silent dewdrops are on every flower and every leaf. If you go and look at them in the darkness of to-night, there is no form or comeliness in them; but by and by God will have wheeled the sun in its circuit so that it shall look over the horizon; and the moment its light strikes these hidden drops, small and scattered, every one shall glow as if it were a diamond, and all nature shall be lighted up with myriad fires, each reflecting something of the Divine glory. God has His own plans. He never told us in full what they are. We know this, however: that we are fragmentary in our lives; that it takes many to make the one idea of God; that the work of past generations is hinged upon this, and that the work of this generation is hinged upon that of generations to come; and that God sits in sublimity of counsel, putting part with part, so that when we see the connected whole, the things that now seem most insignificant will shine out in wonderful beauty and magnificence.

(H. W. Beecher.)

There are things in every life which we cannot understand now — troubles, disappointments, sickness, poverty, death — but the time will come when all will be plain. I suppose no one at the beginning knows the full meaning of his life, or for what some of his experiences are training him. Robert Raikes had no vision of the millions studying in Sunday schools every Sunday; he only saw his present work and duty. John Bunyan, shut up in prison for the best twelve years of his life, while longing to preach the gospel, and thousands were eager to hear him, had no conception that "Pilgrim's Progress" would enable him to preach to millions instead of thousands, and for centuries instead of years. So we, in our feeble beginnings, our narrow circumstances, our trials and disappointments, may know that if we are faithful we shall understand hereafter the meaning of all, and rejoice in the way God has led us.

(F. N. Peloubet.)

I remember once sailing over the crystal waters of Lake Superior. We had come out of the muddy waters of Lake Huron during the night, and early in the morning I came on deck, and looking over the prow, started back in instinctive terror, for, looking down into the clear waters of that lake, it seemed to me as though our keel was just going to strike on the sharp-pointed rocks below; but I was looking through fifty or sixty feet of clear water at the great rock bed of the lake over which we were sailing. Now we endeavour in vain to fathom God's judgments. As by a great deep they are hidden from us. But by and by, through the mystery we shall see and shall understand.

(Lyman Abbott, D. D.)

Scientific Illustrations.
How actively inquisitive are some people: and into what strange predicaments does this their strong propensity land them! They remind us of the crested anolis (Xiphosurus velifer), a species of the lizard tribe. It is a timid yet restlessly inquisitive animal; for although it hides itself with instinctive caution on hearing the approach of a footstep, it is of so curious a nature that it must needs poke its head out of its hiding-place, and so betray itself in spite of its timidity. So absorbed, indeed, is the anolis in gratifying its curiosity, that it will allow itself to be captured in a noose, and often falls a victim to the rude and inartificial snares made by children.

(Scientific Illustrations.)

Here on earth we are as soldiers fighting in a foreign land, which understand not the plan of the campaign, and have no need to understand it, seeing well what is at our hand to be done. Let us do it like soldiers, with submission, with courage, with a heroic joy: "Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." Behind us, behind each one of us, lie six thousand years of human effort, human conquest: before us is the boundless Time, with its as yet uncreated and unconquered continents and Eldorados, which even we have to conquer, to create; and from the bosom of Eternity shine for us celestial guiding stars.

(T. Carlyle.)

Do not understand me at all as saying that there is no mystery about the planets' motions. There is just the one single mystery — gravitation; and it is a very profound one. How it is that an atom of matter can attract another atom, no matter how great the distance, no matter what intervening substance there may be — how it will act upon it, or, at least, behave as if it acted upon it, I do not know, I cannot tell. Whether they are pushed together by means of an intervening ether, or what is the action, I cannot understand. It stands with me along with the fact that when I will that my .arm shall rise, it rises. It is inscrutable. All the explanations that have been given of it seem to me merely to darken counsel with words and no understanding. They do not remove the difficulty at all. If I were to say what I really believe, it would be that the motions of the spheres of the material universe stand in some such relation to Him in Whom all things exist — the ever-present and omnipotent God — as the motions of my body do to my will; I do not know how, and never expect to know.

(Prof. C. A. Young.)

I am profoundly affected by the grandeur of prophecy. God unveils the frescoed wall of the future, not so much that we may count the figures, and measure the robes, and analyse the pigments; but that, gazing upon it, our imaginations may be enkindled, and hope be inspired, to bear us through the dismal barrenness of the present. Prophecy was not addressed to the reason, nor to the statistical faculty, but to the imagination; and I should as soon think of measuring love by the scales of commerce, or of admiring flowers by the rule of feet and inches, or of applying arithmetic to taste and enthusiasm, as calculations and figures to these grand evanishing signals which God waves in the future only to tell the world which way it is to march.

(H. W. Beecher.)

All along the Oker Thal, in the Hartz, there are huge rocks towering up among the fir-clad hills, to which the peasants have appended names according as they fancy them to bear resemblance to chairs, horses, cobblers, or cocked hats. The likeness in most cases is such as only fancy can make out when she is in her most vigorous mood; nevertheless this rock must needs be called a man, and that a church, and there has no doubt been many a quarrel between rival observers who have discovered each a different image in the one pile of rock; yet the stones are not churches, chairs, or cobblers, and the whole business is childish and nonsensical. Interpreters of prophecy during the last few centuries have been most of them in the same position; one of them sees in the sublimities of the Revelation the form of Louis Napoleon, where two or three hundred years ago half Christendom saw the Pope, and the other half Martin Luther. The other day one of the seers saw Sebastopol in the prophecies, and now another detects the Suez Canal, and we feel pretty sure that the Council at Rome will soon be spied out in Daniel or Ezekiel. The fact is, when fancy is their guide men wander in a maze.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

While a minister was riding in a railway carriage he was saluted by a member of an exceedingly litigious and speculative sect. "Pray, sir," said the sectary, "what is your opinion of the seven trumpets?" "I am not sure," said the preacher, "that I understand your question; but I hope you will comprehend mine. What think you of the fact that your seven children are growing up without God and without hope? You have a Bible-reading in your house for your neighbours, but no family prayer for your children." The nail was fastened in a sure place; enough candour of mind remained in the professor to enable him to profit by the timely rebuke.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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