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were but musing upon nothing. What advantage meditation may yield, with this knowledge, we may learn from what is related of Daniel, Anna, Simeon, and others, who were hereby led to be waiting for redemption in Jerusalem when it was coming ; and of the disciples of Christ, who, observing the signs of the times as foretold by their Master, made their escape from the destruction which befell the Jewish nation.—He who neglects God's prophetic word, forfeits His blessing; but of what use can the prophets be to him who does not discern the signs of the times ?
But there are stronger illustrations of the danger of this ignorance. We select a few out of almost numberless instances. Why did the old world bring upon itself the waters of a flood? They did not discern the signs of the times when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing. Why did Pharaoh bring the ten plagues upon his land, and ultimate destruction upon himself and his army? He did not discern the signs of the times : otherwise he and his people might have escaped. Why did the Jews reject their Messiah, and thereby bring wrath upon themselves to the uttermost? They discerned not the time of their merciful visitation. If they had opened their eyes to see the miracles, the fulfilments of prophecy, and the other evidences of Messiah's presence among them, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Why is it that so many professed christians, at this day, take little or no interest in the exertions which are now made, and the things which are coming to pass, under the divine agency and blessing, in the kingdom of grace? It is because they do not discern the signs of the times. The importance of this duty cannot be too much magnified. Thousands will owe their eternal destruction to the neglect of it. The habitual neglect of it infers the entire want of grace. What is unregeneracy but being without God in the world, and what is being without God in the world but having no impression of His presence and agency on the heart. I wonder not at the saying of the Psalmist, “because they regard not the works of the Lord, nor the operation of His hands, He shall destroy them and not build them up," that is, finally and irretrievably destroy them.
V. And equal to the importance is the FACILITY OF PERFORMING this duty. So we gather from Christ's way of reasoning with the Jews. They wanted a sign from heaven, but he referred them to the signs of the times, saying, " When it is evening, ye say it will be fair weather, for the sky is red; and in the morning, it will be foul weather to-day, for the sky is red and lowering. Oye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky, but can ye not discern the signs of the times ?" No more sagacity is required in the one case than in the other. When men are so void of understanding that they cannot comprehend the prognostics of the weather, then may they excuse themselves for remaining ignorant of the signs of the times.
VI. But do we not read in Scripture that God moves in great mystery and darkness ;, that his works are great and marvellous ; His
unsearchable and past finding out; and are not men cautioned against presumptuous conelusions concerning the Divine conduct, and rebuked for attempting to scan the Almighty, and admonished to wait till the mystery of God be finished ? Yes. But the true inference from such passages is not that nothing may be learned from God's conduct; but merely that his conduct in all its relations, bearings, and results, cannot be fully comprehended.-God crowns the year with his abundant goodness; you see not all that He intends, or all that is to result from what He herein does; but you see enough to teach you your obligations to thankfulness and praise. - God visits with pestilence and famine: you know not every thing which that visitation may involve; but you know enough to make you stand in awe, and
your chambers, and shut your door about you, until these calamities be overpast.—God, by the plenteous effusion of His Spirit, revives His work around you; you know not what that revival may lead to or end in ; but you may know that now is the accepted time, and that wo is probably your doom for eternity if you now neglect the salvation of your soul.—God walks abroad among His churches, and excites them to great and combined enterprises for the furtherance of the gospel; you do not see, you cannot conjecture the end of these movements, they reach into eternity, and spread abroad through the measureless empire of the Almighty ; but you understand enough for your own condemnation if you refuse to take part in these sacrifices and labors of love.--In all things, the full latitude and extent of God's operation appears only to Himself; but it has meaning which the feeblest intelligence can understand. It does not satisfy man's curiosity, but it loads his conscience with obligation, and its very mystery should make him fear, and keep him ever in a waiting and worshipping posture of mind. God's movements in providence, however unsearchable, call for some holy feeling and activity in us, and the call is so clear, that the ox who knoweth his owner, or the ass his master's crib, rebukes the man who does not hear it. It is not the want of sufficient powers of discernment, but a sensuality which banishes the Holy Spirit, an earthly, godless, atheistical temper,-this it is that hinders men from discerning the signs of the times.
VII. And now, my brethren, if these be just and faithful observations,
they should inclinè us to serious thought on THE CHARACTER OF OUR OWN TIMES. They have truly a character of their own. Never, perhaps, had any times signs less negative, less unperceivable, less unmeaning, than those in which we live. All men are conscious of this general fact; all men feel that there is a spirit-a mighty, commanding, pervading, uncontrollable spirit in the age. But what it is, and whither it tends ; what lessons it reads to us, what duties, admonitions, and encouragements, few seem to comprehend. That the Lord God of Hosts doth in this day call to something peculiar, is as certain as that there is a Lord God of Hosts who changeth the times and the seasons, and ordereth all things in His pleasure; and peculiar is their guilt who do not hear this call. Still is it with the multitude of mankind as it was before the flood, and as it has ever been, whatever the signs of the times have revealed or portended: they are eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, planting and building; but they regard not the works of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands. Some indeed meditate the aspect of the age towards politics, learning, and the arts; but their view excludes God altogether, and they are as blind to all traces of His agency, as deaf to all the admonitions of His providence, as though they disbelieved His existence. Others speak as if they meant to admit the Divine agency, and the high claims of the age to moral regard; but they speak not aright, for their tongue is all they employ in acknowledgment of those claims. All these are atheists in heart. They profess they know God, but they deny Him in works: they discern not the signs of the t'mes. In the hope that by the Divine blessing they may animate you to the high endeavor of living as the CHARACTER OF THE AGE requires, I submit the following observations concerning it.
VIII. I premise that a just view of the signs of the times extends to all departments of human action and existence,-to all that is doing and going on among mankind, and in the whole world of nature. God works not only in the church ; He ruleth among the heathen that know Him not, and controlleth the wrath of the wicked to His praise ; and by all the inventions, schemes, projects, discoveries, learning, and high aspirings of men, in whatever direction, is fulfilling His counsel and revealing His hand as really as in the operations and advances of the kingdom of grace and righteousness. They take but a narrow survey of the signs of the times who confine their observation to the affairs of religion and the church. These, indeed, are the main affairs. All others are important only as related and subservient to them. But in this view they are infinitely important; and if it were unwise in endeavoring to understand the designs of an enemy in war, to limit our notice to his actual entrance into conflict--if knowledge
of his preparations, and of the number of his forces, and of all his preliminary movements, would help us to interpret his meaning and infer the result of his success; then should the Divine conduct in all the departments creation, as far as it falls under our notice, be most thoughtfully considered. All things in this world—all the kingdoms, and people, and creatures, as well as the church, belong to God, who works in all things, and works to fulfil one plan-to answer one end—the church's establishment and ultimate extension over the face of the whole earth; whereof we are confident from this Divine assurance, that the Head of the church is head over all things to the church, and will maintain His universal supremacy until He hath brought all things in subjection under His feet, and destroyed the last enemy.
IX. In pondering the signs of the times, therefore, our survey should be broad; but it were of small avail should it be confused or indefinite. Let us fix, then, first on one department and then another, and consider, if it be but in a moment, what peculiar things God is doing in each. And first, What is He doing IN THE WORLD OF NATURE? Here we remark little but proofs of bounty. Famines, pestilences, earthquakes, winds and waves roaring, fearful sights, signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, have marked other times, but are not the signs of ours. The elements are not in any uncommon strife ; and the earth not only yields her usual increase, but opens for the augmented happiness of her population, new and astonishing, and exhaustless stores of wealth.
X. IN THE POLITICAL WORLD, God's agency now is wondrously auspicious. In the midst of strange confusions and overturnings, how manifest, how sublime is the advance of liberty! When have the prospects of despotism been so appalling? When have tyrannical governments been in greater perplexity ? Light is flashing all abroad upon the darkness of the nations; and revolutions and counter-revolutions are preparing the way for the universal dominion of Christ in the earth.
XI. Next, behold what God is doing by IMPROVEMENT IN THE ARTS.
We are bold to say that neither Rome, nor Greece, nor Egypt, ever knew such a day for useful inventions and contrivances as ours. We boast not over them in architecture, sculpture, painting, the monuments of mere taste ; but for all the purposes of human happiness and advancement, never have the arts so flourished as in our times. Had our methods of navigation and internal intercourse, and especially of book-making, Leen made known to the ancients, they would have thought little, in comparison, of their own chief inventions. Now, is he not utterly blind, or unable to see afar off, who doubts whether in these things the gracious hand of the Lord is to be acknowledged and magnified ?
XII. The progress of the arts has been accelerated by that of SCIENCE. In moral science we claim the pre-eminence, while we acknowledge our obligations to former times ; but in natural science, especially in one most important branch, our attainments are at once transcendent and unassisted.
XIII. We have not so much to say for the LEARNING of these times. For profoundness, for variety, for extent of learning, there are in these days no rivals of Hooker, or Bacon, or Milton, or Locke, or Baxter, or Howe, or Owen, or of Calvin and Melancthon, and hosts of their contemporaries. None in all the earth, not excepting even the students of Germany, whose claims seem to be the highest. Why it is we cannot stay to inquire; but the fact seems to be conceded, that coming ages will look back upon ours in vain for many monuments of learning. STYLE is in some respects improved, and LITERATURE has been more successfully cultivated, and we have some highly gifted authors; but depth and vastness of learning are not among the marks of our times. But then we are reaping some fruits from the learning of other days. Knowledge is far more general, if it is not in some instances so profound. The mass of men is more enlightened. Our books are more numerous and more easily read and comprehended ; and we have more VEHICLES OF KNOWLEDGE. Our newspapers, tracts, magazines, reviews, aided by our wonderful facilities of intercourse, almost annihilating distance, give rapid and universal circulation to knowledge. Never had other times signs like these ; and they are not more peculiar than full of gracious promise.
XIV. But when we pass into the enclosure of the church, God's doings here almost constrain us to cry out, “ How great are His signs, how mighty are His wonders." For first, the spirit of intolerance is bound, whose claim to dominion over men's faith was until lately enforced where it could be by the highest temporal penalties. That furious spirit seems near its end. In some few places, indeed, it is not wholly unrestrained; but generally no one is now in danger from freely expressing his thoughts, unless it be he who holds to the right of forbidding others to do so. Men now view nothing so much like the very doings of diabolical malignity as the imprisoning, the beheading, hanging, and burning of other days for religious opinions.
But Christians now not only forbear threatening and slaughter against one another for differences among themselves; they have learned again