Discerning the Times

Matthew 16:3
       Can ye not discern the signs of the times?

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Our Lord Jesus Christ blames the Jews because they “knew not the time of their visitation,” and did not “discern the signs of the times.” Let us take heed lest we fall into the same sin. The man who is content to sit ignorantly by his own fireside, wrapped up in his own private affairs, and has no public eye for what is going on in the church and the world, is a miserable patriot, and a poor style of Christian. Next to our Bibles, and our own hearts, our Lord would have us study our own times.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): There is nothing which shows our spiritual condition more clearly than our ability to comprehend the signs of the times.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Ours is peculiarly an age of irreverence, and as the consequence, the spirit of lawlessness, which brooks no restraint and which is desirous of casting off everything which interferes with the free course of self-will, is rapidly engulfing the earth like some giant tidal wave. The members of the rising generation are the most flagrant offenders, and in the decay and disappearance of parental authority we have the certain precursor of the abolition of civic authority.

PHILIP MAURO (1859-1952): The late Poet Laureate of England* remarked that a leading characteristic of the days in which we are living is “the decay of authority.”—“The decay of authority is one of the most marked features of our time. Religion, politics, art, manners, speech, even morality, considered in its widest sense, have all felt the waning of traditional authority, and the substitution for it of individual opinion and taste.”

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: From the point of view of morality, the problem is not so much immorality but the total absence of morality—amorality, a tendency to doubt all types of moral standards. Indeed, some would go so far as to say that all those who acknowledge moral standards live an incomplete life and do an injustice to their personalities. These people claim that what was once called sin is nothing but self-expression. The old foundations are being shaken, the old boundaries and hedges are being swept away…This has become an amoral or a non-moral society. The very category of morality is not recognized at all, and men and women are virtually in the position of saying ‘evil be thou my good.’

PHILIP MAURO: The history of the human race furnishes numerous striking examples of what happens to men and nations when God allows them to go their own way―In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes, Judges 21:25. The days of the Judges were days of increasing moral corruption and violence. Such was also the character of the days before the flood, when, as is written, the earth “was corrupt before God,” for “all flesh had corrupted his way upon earth;” and “the earth was filled with violence,” Genesis 6:11-13. It is very important that we take note of this, because the Lord Jesus Christ has foretold that “as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of man,” Luke 17:26.
      We need not dwell on this, for the resemblance to the days of the Judges in point of moral corruption, and of violent methods to which men resort for the attainment of their ends, is apparent to every observer.

A. W. PINK: The term Antinomian signifies one who is against the Law, hence, when we declare that ours is an age of lawlessness, it is only another way of saying that it is an age characterized by Antinomianism. There is little need for us to pause and offer proof that this is an age of lawlessness. In every sphere of life the sad fact confronts us. In the well-nigh total absence of any real discipline in the majority of the churches, we see the principle exemplified…It is the same in the majority of our homes. With comparatively rare exceptions, wives are no longer in subjection to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22,24); and as for obeying them (I Peter 3:1-6), why, the majority of women demand that such a hateful word be stricken from the marriage ceremony. So it is with children—how could it be otherwise?

WILLIAM ROMAINE (1714-1795): “For when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith upon the earth?” says Christ, Luke 18:8. There will be so little, that He shall scarce find any. The true saving faith will diminished from among the children of men! And it has for some time been vanished out of the popish countries, and [many] reformed churches have lately fallen sadly from the faith, and have preserved very little more of Christianity than the mere name—Does not the present state of the world, as to religion, greatly resemble our Lord’s description of the men on whom that day shall come unawares, as a thief in the night?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Do we realize that the problem of religion today is very different from what it was, say, forty years ago, and even twenty years ago? Today, we are producing men who are almost totally ignorant of the Bible…May God give us enlightenment and understanding of the times in which we are living, and awaken us ere it be too late.

J. C. RYLE: It is a most important thing to understand the times in which we live, and to know what those times require…The principal giants whom John Bunyan describes, in Pilgrim’s Progress, as dangerous to Christian pilgrims, were two, Pope and Pagan. If the good old Puritan had foreseen the times we live in, he would have said something about the giant Ignorance.

J. W. ALEXANDER (1804-1859): Nations are tumultuating like oceans. Society seems like to be thrown anew into the crucible. The power that is to order the future mould is the power of opinion. Unless it be Truth, all must go wrong. The great thing then is to impregnate the existing mass with truth—moral truth—divine truth. How to do this, should be our question.

J. C. RYLE: First and foremost, the times require of us a bold and unflinching maintenance of the entire truth of Christianity, and the divine authority of the Bible. In the second place, the times require at our hands distinct and decided views of Christian doctrine.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): We want a revival of old-fashioned doctrine. Our fear is that, if “modern thought” proceeds much further, the fashion of our religion will be as much Mohammedan as Christian; in fact, it will be more like infidelity than either.

HENRY FOSTER (1760-1844): The times are awful. In such times Scripture characters fasted and prayed. The old Puritans did so. I have not. Yet I think we ought to do.

PHILIP MELANCTHON (1497-1560): Our age stands in need of an acrid and pungent salt.

*Editor’s Note: The English Poet Laureate quoted by Philip Mauro was Alfred Austin, who died in 1913. But it is obvious to all that the last one hundred years have proven Austin’s words to be true, and even prophetic of the social change so evident today.
      In August, 1914, when German artillery and machine guns fired the opening rounds of the first modern industrial war, it announced the end of the old order forever. Since that First World War, change in every aspect of life has accelerated more rapidly than in all prior human history. Indeed, despite the fact that the most recent quote used here is over 40 years old, it is thoroughly striking how accurately all their comments portray our own 21st century times.  But it’s not really so surprising at all, when one remembers that these were men who knew their Bibles, and their own times.  As it is written, The thing that hath been, is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun, Ecclesiastes 1:9.


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