Luke 12:56.---' Ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?'

There are two great methods of arriving at truth, and both of them are recognized by Christ in this passage. There is the inductive or scientific method. This is the method in which we gather all the facts from as wide a field as possible, and then formulate our theory of the laws and forces of which they are the expression and effect. This is the method indicated by Christ as being followed in arriving at the weather forecasts which were in vogue in His day. He reminded His hearers that certain phenomena always associated with, or followed by, certain classes of weather had been noted and registered by the popular mind. So that, given certain signs, those who read them were able, with a fair amount of reliability, to utter their predictions as to rain or shine. Christ is represented in this passage as endorsing both the method and the accuracy of the generalization at which they had arrived, and He recognizes the practical wisdom which thus turns to account for guidance in the immediate present the results of age-long observation.

But the Great Teacher was reminding them of their common and everyday practice in forecasting physical weather only that He might employ it for the purpose of rebuking their failure in forecasting moral weather, although the signs were just as patent and as readable as any by which they read the portents of the morning or evening sky. The force of His rebuke lies in the fact that, had they been as careful to note the historical developments of their own time, had they used common ordinary sagacity, such as displayed by any fisherman on the sea, or shepherd on the hills, then they could have not failed to gather from the facts which were transpiring that some great crisis was at hand. Had they been as quick to detect and interpret moral signs as they were those that were physical they would have been conscious of a great tidal movement in the world of thought and feeling which was at once a challenge to all their moral instincts and aspirations. They were faced, although they knew it not, with an atmospheric disturbance in the spiritual realm, resulting from an incursion of the divine upon the field of human history. It was spiritual impulse, vast, mystic, wonderful, projected earthwards from those timeless regions out of which all things come and into which all things haste. Christ's presence and personality became a disturbing factor in the world of men. The Incarnation introduced a new force into history, so that the world has never since been the same.

Now, again, within our own lifetime we are passing through a similar critical period, momentous with great and far-reaching issues. What strikes one first and foremost, as characteristic of our time, is something which we might describe by our Lord's own word, 'perplexity,' 'distress of nations in perplexity'---perplexity amounting at times, and particularly just now, even to bewilderment. This is a 'sign' of the times which lies, we may say, almost on the surface. It shows itself in a thousand forms, over the whole area of human affairs, puzzling the judgment, paralyzing action, embarrassing the will. It shows itself at every turn in the various and often flatly contradictory remedies which are from time to time proposed in view of the long prevailing depression in trade and commerce and agriculture. Human society generally, outside the narrow limits of nations, as well as within those limits, seems to be out of joint, as it were, and a Babel of tongues is heard proclaiming this questionable remedy or scheme and that as the cure-all of all our woes.

Now, our Lord Jesus Christ not only noted the perplexity, which He foresaw as a most sure and certain fact, but also assigned in advance the causes of it. After predicting that there would be 'signs in the sun and moon and stars,' and 'on earth distress and perplexity,' 'men fainting for fear, and for expectation of the things which were coming on the world', He added, 'for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.' It seems beyond controversy that what He meant by this was the convictions and beliefs, religious and other, which lie at the base and foundation of the social fabric and of social order, would be rudely shaken, would perhaps totter to their fall, would need to be replaced by other beliefs and other convictions. We need not pause to show how true this was for the age and generation which He addressed. Now, if we find traces of perplexity and distress, marked outwardly, and legibly upon our own age, it is only reasonable to look for the cause beneath the surface, in some shaking of the fundamental beliefs and convictions which have as up to now bound men together and formed a solid base upon which to build. Herein lies the inner peril of this strange, curious, perplexing age---so quick to destroy, so slow to construct, so potent to disintegrate, so slow to consolidate---in which our lot is cast. If now we take up a note of warning against the peril, we take it up in no weak, faithless, alarmist spirit, but in the profound conviction that this which we see and suffer from is but a passing phase of human experience; and that, when the shaking has done its work, the Divine order will reveal and assert itself again, stronger and more glorious than ever. Not for the first century only, but for the twenty-first also, were the words written:---'Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.'

Let us consider how this spiritual disturbance affects our most vital and fundamental convictions, namely, our belief in God and immortality and the immutability and everlasting obligation of the great principles of morality. So long as people believed that the Bible was the infallible Word of God, absolutely true in every particular, they were content to accept this as the foundation of their most cherished faiths and hopes. When the sap and mind of science and criticism began to make this position untenable, it seemed as if the one possible foundation of faith had suddenly slipped and broken up beneath them. Much has been written, but the impeachment of the accuracy of the Bible, even upon a trivial point of natural history, could not be proved. The force of panic could go no further than this.

We have got through all that turmoil now, and can breath a purer and serener air. We are thoroughly assured that our faith in God, in the life beyond death and the eternal principles of morality rests on a far deeper, wider, and more solid base than the modern notion of the verbal infallibility of the Bible could ever yield. But can we wonder that the break-up of a false foundation of faith should be followed by the consequences which we have actually witnessed and still witness; and that we should have in the midst of us so much of what we know as atheism, agnosticism, secularism, and the like? We have no need to be scared at the existence of such evil things in our midst, however much we may deplore them, and though we do our utmost to extirpate them. Even in reference to these things there is a lesson for us in our Lord's striking parable of the Wheat and the Tares. To the question of the servants---'Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?'---the answer might still perhaps be---Nay; least while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.'

Little ones, love one another. Maranatha