1 Peter 1:10-12
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come to you:
Such is the Divine interpretation of the prophet's work. Their ministry was not for themselves, but for a later age. They must bear the burden of perplexity and disappointment, of hope deferred and doubts unresolved, in the sure confidence that others would enter into their labours. And, indeed, such confidence brings all the light which we need for courageous endurance. The crown of service is to know that the service, barren, perhaps, for the moment, will bear fruit in after time. Thus the words of the apostle are a voice of encouragement to all who catch a distant and interrupted vision of the later fulfilment of God's will. "Not unto themselves, but unto you" this is the judgment which history addresses to us in recording the toils and aims of those to whom we owe our splendid inheritance in our national Church. They gave their best in thought and deed to the cause of God, and left the using to His wisdom. Now I wish to speak of our debt to the future. For, as we contemplate our gathered treasures, we cannot but ask to what use we shall put them, and so we pass on to the wider question of the office which we are called to fulfil for our children. The progress of human life imposes the duty of large forethought on each such succeeding generation with ever-increasing force. Thought advances with accelerated motion. We may check or we may further the expression of the vital energy. We may, by wilful and impatient self-assertion, delay the end which even in our ignorance we desire; or we may by wise humility become in perfect devotion fellow workers with God. Under this aspect the work of the Church is prophetic. Its ministers are set to provide that under every change of circumstances the Divine idea of life shall be presented in confortuity with the circumstances under which it must be realised; to watch with dispassionate regard the currents of popular thought that they may prepare a natural welcome for fresh voices of the spirit; to guard, to develop that which in the Divine order will be the ruling idea of the next generation.
1. There is, I say, already among us a final perception of the unity of creation which it will be the health of our children to realise — a unity in Christ. Many of us have watched from the beginning the progress of the physical conceptions of the conservation and transformation of energy. We have apprehended with increasing clearness that nothing in the universe is isolated, and that we ourselves enter into all of which we are conscious.
2. There is again among us a growing acknowledgment of the unity of society which it will be the strength of our children to realise — a unity in Christ. Every one speaks of the present tendency towards democracy. The idea of democracy is not, if we look below the surface, so much a form of government as a confession of human brotherhood. It is the confession of common duties, common aims, common responsibilities.
3. There is yet more among us a feeling after a unity of humanity, a vaster, fuller, enduring human life, which it will be the joy of our children to realise — a unity in Christ. Such thoughts as these of an unrealised unity felt to be attainable, felt to correspond with the idea of creation given back to us in redemption, answer to the spirit of the age. They are in the air. They foreshow, that is, the truths which in the fulfilment of the Divine order are offered to us by the Holy Spirit. It is for the Church in the fulfilment of its prophetic office, even with imperfect and troubled knowledge, to welcome them, to give them shape, and to transmit them to the next age for the guidance and inspiration of its work. The truths lie, as I have said, in the gospel of the Incarnation. The urgent problems, the very dangers which rise before us, disclose in the central fact of all life — the Word became flesh — new depths of wisdom and consolation. We do not yet know the end — we have no power to know it — but we know the way — even Christ, who is able to subdue all things unto Himself. In that Presence we confess that the world is not a factory, or a warehouse, or a paradise of delights, but a sanctuary in which God's glory can be recognised and His voice still heard. But in spite of every burden of toil, of ignorance, of weariness, of suffering laid on sinful man, it is a sanctuary, full of the glory of God, in which each believer offers the worship of life and the sacrifice of his whole being. This light, this larger significance of things, this heavenly splendour of earth, this sense of opportunity, is even now borne in upon us on many sides, and it is the prophetic office of the Church to discern the signs of the fresh dayspring from on high, and prepare her sons to use the lessons of the new order.
Parallel VersesKJV: Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: