The Preparation of the World for the Gospel
Galatians 4:4-5
But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,…

Two principles should be borne in mind by those who would discover the Divine purposes in history,

1. The first is that God has the supreme control of events — that He "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will."

2. The other principle is that the operations of Providence should be studied in connection with any other disclosures which we may have of the laws and plans of the Divine workings. This rule is necessary if we would distinguish between those evils in our world which have been permitted and overruled for beneficent and holy ends, and those events which have been brought about either because in themselves excellent or for the accomplishment of good results. Let us spread before us the map of the world's affairs as they stood in the days of our Lord's appearance among men, and let us see the mighty hand of God in the disposition of them all, First, if we regard that age in its secular aspect, we find two great preparations for the successful diffusion of the gospel. The one of these was a general union and tranquility of the world, under Roman law; and the other a wide-spread civilization, accompanied by a well-nigh universal language, resulting chiefly from Grecian influence That of the one, if we may so speak, was negative, and was chiefly occupied in removing obstructions, so that a free course might be given to the Word of God. That of the other was positive, and furnished great facilities for the presentation and dissemination of the truth. It fact it would have mattered but little that the nations were kept in quietness under the compelling power of Roman law, had not the spirit of Grecian civilization, pervading the organization of Rome, exerted everywhere a beneficial influence. Let us now turn from the secular to the spiritual aspect of the ancient world if we would discover yet more convincing evidence of the workings of Divine wisdom. Here, again, the attentive reader of history can perceive two great preparations for the introduction of the gospel. The one of these was a deep consciousness of moral debasement and of religious darkness pervading the Gentile nations; and the other was a very general diffusion of the knowledge of the Jewish faith throughout the Roman Empire, accompanied by a recognition of its truth and excellence. The condition of the heathen world at the time of our Saviour's advent was truly deplorable. That dreadful description which Paul gives in the first part of his Epistle to the Romans is fully verified by the accounts of contemporary historians. The heathen were not without a knowledge of God, a sense of moral obligation and a perception of the distinction between right and wrong. In the discussions of their philosophers we find not only some of the most eloquent praises of virtue that ever were written, but also the clearest directions regarding the various duties of life. The taw of God was plainly written on their hearts. In proof of this we may cite the remarkable fact that the treatise of Cicero, "Concerning Morals," was long used as a text-book in seminaries of the Christian Church. Indeed, this treatise must ever give delight to those who can appreciate the wisdom and purity of its instructions. But it was the wretchedness and the condemnation of the heathen world that they knew their duty and they did it not. Their philosophy was utterly powerless to resist the influences which destroyed them; and their religion was worse than powerless. None save the lowest class of the people retained any faith in the polytheistic creeds; a general feeling a want regarding both the knowledge and the efficacy of religion pervaded the nations of the world. But there was yet another method in which a Divine Providence was preparing the nations for our Saviour's advent. This was, the diffusion of the principles of the Jewish faith throughout every part of the Roman Empire. All classes in society had some followers of Moses; even kings and queens did not blush to own themselves believers in the God of Israel. Then also multitudes of thinking men who made no profession of Judaism were familiarized with the conceptions of the ever-living Jehovah and of His promised Christ. In this way the ancient form of religion went before Christianity, heralding its approach and predisposing men for its clearer and more powerful revelations. There was then an external fitness for the successful impartation of the truth. Under the security and tranquility of Rome's imperial sway the gospel was committed to the language of educated and thoughtful humanity, and was borne on the life-currents of Grecian civilization to the various populations of the earth. There was, also, a deeper and spiritual preparation. Bitter experience had proved the worthlessness of the ancient superstitions, and had shown that extremity of wickedness and misery to which our race is tending, and from which there can be no deliverance save through the power of a Heaven. sent faith. And, finally, the Jewish religion, containing in its bosom the essential truths of salvation, by its gradual diffusion, gave men a prophetic foretaste of Christianity, and a readiness to receive further; Divine instructions. From this whole subject we may derive two important lessons. First, let us learn to adore and love and trust that Almighty Being who rules, with purposes of mercy, over the children of men. That is an exalted conception of God which is presented to us in the Christian doctrine of providence. No evil genius presides over human destinies; nor a blind, unconscious fate; nor a stern God of justice who has forgotten to be gracious. It is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, from the beginning of the world till the present day, has been controlling the affairs of our globe to advance His compassionate designs. What a confidence have Christians here! In the midst of the revolutions, and disasters, and evils of earth, the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Let us, also, be taught by this subject, the inestimable importance of the religion of Jesus Christ. When the Roman procurator of Judea carelessly questioned the Galilean who stood before him, accused by the malicious Jews, he little thought that the very empire, in which he himself was but an insignificant officer, was brought into existence and built up into power to advance the mission of that despised and persecuted Nazarene. And when the light-minded Athenians mocked the unpretending preacher of the Cross, they were far from conjecturing that the chief object for which the language and the civilization of Greece had been developing for centuries, was to diffuse the gospel which Paul proclaimed throughout all the habitable globe. Yet, in the mind of the Supreme Being, this was a worthy end of a providential control of human affairs during a period of thousands of years. See how differently God and man view the same things! But if Christianity has received such care from Almighty God, how important should this religion be in the eyes of those for whose welfare it is intended!

(E. J. Hamilton, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

WEB: But when the fullness of the time came, God sent out his Son, born to a woman, born under the law,

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ
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