“When the fullness of the time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law: that he might redeem them who were under the law; that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Gal. 4:4, 5)
“That he might make known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in him, in the dispensation of the fullness of times, to reestablish all things in Christ, that are in heaven and on earth, in him.” (Eph. 1:9, 10)
God had permitted the world to teach itself its lesson. Man had learned what of himself he is, or rather what he is not; what of himself he can do, or rather what he cannot do. Till the “fullness of time,” till the coming of Our Lord, the history of mankind had been the history of blighted hopes, of successive disappointments, of civilizations growing up and ending in collapse. It is true there had been some progress in spite of these collapses. From the ruins of each succeeding stage, man had picked out a few relics to be treasured for the future; and these, gradually accumulated, had formed the material side of the “fullness of time.” There was also the spiritual side. Out of all these experiences, man had learned himself—about his own limitations, his own humiliation, and his utter dependence on some higher power for any hope of safety. He had learned to aspire to other things than this life of ruins and disappointments could give him. Jews and Gentiles alike had come to yearn for something nobler than had as yet been laid before them; this time of longing was the “fullness of time.”
During all these ages, God had been watching; watching and waiting. He knew what was happening in the world; not a sparrow fell to the ground without His knowledge. He had given man free will, to do good or to do evil; He permitted him to shape his life in the world as he would. Some of the consequences of his evil deeds He permitted man to suffer, in himself or in his posterity; and this made the misery of the world. But not all did He permit; had He done so, man would have destroyed himself, corrupted himself off the face of the earth. Instead, the hand of God was ever held out to save him from utter ruin; preventing him here, guiding him there, in another place enlightening him, strengthening him, beyond all desert or expectation.
Man needed to learn the lesson; and even today, like a thoughtless child, man needs to be constantly reminded of it. Like a thoughtless child, with the least success he becomes elated; he forgets his littleness and dependence; he assumes airs; he demands all kinds of rights and privileges; he is impertinent to his master, he will brook no interference. And as with the spoiled child, so with man: the only cure is to let him fall. That teaches him, as nothing else, how very weak he is, how very dependent; it teaches him, too, how dear is the heart of the Master who has permitted it. But with us it is not as with the men of the olden times. They yearned to their Lord through the ages; we have Him in our midst, at hand to help when we plead.