Predictions from 100 Years Ago


No more rats or mosquitoes. A ride to the city for 1 cent. Political corruption – gone. Housekeeping reduced to “fun, a real joyful picnic.” Those are just some of the predictions made 100 years ago. Ladies Home Journal said there would be no more mice, house flies, or roaches by the year 2000. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said work would be “reduced to a minimum by machinery. Nobody will lack an automobile or air yacht.” British scientist William Thompson declared, “Radio has no future. Flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” Even H. G. Wells missed it, claiming submarines would “do nothing but suffocate their crews and flounder at sea.” It was predicted that phones would allow Americans to one day talk to people on Mars, and the letters C, Q, and X would be eliminated from our alphabet.

But they got a few things right, including the prediction of a snowmobile (“automobile on snow”), cars that would replace horse-drawn buggies, a population explosion, and modern conveniences expedited by electricity. It is hard to predict things 100 years out. The weatherman is doing good to predict tomorrow’s rain. But there was one guy who turned out to be a prophet. His name was John Bates Clark. He was a well-known author, cited as an optimist. But despite his optimism of an easier lifestyle and modern conveniences, Clark thought that “progress might weaken individual morality. Wealth and whiz-bang gadgets at home might spur sore temptations of materialism, isolation, and loss of community.”

Give Mr. Clark an A+ for prognostication. He nailed it. His words could have been taken from today’s headlines. But we are slow learners. Most Christians continue to seek God’s hand more than his heart. We want his blessings more than we want him. Every moment of every day he hears the same old prayer: “Please God, give me ________.” He is longing to hear this prayer: “Just a closer walk with Thee. Grant it Jesus, is my plea. Daily walking close to Thee. Let it be, Lord, let it be.” Do you know where that song comes from? It is from the African American community of the South in pre-Civil War days. This song is a product of slavery. But they did not pray for freedom. They prayed for holiness. With all the modern conveniences of life, we continue to seek more. I wonder what our Christian ancestors would say to us if they could see us now. We feel persecuted if the AC goes out at church. Divorce, immorality, and pornography are almost as rampant among professed believers as with the general population. Mr. Clark was right 100 years ago. The enslaved believers of the Old South prayed for a closer walk with their Lord. The refined believers of today pray for more stuff. And we call this “progress.”


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