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"And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached
in his name among all nations, BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM.Luke, 24 : 47.
In two previous discourses I have endeavored to explain the nature of revivals of religion; to show that they are in accordance with the laws of the human mind and the mode in which society is organized; that they are described in the Scriptures as inestimable blessings; and that their value has been shown in a special manner in the history of religion in our own country. My particular object in this course of Lectures, however, was not so much to vindicate revivals in general, as to consider their relation to cities and large towns; and I propose now to enter on this, the main part of our subject. The point which will be before us at this time will be THE IMPORTANCE OF REVIVALS OF RELIGION IN CITIES AND LARGE TOWNs. On a subject so copious I scarcely know where to begin, or what topics of illustration to select out of the numbers which at once present themselves to the mind. ing by a great variety of considerations which cannot be urged in the short time allotted to a single public service, or reserying them to illustrate other parts of our main subject, I shall select a few designed to ascertain the Redeemer's view of the importance of cities; the view of the apostles on the same
subject; and the bearing which the state of religion in cities must have on the world at large.
I. I begin with the view which the Saviour had of the importance of special efforts for the conversion of cities.
Our text contains an expression of his views about the importance of revivals in cities. When it was uttered, he was about to finish his work on earth. He had made an atonement for sin; he had risen from the dead; he was soon to ascend to heaven; and he was about giving to his disciples his parting charge, and directing them in regard to their plans and labors for the conversion of the world. It is natural to suppose that he would suggest to them the most feasible and economical mode of expending their strength and forming their plans; and that he would direct them how to act in the most efficient manner on the strong points of influence in the world. Our text contains the sum of his instructions. Repentance and remission of sins were to be preached among all nations, BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM. That was the capital of the nation ; that the place where he had been put to death; that a city pre-eminent in wickedness and in influence; and that, therefore, was the place to which their attention was to be first directed. It is worthy of remark also, as an illustration of our subject, that he designed that they should labor there, with special reference to a revival of religion in that city. There they were to tarry "until they were endued with power from on high," (verse 49,) and there to “wait for the promise of the Father.” Acts, 1:4. In that great and guilty metropolis they were to remain until the great movement for the conversion of the world to God was to be commenced in a glorious revival of religion.
The Redeemer's views of the importance of religion in cities were further illustrated by his own personal labors when on earth. He had designed a personal ministry that was to continue but three or four years; and it was manifestly a question with him where that period could be most advantageously spent for the great objects which he had in view. Thirty years he had spent, before he entered on his public work, in the quiet retreats of an obscure and humble country village; far from the noise and bustle of a large town; far from the excitements of the capital; far from the distractions and anxieties of a populous city. He had loved—we may suppose without much danger of indulging in mere fancy--the hills and vales, the fields and groves, the shady retreats, the stillness and quiet of the region around Nazareth--a love in which all who desire to cultivate meek, and humble, and pure religion like his will participate—for such scenes are most favorable to communion with God. Is it improper to suppose that the feelings which made the Redeemer delight in a place like Nazareth were such as prompted the following lines from the sweet christian poet Cowper:
"Far from the world, O Lord, I flee;
“From strife and tumult far;
“ His most successful war.
“The calm retreat, the silent shade,
“With prayer and praise agree;
“For those who follow thee."
But when he entered on his public work, be emerged from this obscure and humble life. He made his permanent home in Capernaum, a central city in Galilee, at the head of the sea of Tiberias. He preached in all the cities which skirted the lake of Gennesareth; in the large towns which were between them and the capital ; and he preached much amidst assembled thousands on the great festivals in Jerusalem itself. His mighty works were in the vicinity of these large towns, where thousands could easily be assembled to hear him. He was found in the busy haunts of men; his walks were along the shores of that lake where stood Capernaum, Chorazin, Bethsaida; and his aim was to carry at once the influence of his Gospel to the centres of influence and power.
The sum of his views on this subject are expressed in the following passages of the New Testament: “And it came to pass,” says Matthew, “when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities." Chapter 11:1. “I must preach the kingdom of God,” said he, “to other cities also, for therefore am I sent." Luke, 4:43. “How often," said he of Jerusalem, “how often would I have gathered THY CHILDREN together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” Matthew, 23:37, Luke, 13:34. So it is said respecting most of the works of his public ministry. “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not.” Matthew, 11 : 20. It is a circumstance also which may throw some light on the divine estimate of the importance of cities, that it was predicted that the announcements of the Gospel would be first made to them. “O thou that bringest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, list up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto THE CITIES OF JUDAH, Behold your God!" Isaiah, 11:9.
The same thing in regard to the views of the Redeemer is every where evinced in his instructions to his disciples. It is manifest that he anticipated that the principal sphere of their labors would be in cities and large towns. “Into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy." Matt. 10:11. “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place whither he himself would come.” John, 10:1. “When they persecute you in one city, flee ye into another; for
say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of man be come.” Matthew, 10 : 23. From these and numerous similar passages of Scripture it is evident that the Saviour felt that it was of special importance that great efforts should be made for the conversion of cities, and that he not only spent a large portion of his own public ministry there, but anticipated that his apostles would also. We shall not err, therefore, in the conclusion, that he felt that it was of special importance that cities and large towns should be pervaded with his Gospel, and that in those places were to be witnessed signal displays of his saving power.
II. The same conclusion will be reached, if we examine the views which the apostles had of the importance of these fields of labor. I need not say that a large part of the labors of the apostles, so far as the Scripture record informs us, was devoted to cities and large towns, and that the most signal success of the Gospel was there. All that is needful for the illustration of this part of our subject, is the most summary reference to the labors of the apostles and to the character of the large cities where they labored. I by no means mean to say that the apostles did not jeel it important to preach the Gospel in country villages and neighborhoods. Their commission extended to all the world, and we know that Paul preached the Gospel in all the places where he travelled. But the idea is, that they felt that cities were central places of power and influence; that they were the strong holds of the enemy of man; that wickedness was concentrated there; and that their object was to go from city to city until they reached the capital of the world, the very seat of imperial power, and formed their plan with a design that the banners of the faith should, if possible before they died, be seen streaming from the palaces of the Cesars. They acted on the principle on which Alexander and Cesar, and all the great conquerors of all times act, that of seizing upon the strong places of power and holding them in subjection, with the assurance that all other places will then become an easy conquest.
A slight glance at the labors of the apostles and at the principal places where the Gospel triumphed at first, will show the estimate which they affixed to cities and large towns, and their views of the proper places where special efforts for the spread of the Gospel should be made. The Gospel was first preached, after the ascension of the Redeemer, in Jerusalem, a city ten miles in circumference, and esteemed the third city of the age, the largest city of the land in which he lived, and the capital of the nation. The apostles went to Antioch, on the Orontes, the capital of Syria, and made that a centre of christian influence. They preached in Ephesus, regarded as the ornament, and in fact the most proud and splendid city in Asia Minor, and established a church there. There stood one of the seven wonders of the world, and there idolatry was intrenched with a power and
sustained with a magnificence not surpassed in any part of the earth. They preached in Derbe, in Lystra, and in Iconiumcities in the same region. They founded churches in Smyrna, the commercial capital of Asia Minor; in Pergamos, the literary capital of Asia Minor; in Thyatira; in Sardis, the once splendid capital of Croesus; in Philadelphia; and in Laodicea. They preached in Philippi and Thessalonica, and founded churches there. They preached in Athens, the distinguished seat of philosophy, science, and art, and where the Gospel would be opposed by the most subtle and refined philosophy of the world; in Corinth, the splendid capital of Achaia, and the very centre of refinement, of luxury, and of licentiousness--the Paris of antiquity; and they carried the Gospel to the very capital of the world, and established a church in Rome itself. Now in the records which we have in the Acts of the Apostles, it is remarkable that a large part of the narrative is occupied in detailing the labors of the apostles in these and in other cities; and it is as remarkable that notwithstanding all the difficulties in the case, and all the obstacles to the Gospel in cities and large towns, its most signal triumphs were there.
From this allusion to the labors of the apostles the following things are demonstrated: (1.) That they deemed cities and large towns to be worthy of their special attention and their special efforts. (2.) That they had the utmost confidence in the truth of the religion which they preached. They had no concealment; they had no fear of submitting the evidences of their religion to the most learned, acute, and philosophic portions of mankind. They sought to submit the proofs of christianity to the philosophers in Athens, in Corinth, and in Rome; they desired to exhibit them to the priests of pagan idolatry, to the literati of the world, and to princes, nobles, and monarchs; they performed their miracles in the most open manner, and adduced the evidence of the resurrection of their Master on Mars' Hill and in the Roman Forum, as well as in Jerusalem: and they confidently expected that if they could get a hearing, they could convince the most learned and philosophic portions of mankind of the truth of the christian religion. Such was not a work of impostors; it was a course pursued only by men who were honest, and who had the most unwavering conviction of the truth of the system which they preached. (3.) Their course demonstrates that the Gospel has power to meet all forms of sin and corruption, and that there is nothing in cities and large towns that constitutes an insuperable obstacle to a revival of religion. That Gospel which had power to overcome the pride and deep corruption of the Jewish capital, when the Redeemer had just been put to death, which could triumph in gay and voluptuous Corinth, in the splendid capital of Asia Minor, and in Rome itself, has power to meet any form of gayety, licentiousness, corruption, fashion, idolatry, and combined sin of any city in nominally christian