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and his claims set at nought; and he saw that there the great act of national crime, which outpeers all other deeds of guilt, was about to be perpetrated-by his own murder; and that for these things the city was to be filled soon with wo, and blood, and horror; the temple fired and razed to its foundations; the imposing rites of religion to cease ; and the inhabitants of the city and the land that should survive the siege to be borne into captivity, or scattered to the ends of the world, to be re-gathered to the land of their fathers no more. More than this, he saw heavy judgments impending over them as sinners; and the fearful doom awaiting the rejecters of the Son of God in the future world. For these things his eyes run down with tears; and of all the scenes of moral grandeur ever witnessed in this world, none have equalled that when the Son of God, seated on the Mount of Olives, cast his eyes over the city spread out before him, and gave vent to his feelings in a flood of tears.
I see no reason to doubt that, if he were again on earth, he would evince the same feelings in surveying the great cities that now exist. I doubt not that in Paris, in London, in Canton, in New York, in Philadelphia, in Baltimore, in Cincinnati, he would see much that would peculiarly excite to tears. I do not see why Jerusalem was so pre-eminent either in numbers, in wickedness, or in the approaching doom of its inhabitants, as to claim exclusively the compassion and call forth the tears of the Son of God. The same thing substantially will be found to exist in all these cities as in Jerusalem ; the same combined resistance of himself and his Gospel; the same concentrated wickedness; the same accumulation of vice, licentiousness, pride, and sensuality; and the same awful doom impending over the congregated masses of guilt. One reason of his weeping then was, that his Gospel had been there so unsuccessful. He had preached in Galilee; he had trod the shores of the lake of Gennesareth; he had proclaimed his message in numerous country villages, and among the hamlets of the poor, with eminent suc
But in the great towns, in Capernaum, in Bethsaida, in
zin, and pre-eminently in Jerusalem, he had met with peculiar obstacles to the success of the Gospel ; and which in one case called forth the heaviest denunciations which ever fell from his lips : “Wo unto thee, Chorazin; Wo unto thee, Bethsaida ;" and which in the other excited him now to tears!
I derive from the text the sentiment that Christ found peculiar obstacles to the reception of his Gospel in cities and large towns; and my object at this time is to show what some of those obstacles are. My last Lecture was on the importance of revivals of religion in cities and large towns. The present Lecture will be a continuation of the same subject in general, or another aspect of it, by showing the peculiar hinderances to religion existing there, and hence the importance and necessity of REVIVALS to meet and overcome those hinderances.
I. I invite your attention, in the first place, to the obstacles to revivals arising from the very constitution or organization of cities and large towns. The idea which I wish to present is, that there is a large portion of the population that is almost entirely inaccessible by the Gospel, or designedly beyond the reach of the ordinary means of grace.
“God made the country, and man made the town,” said the sweetest of British bards, though in this case with perhaps rather more truth than poetic beauty. Christ found, as has already been observed, a country and a village population accessible to the Gospel, and the triumphs of his personal ministry were mainly there. There are few, comparatively, of very elevated rank there; few in affluence. There are fewer low and debasing vices; few comparatively of the more fascinating allurements; few extended and compacted combinations of guilt; few to whom and to whose dwellings those who are disposed to do good may not find a welcome and ready access.
But the moment you enter a city, with all its external beauty and splendor; with all its courtesy and refinement; with all its science and art; nay, with all its healthful institutions of morality and religion, you are struck with the almost entire exclusion of the extremes of the population from all access by the Gospel and the means of grace. On the one hand there is that vast portion of a city population which may be regarded as the lower stratum of society-i mean that dense and dark mass, the population of alleys, and cellars, and garrets—the ignorant, the degraded, the grossly sensual, the idle, the worthless-the refuse of society, and “the offscouring of the world,” always existing in a city, though often concealed from the stranger, and whose existence is disregarded, or whose condition is unknown, by that half of the race who know not how the other half lives." Could the veil be suddenly lifted from the crime and abomiration, the degraded vices and the low scenes of guilt and profligacy with which even a city like this abounds, and could we see it as the All-seeing Eye sees it, we should start back with horror, familiar as we in some degree become with it. Let an individual go at leisure through our streets, and lanes, and alleys ; let him go to the foul retreats of drunkenness, gluttony, and pollution ; let him look on the wretches burrowed in these foul recesses ; let him look at the houses of infamy, and see the thousands that visit those houses—they alike with their inmates inaccessible to all the means of salvation, and with consciences “seared as with a hot iron,”—and he will have some idea of the obstacles which stand in the way of revivals of religion in cities. Let him think of the criminals which throng our courts and crowd our prisons; the paupers in our alms-houses, most of them made such by intemperance; the beggars patrolling our streets, whose story is, in general, but a veil to their faults; but most of all, of that numerous banditti of thieves, robbers, swindlers, pilferers, incendiaries, burglars, and ruffians, whose concealment from the public eye alone prevents alarm—the thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands, who are here congregated and affiliated in various ways in infamy and crime, and he will be at no loss to understand some of the obstacles which exist here to the spread of all religion, and especially to revivals.
A very large portion of this class is inaccessible by any means which are used, or which can be at present used, to spread among them the Gospel. They enter no church from year to year. Many an individual has lived more than twenty years in this city and never entered a place of public worship. Multitudes of them have no Bible; or if they had, they could not read it, or would immediately pawn it to procure the means of intoxication. Multitudes of them spurn a tract, or if they did not, it would be useless to them. Multitudes of them study concealment; practise crimes which cannot be exposed to the light of day; and alike shrink away from a police officer and from a minister of religion.
But I wish especially to remark, not on their inaccessibility, but on the fact that they are not in a condition where revivals of religion can be expected, such as I am advocating, and such as have hitherto, in general, blessed this land. The most powerful revivals of religion in this country have occurred in those places where the mass of the people are the best educated, and where they are most sober in their lives, most virtuous and industrious, and regular in their attendance on the house of God. But this has not been the general character of revivals in this land. They have been the fruits of sound instruction, and of a careful training in common-schools and in Sabbath-schools; they have occurred where the Gospel has been long and faithfully preached, and those who have been converted have been usually those whose minds have been most sedulously taught by the labors of the ministry; they have occurred eminently in our colleges and higher female seminaries—places far removed from mere enthusiasm, and places where God has made intellectual culture contribute to the purity and power of revivals. But how different all this from the wretched, untaught, and degraded population of our cities!
Even, therefore, if we had access to this immense mass; if we had ministers enough to go to them and preach ; or if every christian should become a missionary to them, and bear the tidings of salvation, their very ignorance and degradation would oppose a most formidable barrier to pure revivals of religion. That dark mass must be elevated; these hordes of wandering and wretched children must be gathered into schools and taught; these fountains of poison, now pouring desolation and wo into so many dwellings, must be closed; the Bible must be placed in these houses, and the inmates taught to read it; and a long process of most self-denying instruction must be gone into, before, in our cities, there will be witnessed the revivals of purity and power which have so abundantly blessed the smaller towns and the villages of our land.
I have spoken of the low and degraded part of our population as opposing one obstacle to revivals. This is one extreme. And here is one great department of christian effort where all our prayers and all our self-denials are demanded.
But there is another class at the other extreme of society, in our great cities, that is not less inaccessible by the Gospel of Christ. It is that great department “far above these augean stables of sin and pain, which no Herculean labor can cleanse, but connected with it by innumerable doors and headlong steps. This region appears brilliant and fair ; its precincts resound with hilarity, music, and songs; and it contains thousands of the opulent, the fashionable, and the gay; vice is clad in splendor here, and a spirit reigns which knows no moral law but inclination, and recognizes no god but pleasure.” For guilt often treads flowery paths, and goes up the heights of honor and ambition.. It reclines on a couch of ease; rests on a bed of down ; puts on robes of adorning ; is seen in the joyousness of the mazy dance; and moves amidst the civilities and courtesies of refined life. For this class distant climes pour in their luxuries; the theatre opens its doors; splendid mansions rise—the cost of tens of thousands of dollars—with gorgeous decorations, to furnish places for dances and revelry; for this class art is exhausted; night becomes more brilliant than day; and the cup of pleasure is drunk deep and long, and music lavishes her charms to give pleasure to the ear and joy to the heart. In such circles we look in vain for prayer; for the serious reading of the Bible; for an anxious concern for the soul; for a humble and penitent sitting at the feet of the Redeemer. And we look as really in vain there for solid happiness. What are often the characteristics of such circles? It is a world of splendor without enjoyment; of professions without sincerity; of flattery without heart; of gayety which mocks the real feelings of the soul, and of smiles when the heart: is full of envy and chagrin; a cup of hilarity whose dregs are wormwood and gall; scenes of momentary pleasure to be succeeded by long nights of painful reminiscences and by despair.. There is “ restless pride without gratification; ostentation without motive or reward ; ceremony without comfort; laughter without joy; smiles which conceal rancor ; vociferous praise alloyed with envy, and dying away with the whispers of calumny;" and compliance with the laws of fashion which are hated; and a servitude to customs where the chains eat deep into the flesh. Think you that these people, "whose every step appears light and airy as the radiant footstep of Aurora,—whose very form and features are luminous with contentment and hope,” are happy? Do
they live on in a continual round of unmingled enjoyment ? No. The immortal mind is not thus made. The brilliance of these things strikes the eye, but conveys no pleasure to the heart; and in the very midst of all this external show and glitter, the conscience, true to itself and to God, may be uttering the language of rebuke, and the recollection of all this folly may bathe the cheek and the pillow in tears.
But my principal object is not to remark on the folly of these scenes : for, so far as their fellow-mortals are concerned, men and women have a right to spend their money and be as foolish as they please; nor do I wish to remark on the hollowness of all this, and its destitution of happiness, but on the fact that it stands in the way of revivals, and of religion, in all forms. Unlike the other description of the population of a city already adverted to, in most respects they are like them in this. Thousands of them are as ignorant of the Gospel as they are. The Bible is indeed in their habitations, but it is not read; not because they cannot read it, but because they will not. They enter no sanctuary; and no one bears the Gospel to them. A nominal connection may be held with some christian congregation to secure some tight of burial—for there is some thinking about death as a matter in which property is involved—but they are strangers to the house of God. Many a splendid mansion in this city is tenanted by those who enter no house of worship. And who carries the Gospel to them? Who tells them that they have a soul? Who reminds them that they are going to the judgment-bar, or to hell? Alas! the messenger that bears the Tract to the humble mansion of the
is often turned rudely away from the splendid abode of the rich. The minister of religion goes not there; for to do it would be to violate a law of etiquette, which, as a stranger, he may not disregard; or, if he goes, daunted, it may be, by wealth, and splendid furniture, and rank, and perhaps by high intellectual endowment, he seeks to relieve his conscience by some time-serving message; speaks, if at all, in flattering accents of the cross, and would quail before an anticipated frown or rebuke, should he faithfully speak of sin and of the judgment to come. In scenes like these, too, who looks for friendship for revivals of religion? Who is disappointed to find them regarded there as wildfire, fanaticism, and disorder? In the character, therefore, the habits, the manners, the inaccessibility of these large classes of a city population, is found the first obstacle to revivals of religion in a city, and is an obstacle which nothing but the mighty power of God can overcome.
II. A second great hinderance to revivals, growing out of the nature of a city organization, arises from what may properly be called the want of sympathy, or common ties in such a community. It strikes a stranger as singular, that people separated only by the wall of a dwelling should be strangers to each other; and that in a dense and crowded population there should not be the strongest