« PoprzedniaDalej »
world looks to them to patronize and sustain them. Who is to sustain the numberless dram-shops licensed here under the authority of the laws in our city, and to license the future drunkards whose oaths and blasphemy are to roll up towards heaven? Our sons, if ten thousand arts of the tempter can break them away from the restraints of home, and can neutralize the effect of Sabbath-school instruction, and put back parental prayers unheard. Who are to be the patrons of the theatre? Your sons and daughters; and unless the love of pleasure can be implanted more than the love of God, soon might their doors be closed, to be opened no more. Thus every vice looks to the young for patronage; and ten thousand arts concentrate their influence to alienate the young from God, and to draw them down to death. Another feature is the ease with which guilt here may be concealed. The most powerful protection of virtue in the country, is public opinion, and the assurance that the guilty there cannot escape from it. An eye of public vigilance is on every man, and his character is known and understood. Not so here.
The guilty may flee away from every being but God, and practise bis deeds of evil unknown. In a cellar, a garret, or a palace, at his pleasure, he may hide himself, and who can drag him out to the light of day? What is more, he may so conceal his guilt that his infamy shall not be suspected; or what is more and worse still, he may so combine with others as to modify public opinion, and make virtue cease to blush when she gives him the hand.
When one looks on these facts he will cease to wonder that cities have every where presented formidable obstacles to revivals of religion. One question I have to submit, in conclusion, to those who bear the name of christian. It is, whether their hearts would feel any joy at a work of grace that should pervade all this population, and fill these streets and dwellings with seriousness and the fear of God? A heathen monarch of a much greater city than this, once rose up from his throne, and covered himself with sackcloth, and was followed by his court and nobles, and by all the people, in a solemn fast for three days. Who adjudges that the bosom of the king of Nineveh in this was swayed by any improper feeling? Another heathen monarch, at the head of two millions of men, sat down and wept. In an hundred years, said he, all that mighty host will be dead. The vision of Xerxes extended no farther. He had no tear to shed over their doom beyond the grave. How different that feeling from the view which excited the Redeemer to weep! His tears fell because he could see beyond the tomb ; because he saw the unending career of the never-dying soul; and knew what it was if the soul should be lost. And this multitude that we see in this city; this gay, busy, thoughtless, volatile, unthinking throng that sweep along these streets, or that dwell in these palaces, or that crowd these theatres or these assembly-rooms, where, O where, will they be in a hundred years? Dead; all dead. Every eye will have lost its lustre; every frame its vigor; every rose shall have faded from the cheek; the charms of music shall no more entrance the ear; the fingers shall have forgotten the melody of the lute and the organ. Where will they be? In yonder heaven, or in yonder hell-part, alas ! how small a part! with ears attuned to sweeter sounds, and with eyes radiant with immortal brilliancy, and with a frame braced with the vigor of never-dying youth. Part, alas ! how large a part! in that world, a view of whose unutterable sufferings drew tears from the eyes of the Son of God! Each man that dares to curse Jehovah on his throne; each victim of intemperance and lust; each wretch on which the eye fastens in the lowest form of humanity, has an immortal nature that shall live beyond the stars, and that shall survive when “the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll!” The shadowy vale of death will soon be past, and the thoughtless and guilty throngs will be found amid the severe and awful scenes of eternal justice! Christian, pray, pray, O pray for a REVIVAL OF PURE RELIGION IN THE GUILTY
CITIES OF OUR LAND.
BY REV. ALBERT BARNES.
No. 6. THE DUTIES OF CHRISTIANS IN REGARD TO REVIVALS
"Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred
within him when he savo the city wholly given to idolatry.” Acts, 17:16.
Two very opposite effects are produced on different minds by difficulties and embarrassments. One is to dispirit and dishearten, the other is to animate with augmented ardor and zeal.' The former is the effect produced on the mass of mind; the latter is that produced on the few. The multitude become intimidated, and give over effort as hopeless; the few who are bold and resolute, who act from the convictions of principle and conscience, or who see a prize worth exertion, are stimulated to greater efforts by every new difficulty, and develope resources of invention and talent before unknown to themselves, and surprising to their friends. This it is to be great; and this constitutes the real greatness of the few who have deserved and received the name.
The record of the visit of the Apostle Paul at Athens furnishes an illustration of this principle; and I know not that a better one can be found. It was the first time when he had been there ; but not the time when he first learned its fame. He himself had been born in a city whose schools rivalled those of Athens; and there is reason to think that at some period of his life he had been familiar with the more distinguished classic productions in the Greek language ; and he was certainly not disqualified for appreciating the eloquence, and the elegant arts of that city. Longinus thus speaks of Paul: "The following men are the boast of all eloquence, and of Grecian genius, viz. Demosthenes, Lysias, Æschines, Hyperides, Isæus, Anarchus, Isocrates, and Antiphon, to whom may be added Paul of Tarsus," certainly qualified to appreciate what to a classic mind must have been interesting, nay, almost entrancing, in Athens. Her schools, her academic groves, her wonders of art, it might have been supposed, would have attracted the attention of such a mind. What an opportunity of examining for the first, and perhaps the last time, the immortal works of Phidias and Praxiteles! What an opportunity for mingling in the circles of the most refined society in the world! How vain would it appear to be for such a stranger, a solitary and unknown man, to attempt to produce a change in the religious condition of that city, or to produce there a revival of religion !
The effect on his mind of a survey of the state of things there is described in my text. “His spirit was stirred within him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” The spirit of Paul was roused here, as it was every where, by the prevalence of sin, and he was led to put forth augmented efforts, in view of the very difficulties before him.
In this instance we have an illustration of the feelings which a christian should cherish in the midst of a great city. They were feelings such as Paul himself cherished in the midst of gay and vo. luptuous Corinth, when he resolved that he would know nothing there save Jesus Christ, and him crucified;—which he had in Ephesus, where he labored so assiduously for the overthrow of idolatry, and for the conversion of its multitudes to God; and which he had in Antioch, in Philippi, and in Rome. I wish at this time, from the feelings thus manifested by Paul, to offer some remarks on the duties of christians in cities and large towns, particularly with reference to revivals of religion; and I shall set my views before you in a series of observations all bearing on this point, to show what christians ought to do to promote revivals of religion in such places.
I. My first observation is, that religion first showed its power, and especially in revivals of religion, in cities and large towns. There the Gospel met every form of human wickedness, and showed its power to triumph over all. In Jerusalem, the seat of pharisaical pride and hypocrisy, and of dependence on the mere forms of religion ; in Antioch, the rich and commercial emporium of Syria, and the seat of all the affluence and luxury that commerce produces; in Ephesus, the strongest hold of idolatry, and the place to which tens of thousands resorted to pay their worship at the shrine of the most splendid temple in the heathen world; in Philippi, long the capital of Macedonia, and filled with all the sins that usually pertain to court; in Corinth, the most gay, and voluptuous, and sensual, and dissipated city of the age—the Paris of antiquity; and in Rome itself, the capital of the world, and like London, the common sewer of the nations, as it was characterized by Tacitus; in all these places the Gospel showed its power, and achieved its earliest triumphs. In each one of these flourishing churches were established, and in each one, under the apostolic preaching, were witnessed all the phenomena that characterize religion now.
It must continue to be so, till the whole world is converted to God. Cities are, and will be, the centres of moral power; and their influence must be felt over all other portions of the world. Missionaries now go to great cities just as the apostles did, and begin their work there. It is in such places as Constantinople, and Jerusalem, and Calcutta, and Canton, and Bankok, and Cairo, that the triumphs of the Gospel are expected; and to secure such places of influence is deemed as needful as it is for an invading army to seize upon the strong fortresses of a land. In our own country, therefore, and in other lands, christians are to labor and pray now, as the apostles did, for the promotion of religion in cities and large towns.
II. My second remark is, that there is the same need of a revival of pure religion in these places, that there was in the cities that were visited by the apostles, and the same things to excite christians to effort for their conversion which there was then. Were Paul to come now and visit this city, or any of the great cities of our land, as he did Athens, what would he find? What honor would he see put on God? What would he see to be the great and prevalent object of living? And what, with his recorded views of the character of men, and of the final destiny of the guilty, would he regard as the doom of the multitudes here? We may take this great city as a fair and favorable specimen of the character of the cities of our land. What would he find here ? He would find indeed no idols, and no temples reared to false gods. Thanks to the God of our fathers, who directed hitherward the steps of men who feared his name, not an idol god has been made, nor an idol temple reared, since the white man first penetrated the forests of the new world ; and amidst all the works of art in our cities, the chisel of the sculptor has never been employed to engrave a god of stone. But in this city he would find more than an hundred thousand people without any form or semblance of religion. They enter no sanctuary; they worship no God, true or false. They have not even gone so far as to rear, as the Athenians did, an altar “ to the unknown God,"—the unknown God, amidst their rabble of divinities, who, they supposed, had come to save them from the pestilence. Along these streets the pestilence has also spread, perhaps in as frightful a form as that described by Thucydides in Athens ; and God, the true God, has interposed to save; but the multitude that were spared erected no altar to their unknown God to commemorate the event. He might go into some thousands of houses, and he would find no shrines, no Lares, no Penates, no form or mode of devotion. He would find their inmates devoted to idols, but idols without temples, save the temple of the heart. To Mammon or to Bacchus he might find them devoted, with an ardor never witnessed in Athens; but to these they have erected no altars. He would find many a splendid house where dwells a whole family with no form of devotion ; who enter no sanctuary; who have no Sabbath except for amusement; who live as though it were not worth inquiry or argument whether there be a God and an eternity. He would find many who live to feast on the bounties of Providence without thanksgiving; who riot on the verge of the grave unalarmed; and who attend even their departed friends to the tomb with no more personal anxiety about their own preparation to die, than though the inscription made on the entrance to a cemetery in the capital of France during the revolution, “Death is an eternal sleep," were settled to be the truth, and ought to be inscribed over every dwelling-place of the dead. But are they idolaters ? As degrading, and often as sunken as though they worshipped blocks of wood and stone, for they fix on other objects the affection due to God. Many even in this city have sunk to a depth of debasement to which the vilest form of idolatry rarely consigns its votaries; for even a bad religion has some restraints-irreligion has none. Part worship wealth, part fashion; part do homage to low and debasing pleasures. And amidst the idol worship of Athens there was not a more effectual exclusion of the true God from the soul, than there is from the hearts and habitations of tens of thousands in this city.
III. My third remark is, that it is chiefly on christians that dependence can be placed to rouse the great and thoughtless multitudes of a city population to a sense of their guilt and danger. I say chiefly; for though we may hope something from the effects of the various dispensations of Providence in afflictions in arousing men; though we may rely somewhat on the fact that the consciences of men may be alarmed in view of their guilt and danger, and in the prospect of death; though we may hope that thoughtful inquiry may be aroused by the Divine Spirit in some minds without any visible means used; and though we may hope that some of the great mass may from time to time become sick of the vain world, and in their disgust inquire whether there is not comfort to be found in religion, yet the main hope is, that christians will use their influence to bear the truth to them, con