Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

vince them of their danger and their folly, and direct them to the Lamb of God. I say christians-meaning to include in this term the ministers of religion-with all the influence which can be derived from personal piety, learning, and eloquence, and all that can be derived from the respect which their office creates; other officers of the churches, with all the influence which their office creates, and with all that their private worth can add to their official influence; Sabbath-school teachers, with all the advantages which are furnished them from their access to the hearts of large numbers of the young; christian parents, with all that there is of authority and tenderness in their relation to their children-all of which should be tributary to the Gospel ; christian physicians, with all the influence which they may have in the houses of the sick and the dying ; christian magistrates, with all the power of their office in restraining vice and recommending virtue; the aged with their ripe experience, the young with their ardor, and the middle-aged with the maturity of their judgment; man with his energy and talent, and woman with her patience and tenderness in visiting the abodes of poverty and want. These constitute the reliance, under God, in promoting religion among the thoughtless masses of a city population. They are the enrolled, the disciplined, and the officered army which has been appointed here to fight the battles of the Lord. This constitutes the organization for all that is lovely and of good report against the numerous organizations for evil in a city like this: and this is what the Saviour relies on in the great work of securing for himself those centres of influence and power. They can feel, and should feel for the condition of those around them. They have influence and power given them for this end by the Head of the church. In Athens, Paul was probably the only man who had any just view of the guilt and danger of the multitudes that thronged the streets of that city; the only man that had any just view of God, and any knowledge of the plan of redemption; and the only hope of rousing that vast population of idolaters rested on the voice of this solitary stranger, a man unknown and without influence, or if known, despised. It is not so here. God has placed here more than twenty thousand, all of whom, according to their professions, should have the same feelings as Paul had in Athens. They profess the same religion; they worship the same God; they have, or should have, the same views of the guilt and danger of man, and of the necessity to be prepared to meet God. They are each one in possession of the same knowledge of the plan of salvation, and of the same hope of heaven; and there is not one of them, old or young, who is not, or should not be able to tell his neighbor the way by which he might be made everlastingly happy. Every parent can tell this to his children; and every Sabbath-school teacher to his scholars; and every man to his neighbor, to the poor, to the outcast, and to the vile. And how obvious it is, that, in the possession of this knowledge, it is their duty to seek that the whole population should be pervaded with christian influence, or that there

should be a revival of religion spreading throughout this entire community! It is as if the pestilence had come in upon the whole population, and was cutting off the inhabitants at a fearful rate every day, and God has intrusted to twenty thousand the knowledge of one infallible remedy for the disease. Who would feel himself blameless if a single one should die by his neglecting to communicate a knowledge of that remedy?

IV. My fourth observation is, that in cities and large towns christians are exposed to peculiar temptations and dangers.

Temptations to unfaithfulness exist every where. The country village has its temptations, and the city has its own. Which are the greatest, it is not needful now to inquire. The only point of inquiry before us here is, what dangers beset christians in cities and large towns ? Especially what dangers in regard to the direct efforts for the promotion of religion? What is there to chill and paralyze our efforts in reference to the cause of revivals?

There are many; and to show the nature of all those temptations and dangers fully, would far transcend the proper limits of a whole discourse, and can here only be glanced at. They are such as the following:

1. The danger of being soon discouraged by the magnitude of the evils around us. They are so numerous, and they pertain to so many subjects, and they are so fortified by prevalent customs, that the spirit of christians soon sinks and faints within them. To rouse a city—to promote a reformation there-to secure a general revival of religion, seems like an attempt to lade out the ocean, or like an effort to remove quicksand where it fills in as fast as you remove it.

2. We become familiar with the evils, and cease to feel appalled by their magnitude. A warm-hearted christian on going to Paris is shocked and pained at the gayety and licentiousness there; a christian from the country is shocked at the amount of sin in a great city, and pained at the condition of its thoughtless thousands; a young convert, just from his first view of the cross, and of the dying Saviour, and with his vivid conceptions of the worth of the soul, weeps over the condition of the tens of thousands around him, and feels, like young Melancthon, that he can persuade them all to turn to God. But how soon, as a general rule, does your stranger christian in Paris, and he that comes to us from the country, and the young convert, lose all this ardor! these thousands we see walk the streets almost forgetting that they have souls. The young and the accomplished we see crowd the abodes of fashion, and we seem to forget that for them Christ died, or that there can be for such gay and happy throngs any such places as a sick bed or a grave; the rich we see roll along in splendor, and cease to feel almost that there is a God before whom they must appear, and a hell where the rich man that is impenitent will lift up his eyes in torment; and soon we sleep as calmly in our beds as though all this multitude were on the way to heaven.

3. We are appalled by the fact that evils are combined and confederated, and that it seems almost hopeless to attempt to break them up. It is not that you have to meet an army of profane men, and that when they are reformed the field is clear, and the victory gained. It is not that you must meet a host of Sabbath-breakers, and that when they are restrained the victory is won. It is not that we must ferret out and reform some thousands of the impure and licentious, and that then the work is done. It is not that you must vanquish an army of atheists, and in fidels, and scoffers, and that when you have convinced them of the truth of christianity the task is completed. Nor is it that you must meet with fashion, and vanity, and the love of the world, and substitute for all this the love of God. The difficulty is, that THEY ARE ALL IN THE FIELD TOGETHER. They are parts of one great army-the army of the foe of God; they are under the control of one master mindthe great apostate spirit-that marshals them for his war against virtue and against God; and unless all are driven from the field the victory cannot be won; and seeing this, christians soon become disheartened. Connected with this is the fact that sins are interlocked and confederated together. They never appear alone. You cannot meet one form of evil by itself, and destroy it as if it were alone. When, for example, you make war on intemperance, it is not on intemperance alone. It is a war at the same time on avarice and covetousness, and on all the forms of traffic and of business by which it is sustained, and on all the customs and vices that walk in the train of intemperance. You make war on profaneness, and licentiousness, and Sabbath-breaking, and the theatre, and on the love of money in some of its worst forms, more than half of all which evils are connected with indulgence in intoxicating liqnors. How long could a theatre be sustained if intoxicating drinks were not accessible? How few, comparatively, would be profane if they were never excited by intoxicating drinks? And how closely connected are intemperance and licentiousness every where ? Attack one form of sin any where, and you attack a host of affiliated vices, and all their friends are roused to oppose yon. Cicero long since remarked that there was "a common bond among the virtues. They are united-a family of sisters--always strengthening each other—always found in each other's company, and always diffusing around smiles and joy. They are like a parterre of commingled flowers, when you breathe the fragrance emitted by them all. And so there is a common bond among vices. They are of one family, of one bad parentage. When you meet with one you may be sure that others are not far off-not, indeed, a family harmonious and happy, like the virtues, but still united and associated. You cannot meet one without rousing up all; and hence the difficulty every where of putting down vice and promoting a reformation, and hence the friends of virtue become intimidated and appalled.

4. A fourth danger in cities is, that of conformity to the evil customs which prevail around us. I do not mean that christians,

[ocr errors]

We are

whom God has set in cities to carry forward his work and to save souls, fall into open sin ; but I refer to what the Bible calls "conformity to the world.” There is a great deal of piety in the world in the main connected with honest intentions—that is like the chameleon, taking its hue from surrounding objects. Or I may use, perhaps, a better illustration. It is like a precious gem set in a foil

. The jeweller spreads beneath it a colored substance, and the jem partakes of that color. It sparkles and is beautiful. It has an original beauty, but its peculiar hue is borrowed from the foreign substance in which it is embedded. Not a little of the religion of the world is like this gem. It is genuine, and in itself beautiful and valuable. But it borrows its appearance from the things around it, and when the setting happens to be bad, the whole brilliancy is gone, and the beauty disappears. In a high state of religious feeling in a church, or in a time of revival, that religion sparkles like the diamond. When the christian church is roused to seek the salvation of the world—when a pure love flows from heart to heart—when all are engaged in promoting the salvation of sinners, then it shines brilliant as a gem of the purest water. But when the church slumbers, and its zeal languishes, and iniquity abounds, then it is a precious stone badly set, and the dark foil dims all its lustre and mars all its beauty. It requires a high order of religion not to be conformed to the world. with the people of this world; we transact business with them ; we converse with them; we are invited to partake with them of the pleasures in which they find their only enjoyment; we mingle with them in the social circle; we “catch the manners living as they rise," and we suffer the world of vanity and fashion to give us laws about the style of living, and conversation, and dress, and amusement. Piety that would have shone with the brilliancy of the diamond in the persecution of Nero or of Mary, may be dull and dim while the world caresses and flatters; and zeal, that would beam like that of a seraph were the whole church alive to God, sinks away into a flickering and almost expiring flame when the church slumbers. In no place does the world have such influence over christians-or rather, perhaps, I ought to say, in no place is there so much danger of the influence-as in cities. In such places eminently “ iniquity abounds, and the love of many waxes cold.”

5. Connected with this is a fifth danger, in regard to the mass of christians. It is seen in a disposition to palliate sin, or to apologize for it; or to speak of it in language that shall not imply reproof. The nomenclature of sins, like that of chemistry, is often changed; and the characteristics of an age can often be determined by the appellations given to vice. An age of great refinement—the golden or tinsel age of society-is often characterized by great fastidiousness and great delicacy_in plainer language, great prudishness. Crimes change names; faults are apologized for under names that border on virtue; and words which suggest the idea of sin or wrong, are exchanged for names that sug

gest any thing but the thing referred to; and so the gay and the christian world together “wrap it up." When iniquity abounds; when it goes up into places of aflluence and rank, the world demands the language of gentleness and apology. “Prophesy unto us smooth things” becomes the common wish; and the kind of reproof, and fidelity in preaching, where things are called by their right names, and where the iniquity of the heart is laid open, and men are warned with appropriate earnestness to flee from the wrath to come, is set down as fanaticism and extravagance. How difficult it is to reach some far-pervading sins in the community, sins that endanger the salvation of thousands in all our cities, and how difficult to rouse christians to a sense of their existence, or the dangers that attend their indulgence !

I had hoped to have had time to speak of other dangers of the members of the churches in regard to the promotion of religion in our cities, arising from the love of gain; from the temptations to neglect secret prayer; from the tendencies to neglect the careful study of the Bible; from the fact that the impressions made by preaching are so soon obliterated from the mind by business and the influence of the world, and I would have spoken also of the difficulties of promoting religion, from the organized resistances, and from the want of the kind of social influences that prevail in country neighborhoods and villages. But I have already trenched much on the time that should have been allotted to what was designed to be the leading purpose of this discourse. That remains to be considered ; and a few brief hints must now be all.

V. It is, the duties of christians in cities in regard to the promotion of revivals of religion. They are such as the following:

1. To form and cherish just views about the possibility, the desirableness, and the importance of revivals of religion here. It is not too much to suppose that large numbers of professing christians in the different churches have no definite views on these points. They have never made them a matter of distinct thought or inquiry. They have never gone to the New Testament to find out what was done in the time of the Saviour and the apostles, and what was said about the possibility and the value of such works of grace. Perhaps many have obtained all the views which they have ever had of such works of grace from the observation of foreign tourists, or from the tone of the worldly society around them. And it is to be feared that not a few professing christians in all churches in cities regard, at heart, revivals of religion as of doubtful value, or as scenes of wild-fire and fanaticism. Is it uncharitable to ask how many christians there are in any of our churches that would stand up amidst the rich and the gay, in the brilliant circles where they are sometimes found, as the firm advocates of revivals of religion if they were attacked? Are there not many that would concede all that the

« PoprzedniaDalej »