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dustry would take the place of idleness; chastity the place of impurity; hope would irradiate the countenance where now sits vacancy or despair; intelligence would take the place of ignorance ; plenty and comfort would succeed to want; decency of apparel to penury and rags; beauty and health would re-visit the countenance now bloated and haggard; and peace, the heart that now hath wo and sorrow from intemperance; thought--sober, rich, pure, heavenly thought, -would succeed to gayety; honesty to fraud ; integrity to baseness; universal charity to suspicion, inuendo, and slander; and a disposition to do good to all, and to spread the Gospel around the world with all its healing influences, would succeed the disposition to spend the wealth which God gives in the scenes of dissipation, revelry, and sin. Talent that now is wasted and blasted by sensuality, or perverted by ambition ; genius whose fires are now kindled, and which now burn for nought, would be converted to noble purposes. That vigor of frame which is now wasted in scenes of dissipation, would prepare itself to brave the snows of the north or the sands of the equator, in making known a Saviour's love; and from lips where now heavy curses roll, the Gospel would soon whisper peace.
Meantime a revival of religion would destroy or injure nothing that is truly valuable. It would not interfere with one rational enenjoyment. It would not close one school. It would not diminish the interest in an orphan asylum, a hospital, a college, a charitable endowment, but would augment the interest in all. It would moor no ship to the wharf; arrest no car, and no steam-boat, -except on the
Sabbath ; and stay none of the wheels of commerce or of honorable and honest enterprise.
In one word, “a reformation extending to every house in the city would be the noblest sight the lover of humanity ever saw. The reign of vice which now regards no limit, but throws its malign influence within every enclosure, would on all sides be curtailed. The horrid clang of profaneness, the bloated features of dissipation, the haggard spectacle of prostitution, the inanity of vicious idleness, the menace of unbridled passion, of deliberate revenge, curtained behind human features, and heard remote, sometimes like thunders on the bosom of darkness—in short, the conflicts of interest, the wiles of dishonesty, the deep-laid snares of covetousness," which now meet us on every hand, would disappear. Two hundred thousand immortal beings, a large portion of whom are now pressing hard on each other in the broad and much-trodden way to death, now with conflicting interests and agitated passions, would at once commence the march to immortality. Hand in hand, with peaceful step and tranquil heart,—with many songs of praise and many prayers,—they would tread along the banks of the river of life, calm in view of the shadowy vale of death; elevated with the hope of immortal peace.
Our main inquiry now returns. Would such a work of grace be desirable in a city like this, or in any or all of the cities of our land ? In answer to this inquiry,
(1.) I suggest, first, the influence on a city or the country at large. I need not attempt to prove that that influence is vast. In all that pertains to fashion, to literature, to morals, to religion, the influence of a city is incalculable. A large part of the fashions of the land, embracing a great many questions about economy and the proper modes and objects of life, and about honesty, too, in contracting and paying debts, are controlled by cities. Paris, on one subject, has given law to the most of Europe and of the world; and this city influences hundreds of thousands of immortal beings, either directly or indirectly, in the same manner. Say what we will, a large portion of mankind is guided by what is implied by the word fashion. Who can estimate the importance, therefore, of such an influence of religion as shall effectually check extravagance of life, and turn the thoughts of men to the sober objects for which they should live? On the literature of a people, no less than on its fashions, cities give law extensively. A large portion of the light reading of the world is formed, first for the inhabitants of cities, and then for those portions of the country that can be made to imitate them. From cities, as from centres, goes forth that vast amount of romance and poetry which is doing so much to undermine all just morality in this nation, and to destroy the souls of men. The prevalence of pure christianity in our cities, pervading all hearts, would arrest to a great extent this influence, and turn the attention of men to subjects more worthy of their immortal nature. The power of the newspaper press in cities is felt also throughout the land. It gives tone and character to thousands of presses in the smaller towns and villages. Who can estimate the effect that would be produced, if there was such a religious influence in cities as should make those fountains always pure? Such it would be, if the sentiments of the community were right; and one general revival of religion in our cities that should secure such an influence on the press as should close every newspaper establishment on the Sabbath; as should exclude all commendation of the theatre, and as should banish every advertisement and sentiment, such as a christian father would be unwilling his sons or daughters should read, would send an influence throughout the land. I need not say that the influence of a city is direct
, and almost omnipotent on a large circle of surrounding villages. Could the mighty population, which, in the summer months, is poured out from our cities on the Sabbath, by steam-boats, and cars, and other vehicles, be restrained by the influence of religion; could they be induced to enter the sanctuary themselves, and spend the day in the worship of God, what a change would be produced at once in a wide circle of towns around us ! How peaceful to them would the Sabbath become! What a corrupting influence would be at once withdrawn! Then, indeed, a village near a city would not be regarded as necessarily accursed. Then it would not have occasion to complain of the obvious injustice done by its overgrown neighbor, in pouring forth its legions of the profane, the unprincipled and the intemperate, to disturb the peace and corrupt the morals of others.
I observed, also, before, that in a large city almost every portion of the land has its representatives. From all parts of the country and the world they come for business or for pleasure. Who can calculate what would be the influence of a general revival of religion in those minds, and on the portions of the land from whence they came? The revival in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost was felt almost immediately in all parts of the then known world, by the return of the “strangers” who were converted there. There is scarcely one nook or corner of our vast republic that would not be influenced by such a work of grace. Cities in a nation are like the heart in man. Each stroke at the centre of life sends out inAuences for good or evil to the extremities, and is felt with healthful or destructive influence there. I need not add, if this be so, how responsible is the work of the christian ministry here! how solemn the obligations of every member of the church of Christ !
(2.) A second consideration to which I refer, is the worth of the souls of the multitudes congregated in cities. I by no means mean to be understood as saying that a soul is of more value here than elsewhere; of any more worth in the most splendid mansion than in the humblest abode of the poor. But what I wish to say is, that we may be more deeply affected with their value; we may become more deeply impressed with a sense of their danger. The scene itself is more impressive; the events that are passing daily before the eyes are better adapted to affect the heart. Immortal beings are crowded together; the busy, thoughtless multitude is constantly moving on before the eyes. The dense throng is passing by, regardless of admonition, and deaf to entreaty and to warning. A man travelling over an uncultivated prairie, or a waste of sands, might meet here and there, at far distant intervals, a stranger—and then pass on again amidst the lonely wastes. There would be little to rouse the mind in regard to the necessity of a mighty heavenly influence on the soul of the solitary man; and if he were disposed to present to him the subject of religion, there would be nothing in the circumstances to crowd it from the mind. But when a city is entered, how different is the scene ! I look out of my window, and the dense throng of all ages and conditions rushes on. Strangers to me and to each other, they are moving on, an unbroken procession, all the day to eternity. I pass by the door of a theatre, and hundreds of immortal beings, thoughtless and unconcerned about the future, are leaving the place of amusement and corruption. I go into the marts of business, and there is a dense and jostling crowd anxious only for gain. I think of the brilliant party, and of the assembly-room, and there is another throng “with steps light and ail as the footsteps of Aurora,” not less regardless of their immortal destiny. I think of the glitter of dress there, and the splendor of apartments, and the charms of music, and the brilliancy of wit, and the gracefulness of the dance, and all these are unconcerned about their undying doom. I think of the low places of sensuality and wretchedness; of beastly intemperance, and of degrading vice, and there is another group equally regardless of their immortal destiny. Wherever you go, a dense throng surrounds you—a busy, active, restless, unhappy, dissatisfied multitude ; a vast procession going to the grave—all under sentence of death all sinners—all exposed to the eternal wrath of God. Each one of them has a soul whose value no numbers can compute; a soul of more worth than all the riches which commercial talent, all combined, has ever gained or can ever gain in this city, and which shall live in bliss or in wo when all that wealth shall be forgotten. Of their high powers, of their immortal destiny, of what God the Saviour has done for them, they are unconscious; or if they are conscious, they disregard it all. They are living for other objects; and their attention can by no human means be turned to the subject of their own soul's salvation.
Now it is not madness to ask where they will be a thousand years hence; nor to inquire what is probably to be their doom? Infidelity may sneer at such a suggestion; and stupidity may laugh; but a heathen monarch wept at the thought that his army, the greatest that had been ever raised, would be dead in a hundred years; and a greater than any heathen monarch wept over the destiny of a great and guilty population passing on like this to the bar of God. All the great interests of this thoughtless throng lie beyond the tomb. If they have none there, their life is a bubble, a vapor, a gorgeous illusion, a changing cloud, a mist on the mountain side. All in which they are now so busy is soon to vanish er they are rich or poor, honored or despised, bond or free, caressed or hated, can make no difference with them in a few years. Whether there is an eternity or not, these things are of trifling importance. How soon is the most exquisite earthly pleasure passed! The charm of the sweetest melody, how soon it dies away on the ear! The tenderest ties of friendship, how soon are they severed! The most princely wealth, how soon must it be left! The widest reputation, how soon must we cease to enjoy it! And so with the bitterest grief, the keenest sorrow, the most agonizing pain, how soon is it gone! And of what real importance are all these to the throng that is seeking them as the grand business of life? The vapor that you see in the morning as it lies on the mountain side, of what importance can it be, whether it be admired by a few more or a few less mortals, or whether it roll a little higher or a little lower, since it will soon vanish in the beams of the morning sun ? So of the vapor of life. Soon is it gone; and another generation shall succeed; as to-morrow another short-lived mist shall be seen, where to-day that vanished away. The cloud that you see lie along the western sky as the sun sinks behind the hills in a summer's eve, so gorgeous, so changing, so beautiful, so lighted up with ever-varying
richness of hue by the lightning of the summer eve, of what importance is it whether a few more or less tints be painted on it, or whether a few more or a few less eyes gaze upon it, for the darkness of
midnight will soon conceal it all. The insects that you see flutter in the evening rays, so happy, so calm, so still, so graceful in their motions, are moving with the shades of night to be seen no more. So move on the dense, the busy multitudes of this city! And I was about to say, O that they were, like that vapor, to vanish for ever; or that gorgeous cloud, to sink unconsciously into night; or the insects of the evening, to live no more! But it is not so. That vapor vanishes, and is not seen again. That changing cloud is dissipated, and the tiny nations die, not to live again. But not so with the multitudes here. To the shades of the night of death they move on, but they emerge in an immortal existence beyond; and all their great interests are there. There they begin to live. There they will live on when stars and suns cease to shine, and when rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away; when the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, and when the throne of God occupied by the dread Eternal King, shall be revealed. Yes, thoughtless trifler, yes, as long as God is to endure you are to live; and as sure as it is that God himself shall never die, so sure it is that your soul shall never cease to exist.
Now who can say that it would be irrational or undesirable that all this multitude should be simultaneously impressed with the importance of religion and the worth of the soul ? Suppose it should be attended with a temporary suspension of the business, or with a permanent suspension of what now constitutes the main pleasures of this life. "Is it to be deemed fanatical that the affairs of this life should be allowed to give way, for a little while, for the more important things of another world? Is this world of darkness and of sin so vastly important that none of its affairs are ever to be suspended for the purposes of another world ? Is the struggle for place, and power, and wealth never to be arrested to attend to more important interests ? I do not believe that a general revival of religion in our cities would interfere really with any thing necessary to their prosperity, or would cause even a temporary suspension of any thing truly valuable to the welfare of society. But if it did, shall man say that these things are never to be suspended to attend to more important concerns ? Not thus determines the great Law-giver of men, and the best judge of what is needful for human welfare. If his judgment were followed, and his counsel and command obeyed, all labor would be suspended for one day in seven. The counting-room, the assembly-room, the places of amusement every where would be closed ; the steain-boat, the car, the stage-coach, would stand still; the axe, the hammer, and the chisel, would be laid aside; and the world, calm and peaceful like Eden, would give itself to the labors of charity, and to a preparation for heaven. Does God never arrest the active movements of the world in any other way? What does he when the stout man is laid on a bed of pain ? What means the scene when all his worldly plans are arrested, and he is pale in death? The truth is, if man's great interests are beyond the tomb, no law of propriety is violated if these great interests are allowed to press