Then said he to me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood…
I. SUCCESS IN BUSINESS IN THE GREAT CITY REQUIRES CLOSE ATTENTION, SEVERE APPLICATION, AND ENGROSSING WATCHFULNESS; AND THIS TENDS TO SHUT ETERNAL THINGS FROM THE MIND AND TO ENDANGER THE SOUL. But perhaps you will say, this very devotedness of heart and mind is necessary in order to success in business here, and any diversion of the attention will endanger success; and therefore, if a man have his attention so diverted and engrossed that he becomes a religious man, he will be less likely to succeed in business. I reply, that does not follow; for if he did, God could not assure us that godliness is profitable for the life that now is, as well as for the life to come. It does not follow, also. for three very plain reasons; namely —
1. If you become really a religious man, your weary spirit will be periodically bathed, cooled, and refreshed, by turning off your thoughts, and having them come in contact with the Bible, with the Sabbath, and with God's Spirit.
2. The community will have confidence in a conscientious, holy man, and will do much to aid, to sustain, and to encourage him.
3. The blessing of God will more surely attend him; and His blessing can make rich.
II. THE OBJECT FOR WHICH THE WORLDLY MAN COMES TO A GREAT CITY, AND FOR WHICH HE STAYS THERE, IS TO ACQUIRE PROPERTY — AND THIS TENDS TO LEAD HIM TO SHUT GOD AWAY FROM HIS THOUGHTS. Suppose a man were to go into some distant part of the world, for the express purpose of making money; and if he found that spot very unfavourable to meditation, to prayer, to finding eternal life, what would he say? Would he not be apt to say, I cannot here attend to religion — it is a poor place for that; but I will give my whole time and attention and soul and mind to the business which brought me here, and as soon as possible I will return to my home, where I shall have time and opportunity and everything favourable to my finding eternal life. I will therefore give it no thought at present. And is not the man of the world, in the great city, tempted to do this very thing? Is he not in danger of feeling that the great, the absorbing object for which he is here is to acquire property; and till this end is gained he has no time, no heart, to give to his soul? In all that he does he wishes to keep that plan uppermost — to be sure that every sun that shines, and every breeze that blows, has something to do in promoting that great plan — that one plan.
III. THE SYMPATHIES OF ALL AROUND HIM TEND TO CARRY HIS FEELINGS IN THE CHANNELS OF EARTH — AND THESE ENDANGER THE SOUL OF THE WORLDLY MAN IN THE GREAT CITY. You speak with perhaps fifty men during the day, and five hundred during the week, and among them all you hear not a word about the interests of the soul. And you will say, we must not only he men of business, but we must talk and think about business, about commerce and politics, the light and the grave news of the day, to show that we are men of business. All this may be true, and I mention it because it is true, and because the great impression which this great crowd of immortal beings makes upon each other is adverse to their finding eternal life. Oh! if you lived in a world where everything, from the fresh daily paper that you find in the morning on your table, to the late partings at evening, tended to remind you of God, and to call forth your sympathies towards Him, it would be very different. But the living mass around you, so alive, and so awake to everything relating to this world — so eager for something new — so delighted with anything that can excite — so anxious to live in the swollen tide of human sympathies, seek to turn all this tide in a channel that leads from God.
IV. DANGERS ATTEND THE MAN OF THE WORLD, IN HIS BUSINESS, BEFORE AND AFTER THE QUESTION OF HIS SUCCESS IS SETTLED. Is it not so, that a man in the full tide of business — while straining every nerve to reach the point of certain success and entire safety, so chases the world all the week — so courts it, in all possible ways, that when the Sabbath arrives he is so exhausted that he has no energy of body, no energy of soul, no elasticity of spirit, to meet the duties of that holy day? Is it not so, that he can hardly rise on the Sabbath morning in season to find the house of God; and when he does go there, does he not too often come much like an exhausted machine, and has no power to gird up his mind to sober thought, to deep reflection, to manly discussion, or to close and thorough reasoning? But suppose he has passed the point alluded to, and is sure to succeed in business, and to become an independent man. The dangers to his soul may now be increased tenfold. There may now be some relaxation to that keen, intense, anxious pursuit of business; hut his very relaxations become dangerous, inasmuch as they tend to animalism. How often do we see a man, as soon as it is decided that he will be successful in business, commence a course of stimulating his system, till it becomes overburdened, and is destroyed by its own fulness. What creates that riot in the blood, which cuts off such men at a stroke, and with a suddenness that would be painfully surprising were it not so common? All this animalism, which leads the man to yield to good eating and good drinking continually, is certain to drive God from the heart, while it destroys the powers of the body; and experience will testify that, as a general thing, such men are the very last that are brought into the kingdom of God. Then there is that loftiness and pride of feeling which is almost inseparable from success in business, and which makes us look down upon those beneath us with feelings allied to scorn, and upon ourselves as great and wise, or we could not have succeeded. How few who are successful in business are willing to ascribe it all to God's good providence which favoured them!
V. THE MAN OF THE WORLD, IN THE GREAT CITY, IS IN FEARFUL DANGER OF HAVING HIS SOUL RUINED BY THE MONEY SPIRIT OF THIS AGE. Wherever you turn you will see proofs of the universal presence of this spirit. You have heard it in the murmurs of the street — you have seen it written on the golden splendours of those who have not fallen — you have seen it upon the tarnished glories of the fallen and falling — in the blasted hopes of thousands — and you will read it on the anxious brow of your acquaintance. You have heard the proof of it sighed from the massy prison; it is read in the glance of the fugitive from justice; — it is summed up in startling numbers at the bottom of the daily expense book. Now, what have been the inevitable consequences of this race in the fashions of earth? One very plain one is, that everybody must be in debt! It is the order of the age that all must make as much show as possible; and money is desired only for this end. Of course, every man will calculate to live up, fully up, to his income. Then others, and many, too, will go beyond their income — beyond what they can earn. The next result is, that those who are honest cannot get all their honest income, because all by which a dishonest man exceeds his income must come out of the honest: And as very few calculate to live under their supposed income, and as many will live over theirs, the consequence must be that everybody runs in debt. This must be the result to all who do not live as much within their income as will make up for what others exceed theirs. Now, the very spirit of the age tempts the man of business to graduate his expenses, not by what he has in his hand, but by what he ought to have. A man in business this year makes sales, the profits of which are some five thousand dollars. He sells to some fifty different people, and at the end of the year he is to receive the profits. Now, what is the temptation? Is it not to consider the five thousand dollars as already his own, to graduate his expenses accordingly, and to forget that he has virtually been insuring on the honesty and success of the fifty men to whom he has made sales? And when at length he finds that he is disappointed — that instead of obtaining profits, he has lost fully to that amount — what does he do, or rather what is he tempted to do? To contract and curtail expenses? Or is he now tempted to become reckless, and to plunge headlong into almost any speculation which promises relief? Hence we have an evil arising from the spirit of the age worse than any and all yet mentioned; and that is, men are tempted to use dishonest means and reckless measures to obtain money to keep up in the race which all around them are running.
VI. THE MAN OF THE WORLD, IN THE GREAT CITY, IS TEMPTED TO UNDERVALUE TRUTH. The buyer pretends that he is quite indifferent whether he purchases or not; and the seller is quite indifferent whether he sells or not; and so these two indifferent men will contrive to meet every few hours, and throw out baits to each other, and yet both professing not to desire the trade! The purchaser decries the goods — he has seen better, has had cheaper offered him — can do better elsewhere; and yet, when he cannot cheapen them any further, to oblige the seller, he takes them! "It is naught, it is naught," saith the buyer, "and straightway goeth away and boasteth." It is not for us to say how much news is manufactured for particular purposes — how many letters are conveniently forgotten to be delivered, till too late to take advantage of the news — how many letters are received which were never written; but it is for us to say that the man of business, in the great city, is awfully tempted to exaggerate good qualities, to point them out where they do not exist, to conceal defects, and to gloss over imperfections, without recollecting that the eye of God is upon him. If he says it is difficult to get along without doing so, I reply, that this very difficulty constitutes his danger — that it will be more difficult to bear the indignation of God forever; that "lying lips are an abomination to the Lord"; and that no apology will be accepted by Him.
(John Todd, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.
WEB: Then he said to me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perversion: for they say, Yahweh has forsaken the land, and Yahweh doesn't see.