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. CHRISTIANS, IN THE LARGE CITY, SHOULD CONSTANTLY BEAR IN MIND THAT THEY ARE CONTINUALLY SURROUNDED BY GREAT TEMPTATIONS. Some may prefer to remain in ignorance of their dangers, because responsibility and duty come with knowledge. But is this wise or safe? A father sends a son to a distant city on business. When the young man reaches it he finds the plague is there. It is all around him, and daily, in every street, death is doing his work. What is safe for this young man? to remain in ignorance of his danger, or to know it all, and, by care, abstinence, and medicine, do all in his power to preserve his life and health? A valuable ship, freighted with a rich cargo, is just passing through a winding channel, amid rocks and shoals, islands and reefs. Would you have her captain sleep in his berth, or would you have him, though accompanied with painful anxieties, on the watch, eyeing and shunning these dangers? In all such cases, the answer is plain enough. If God has made it the duty of a man to live in a large city, He will shield him and protect him, if faithful to his God. But even the Son of God must not tempt His Father, by throwing Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and then claiming the promise that He would give His angels charge over Him. The mercy of God may follow a man who throws himself in the way of danger, and may pluck him out; but no man has a right to rely upon this. And what shall we do, say you — and how shall we be safe? Ah! it would be comparatively easy to answer this question, could I first make you sensible of the fact that the temptations of the crowded city are great in number, and powerful to resist. Oh! could you see the spots where Christians have fallen, all marked with blood, you would be almost afraid to walk the streets.
II. CHRISTIANS IN GREAT CITIES SHOULD FEEL THAT THEY ARE PECULIARLY BOUND TO ACT FROM PRINCIPLE, AND NOT FROM IMPULSE, FASHION, OR POPULARITY. That man only has a correct standard of action and of life who makes the revealed will of God his standard. In all places and circumstances, all other standards will vary, and especially is this the case in the large city. Here new things are constantly coming up, and what is in vogue and popular today may be the very reverse tomorrow. What comes in on the flood tide today may be left on the sand when the tide comes to ebb, and nobody will think it worth picking up. It is painfully amusing to notice how things, men, and measures, which are popular beyond description today, and of which it seems as if we could never tire, will, in a few days, have passed away and be forgotten. The reason is, that which decides a thing to be good or bad, desirable or otherwise, is public opinion; and that is as variable as the wind. Men, and communities of men, are governed, moved, and guided by it, and even the Christian is in great danger of allowing himself to be guided by it too. To do this or that, because public sentiment says so, and make this a rule of action, will save much reflection, much thought, and much prayer for direction. But this is not that standard which God has revealed, and which never varies. How much easier, too, to act from impulse, and to go forward in a certain course as long as the impulse sets us that way, and then to go backward if a counteracting impulse sets us the other way, than to do right, and go right at all times, without waiting for impulses, and without being driven out of our proper orbit by them!
1. Be familiar with the Bible. The book of God is so full of biography — it places men in such a variety of situations, and all under the strong light of inspiration, that it is almost, if not literally, impossible to find a situation in which a man can be placed where all his relations to God and to man are to be drawn out, for which a parallel may not be found in the Word of God.
2. Habituate yourself to read sound and thorough works in practical theology, and by this means strengthen the mind and heart, and the purposes of the soul, in what is correct and right.
3. Make every decision of moral conduct the subject of individual and fervent prayer. A conscience intuitively knowing what is right and what is wrong is what God gives only in answer to prayer.
III. IT IS PECULIARLY THE DUTY OF CHRISTIANS IN LARGE CITIES TO SET THEIR FACES AGAINST EXTRAVAGANCE. But do not such and such families, who profess to be Christian, do so and so? Yes; but do they show that the Gospel of Christ, and the glory of God, is the ruling passion of their lives? If not, are they safe models for us? But my neighbour does thus and thus. Very likely; and your neighbour may be better able than you are, or he may be doing what he ought not to do, and what he cannot do long. But, say you, can you draw the limits, and go into the particulars, and say whether this and that is wrong? No; nor have I any wish to do it. But am I not safe in saying, that so long as Christians are so extravagant that they are not known from the world — so long as, in consequence of extravagance, they fail in business as often as the world, in proportion to their numbers, there must be something wrong in their slavery to fashion?
IV. CHRISTIANS IN GREAT CITIES ARE PECULIARLY BOUND TO BECOME ATTACHED TO THE CAUSE OF CHRIST. The soul, without any doubt, was formed for strong attachments. We love those who are bound to us by the ties of relationship; and the last ties which the hand of death shall sever are those which bind us to the beings whom we love. But this is not all. In most situations we become attached to inanimate objects. The man who spent his childhood in the country loves his native hills — he loves the fields which lie in sight of his father's door. Every tree and shrub is connected with some pleasant recollection of childhood. Now, in a great city there are no such attachments. You live in a street, or in a particular house, for years, and you leave it without regret and without sorrow. You go into another without reluctance, and without emotion. The unceasing hurry and perpetual pressure for time prevent our forming those deep attachments which we do in country life. Our attachments, so to speak, are to things in general — to the general excitement which surrounds us. The waves roll too rapidly to allow us to love anyone very strongly. And the danger is, that these same feelings and associations be applied to the cause of Christ; that the habits of mind and of situation lead us to place the cause of God just where we do everything else; and that we feel an attachment to that no stronger than we do to other things. Now we reach the point at which I am aiming, and I say that though you are so situated in Providence that you form no very strong attachment to your dwelling, to your street, to your business, to the family pew in the church, to the changing mass of human beings around you, yet it ought to be a matter of deep interest, of study, and of great effort, to have one set of attachments that are strong, permanent, and which make a part of your very existence — and these should be your attachments to the cause of Jesus Christ. You will ask how you can thus become attached to the cause of Christ, and exercise towards that a set of feelings so entirely different from what you do towards other things? My reply is, Be in the habit of doing something for the cause of Christ every day, and you will soon find that you love that cause above all other things. What makes you love the flower that stands in your parlour, meekly curling its graceful form towards the window, to drink in the beams of light? Not because it is helpless or beautiful. The china vase may be all that; but because you every day do something for it. You give it water — you remove it, when it requires more heat or more air — you watch its budding — you study its nature and its wants. What makes the stranger, who takes the helpless infant to her home, so soon attached to it? Because she is every hour doing something for it; and God has made it impossible for us not to love anything which we aid — an unanswerable argument for the benevolence of Him who formed the human heart! Let the Christian be in the daily habit of making sacrifices, in order to be punctual in his closet — to be daily growing in a knowledge of his Bible — to be prompt and faithful in attending the meetings for prayer, keeping his heart warm and solemn — to give of his property to build up the cause of Christ cheerfully; let him aim to do something that shall be a self-denial, every day, in order to aid the cause of Christ, and he will love that cause; and, while mingling in the tide of men that is passing away, and where everything is changing, he will have his heart and hopes bound to the throne of God, and his soul will have an anchor that is sure and steadfast. Perhaps the very fact that his attachments to other things are loose may render these the stronger.
V. IT IS PECULIARLY THE DUTY OF CHRISTIANS, IN GREAT CITIES, TO FEEL A HIGH RESPONSIBILITY. By the talents which Christ puts into the hands of His servants we understand all the opportunities which we have of doing good to ourselves, or to others; and if, at the great day, our responsibilities are to be commensurate with our opportunities, in those respects, they will be great indeed.
(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.