Then said he to me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood…
As this is a state of moral probation, it is the design of God to allow us to be surrounded by temptations while we live in this world. Sometimes these come from our intercourse with our fellow men, sometimes from our own corrupted hearts within us, and sometimes from the wiles of the great tempter. There are also certain periods or situations in life when we are exposed to particular kinds of temptations. Those which beset the young man, those which beset the middle-aged man, and those which beset the old man, may be unlike, and yet each is adapted to the particular period of life. There are also particular places in which temptations are heavier than in others.
I. CHRISTIANS IN GREAT CITIES ARE PECULIARLY TEMPTED TO OVERLOOK THE GUILT OF SIN. We all know that familiarity with anything has a wonderful effect upon our feelings; and that it is a principle in human nature, that what is in itself revolting will, by familiarity, cease to disgust. The first time the medical student enters the dissecting room he has a feeling excited very nearly allied to that of shuddering. The mangled dead are strewn around, and those who hold the dissecting knife are there, silent as the dead, as if that were no place for cheerfulness. The images which he sees haunt him after leaving the room. But in a few years this same man can shut himself up there for days, and have scarcely a feeling of revolt, or an unpleasant image remain upon his mind. The young soldier, who first joins his company, has never voluntarily inflicted a wound upon any human being. He has never seen human blood flow, and has never beheld distress created by design. The first oath of his comrade startles him. At the beat of the drum, which, for the first time, calls him to face the enemy, he turns pale. But he need be in the army but a very few years, and he can witness the falling of men around him — see the mangled remains of his fellow — hear the groans of death, and see all the cruelties of the battlefield, and even close with the enemy, bayonet to bayonet, and slay his foes man by man, and yet, at the close of the day, take his meal, and lie down to sleep with as much indifference as if he had been engaged in reaping the harvest of wheat. This is almost literally getting hardened to misery and woe, and is a clear illustration of the principle. Now, in great cities it is nearly impossible not to have the mind in almost constant contact with sin and crime. There the Sabbath is trampled upon, fearlessly, constantly, and shamelessly, by the high and the low. And do you need proof that this familiarity with Sabbath breaking destroys something of the sacredness of that day? In great cities, too, the temptation to feel no responsibility to God how money is spent is very great and very distressing. Familiarity with sin, too, begins early in large cities; and if God, in His providence, should take off the veil which covers all, we should be astonished at the crimes which the children of Christian parents practise in early life, and at what practices are allowed, with hardly a trembling for the consequences.
II. CHRISTIANS IN LARGE CITIES ARE PECULIARLY TEMPTED TO ENGAGE IN WORLDLY AMUSEMENTS. By worldly amusements I mean such as are the greatest delight of people who profess to live only for this world. If I specify cards, balls, and theatres I shall be sufficiently definite to be understood. Now, when the doors are wide open — when the world around — the great mass of mankind — say there is no harm in those exciting amusements, though they know that they are most thronged by those who live farthest from God; when they are so fashionable that you can hardly mingle with genteel society, unless you fall in with them; when they are precisely adapted to our natural and strong desire for excitement, is there anything strange that the Christian should feel it hard that his Bible warns, "touch not, taste not, handle not"? Is it wonderful that some think it is a little sin — a sin, to be sure, but so small that God will not notice it — that many feel that they may pluck the fruit this once; that many think they are not known to do it, and think it is all buried from the eye of their fellow Christians?
III. CHRISTIANS IN GREAT CITIES ARE PECULIARLY TEMPTED TO NEGLECT THE RELIGION OF THE HEART. It requires much more labour to roll a stone up a steep hill than up a hill whose angle of ascent is less; and if the stone be a very smooth one, and the ground very slippery, the labour is still more increased. Who that has lived in the great city only a few years need be reminded that all good impressions fade away almost as soon as made? Perhaps the very habits of business, so essential to your prosperity in the city, have an unhappy influence upon the religion of the heart. You rise at a stated time in the morning; open your store at a given moment; know to a moment when the mail arrives and closes; must meet your accounts at a given moment; and thus you are in the habit of being punctual and exact. When the moment arrives for you to do this or that, you do it, and then throw it off the mind. And is there not a temptation to treat the duties of the closet in the same way? And thus we may have the name of religion and the form of religion, while the heart is a stranger to its power; and when we place religion on the cold level with business, we may be sure that it will have too slight hold of us either to subdue the soul or console it. It is to my purpose here to remark, how very seldom personal, experimental religion is made the subject of conversation between Christians. The fact will not be questioned. How can it be accounted for? Is it because there are so many other topics floating, that we are never at a loss to hear or tell some new thing? But why is not religious experience one of the first topics of conversation? Or, if not among the first, why is it wholly banished? Do we need it less here than elsewhere? Or is it because we are very prone to neglect the heart, and find it more agreeable to tread upon the surface, than to go as deep as the heart? Then as to reading, how much stronger is the temptation to lay the hand on the fresh morning paper, and spend some time over that, than over the Book of God! To keep along with the tide of human events, and yet not have eternal things weigh upon us! The temptation to neglect the heart, too, from the fact that our time is so completely absorbed, is very great. This makes superficial Christians — Christians who cannot stand against temptation; and who, when temptations come, inquire not what God will now have them do, and how He would have them meet them, but how they can shift off responsibility, and make everything turn to their own advantage.
IV. CHRISTIANS IN GREAT CITIES ARE PECULIARLY TEMPTED TO BE UNCHARITABLE TOWARDS ONE ANOTHER. Character, strained, and in full action, is ever before you, and you see all its defects. The joints of the harness are constantly opening, and any man can throw in an arrow, though he draw the bow at venture. Character is the easiest thing in the world to talk about. We know, and we must know each other most fully, situated as we are in large cities; but this, instead of making us uncharitable, censorious, and severe towards each other, ought to lead us to remember that every man lives in a glass house, and that therefore we ought to be very watchful and very careful.
V. CHRISTIANS IN GREAT CITIES ARE PECULIARLY TEMPTED TO BE JEALOUS OF ONE ANOTHER. No Christian is sanctified but in part; and very few are so sanctified that they can bear to be overlooked or unnoticed. Hence, when they see that one of their number is, by any means, attracting attention — is considerably noticed, and they are left behind, the feeling of jealousy is very likely to be awakened. Does such a one give more liberally than others — does he pray or speak more acceptably in public — does he, on any account, receive more notice than others — does he exercise any acquired influence — the feeling of jealousy is awakened, and, almost unconsciously to himself, the complaining Christian takes the sharpest of all weapons by which to remove the envied one, and that weapon is the tongue.
(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.