In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken through Jeremiah, the LORD stirred the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to send a proclamation throughout his kingdom and to put it in writing as follows:
I. THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IS ALL-CONTROLLING.
1. "The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus."
(1) This he did by means. Josephus says that Cyrus was shown the places in Isaiah where he was mentioned by name and his exploits indicated about a century before he was born (see Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1-5). Possibly Daniel, who was in Babylon when Cyrus entered it, and the fame of whose wisdom was far-reaching, may have pointed them out to him.
(2) By his Spirit God made the means he employed effective. "The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus." "He can turn the hearts of princes as the rivers of the south." Means are ineffectual without his blessing. That blessing should be sought upon all our undertakings.
2. By means of Cyrus God moved the Persian empire.
(1) The royal edict was issued.
(2) It was vocally proclaimed. Hebrews, caused a voice to pass, etc. This form of proclamation is for the multitude. For the multitude God causes his gospel to be preached.
(3) It was also written. This was for the magistrates. Also for reference. The word of the truth of the gospel is also written. This fixes its certainty.
3. The sequel shows how cordial was the response. As the exodus from Egypt was a figure of the emancipation of the believer in Christ from the bondage of sin, so was the return from the captivity of Babylon.
II. THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IS ALL-PERVADING.
1. He rules the world according to a grand plan.
(1) This fact is seen in the Scriptures of prophecy. Broad outlines of future history of the world drawn (see for example Genesis 9:25-27). Here consider "the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah" (see Jeremiah 25:12; Jeremiah 29:10).
(2) Further seen in the conversion of prophecy into history. Examples abound. Example before us in the restoration of Judah from the captivity of Babylon. The time was "in the first year of Cyrus." This was B.C. 536. Add to this the seventy years of Jeremiah's prophecy, and we have the year B.C. 606, the very year in which "Nebuchadnezzar carried Jehoiakim and the vessels of the house of the Lord to Babylon (see 2 Chronicles 36:6, 7).
2. The plan of Providence includes the means to be employed for the accomplishment of his purposes.
(1) Stirs up the spirits of men to study his word (see Daniel 9:2). Stirred up the spirit of Cyrus also. Daniel was stirred up to pray; Cyrus, to act. It is God's order that his people should pray for their blessings (see Ezekiel 36:37). There is often a connection between the prayers of the good and the better actions of the wicked.
1. Learn that there is no such thing as chance.
(1) Afflictions do not spring out of the dust.
(2) See the hand of God in our deliverances.
2. Learn that providences are often retributive.
(1) The seventy years of captivity were in retribution for seventy sabbatic years in which selfishness refused the land her rest, and consequently the poor their privileges (comp. Leviticus 25:1-6, and 2 Chronicles 36:21).
(2) If we open our eyes we may see the operation of retributive providences every day. "Be sure your sin will find you out." - J. A. M.
The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great.1 John 1:7): — We can learn nothing of the Gospel except by feeling its truths, — no one truth of the Gospel is ever truly known and really learned until we have tested and tried and proved it, and its power has been exercised upon us. No man can know the greatness of sin till he has felt it, for there is no measuring rod for sin except its condemnation in our own conscience, when the law of God speaks to us with a terror that may be felt. And as for the richness of the blood of Christ and its ability to wash us, of that also we can know nothing till we have ourselves been washed, and have ourselves proved that the blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God hath cleansed us from all sin.
1. I shall begin, then, with the first doctrine — "The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great." Some imagine that the Gospel was devised, in some way or other, to soften down the harshness of God towards sin. Ah! how mistaken the idea! There is no more harsh condemnation of sin anywhere than in the Gospel. Nor does the Gospel in any way whatever give man a hope that the claims of the law will be in any way loosened. Christ hath not put out the furnace; He rather seemeth to heat it seven times hotter. Before Christ came sin seemed unto me to be but little; but when He came sin became exceeding sinful, and all its dread heinousness started out before the light. But, says one, surely the Gospel does in some degree remove the greatness of our sin. Does it not soften the punishment of sin? Ah, no! Stand at the feet of Jesus when He tells you of the punishment of sin, and the effect of iniquity, and you may tremble there far more than you would have done if Moses had been the preacher, and if Sinai had been in the background to conclude the sermon. And now let us endeavour to deal with hearts and consciences a moment. There are some here who have never felt this truth. But come, let me reason with you for a moment. Your sin is great, although you think it small. Follow me in these few thoughts, and perhaps thou wilt better understand it. How great a thing is one sin when, according to the Word of God, one sin could suffice to damn the soul. One sin, remember, destroyed the whole human race. Again, what an imprudent and impertinent thing sin is. Behold! there is one God who filleth all in all, and He is the Infinite Creator. He makes me, and I am nothing more in His sight than an animated grain of dust; and I, that animated grain of dust, with a mere ephemeral existence, have the impertinence and imprudence to set up my will against His will! I dare to proclaim war against the Infinite Majesty of heaven. Again, how great does your sin and mine seem, if we will but think of the ingratitude which has marked it. Oh, if we set our secret sins in the light of His mercy, if our transgressions are set side by side with His favours, we must each of us say, our sins, indeed, are exceeding great! And again, I repeat it, this is a doctrine that no man can rightly know and receive until he has felt it. Hast thou ever felt this doctrine to be true — "my sin is exceeding great"?
2. "Well," cries one, turning on his heel, "there is very little comfort in that. It is enough to drive one to despair, if not to madness itself." Ah, friend! such is the very design of this text. We turn therefore from that terrible text to the second one" The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." There lies the blackness; here stands the Lord Jesus Christ. What will He do with it? Will He go and speak to it, and say, "This is no great evil, this blackness is but a little spot?" Oh, no; He looks at it, and He says, "This is terrible blackness, darkness that may be felt; this is an exceeding great evil." Will He cover it up, then? Will He weave a mantle of excuse, and then wrap it round about the iniquity? Ah, no; whatever covering there may have been He lifts it off, and He declares that when the Spirit of truth is come He will convince the world of sin, and lay the sinner's conscience bare, and probe the wound to the bottom. What then will He do? He will do a far better thing than make an excuse or than to pretend in any way to speak lightly of it. He will cleanse it all away, remove it entirely by the power and meritorious virtue of His own blood, which is able to save unto the uttermost. "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." Dwell on the word "all" for a moment. Great as are thy sins, the blood of Christ is greater still. Thy sins are like great mountains, but the blood of Christ is like Noah's flood; twenty cubits upwards shall this blood prevail, and the top of the mountains of thy sin shall be covered. Just take the word "all" in another sense, not only as taking in all sorts of sin, but as comprehending the great aggregate mass of sin. Couldst thou bear to read thine own diary if thou hadst written there all thy acts? No; for though thou be the purest of mankind, thy thoughts, if they could have been recorded, would now, if thou couldst read them, make thee startle and wonder that thou art demon enough to have had such imaginations within thy soul. But put them all here, and all these sins the blood of Christ can wash away. Nay, more than that. Come hither, ye thousands who are gathered together to listen to the Word of God; what is the aggregate of your guilt? Could ye put it so that mortal observation could comprehend the whole within its ken, it were as a mountain with a base, broad as eternity, and a summit lofty almost as the throne of the great archangel. But, remember, the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin. Yet, once more, in the praise of this blood we must notice one further feature. There be some of you here who are saying, "Ah! that shall be my hope when I come to die, that in the last hour of my extremity the blood of Christ will take my sins away; it is now my comfort to think that the blood of Christ shall wash, and purge, and purify the transgressions of life." But, mark! my text saith not so; it does not say the blood of Christ shall cleanse — that were a truth — but it says something greater than that — it says, "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth" — cleanseth now. Come, soul, this moment come to Him that hung upon the Cross of Calvary! come now and be washed. But what meanest thou by coming? I mean this, come thou and put thy trust in Christ, and thou shalt be saved.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
The land is full of blood.I. THE UTTER WANT OF MORAL TRAINING IN THOUSANDS OF HOMES is one cause of the prevalence of crime. What cares the fashionable mother or the father deeply immersed in business for the moral culture of their children? Hence they grow up in ignorance of all those moral and virtuous principles which are the great safeguards against crime. Then, in thousands of homes the overworked mother has no heart for the duties which she owes to her poor neglected children.
II. THE ALMOST UNIVERSAL DESECRATION OF THE HOLY SABBATH is another fruitful source of crime. This is God's day, and man has no right to appropriate it to pleasure or to business.
III. INTEMPERANCE is constantly adding to the long list of criminals. It is itself a crime, and the prolific source of every form of iniquity.
IV. THE LAXITY WITH WHICH THE LAWS ARE ENFORCED invites to their violation.
V. Another source of crime is THE LOW, VICIOUS LITERATURE.
VI. With shame we utter the truth, that MANY OF THE CRIMES OF THIS AGE MAY BE TRACED TO THE PULPIT. It is too tender of crime. It is afraid or ashamed to denounce sin.
(R. H. Rivers, D. D.)
And the city full of perverseness.
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.)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.)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.)
PeopleBenjamin, Cyrus, Jeremiah, Mithredath, Nebuchadnezzar, Sheshbazzar
PlacesBabylonia, Jerusalem, Persia
TopicsAccomplished, Causeth, Completion, Cyrus, Fulfill, Fulfilled, Heart, Intimation, Jeremiah, Kingdom, Mouth, Moved, Order, Pass, Persia, Proclamation, Public, Realm, Saying, Spirit, Spoken, Statement, Stirred, Throughout, Waked, Writing
Outline1. The proclamation of Cyrus for the building of the temple
5. The people provide for their return
7. Cyrus restores the vessels of the temple to Sheshbazzar
Dictionary of Bible ThemesEzra 1:1
LibraryThe Eve of the Restoration
'Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 2. Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3. Who is there among you of all His people? his God …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Extracts No. vi.
Of Antichrist, and his Ruin: and of the Slaying the Witnesses.
The Greater Prophets.
The Historical Books.
A Sermon on Isaiah xxvi. By John Knox.
The Iranian Conquest
The Justice of God
God's Sovereignty and the Human Will
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