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THE MORAL ASPECTS OF A LARGE CITY.
that meets you there, or that ominously glares upon you on every side? It is the thoughtless sons and daughters of frivolity squandering in folly the time which is allowed that they may prepare for glory. It is the drunkard, consigning at once his soul and his body to their several graves. It is the poor haggard child of mingled penury and crime, emaciated till only a fragment of the man remains. It is the victim of debauchery, bloated and blue from the effects of his revelry. There are, no doubt, the lingering remains of humanity there;-souls are immortal still, and capable of becoming, through grace, the heirs of glory; but so disfigured are they by the effects of sin, that scarcely can the human face divine be recognised under the filth and the distortion of crime. The bold blasphemer, the degraded ones who live by crimes which should not once be named, the impious being that lurks for nightly plunder, all are there, and all whetting each other's appetite for crime, all cheering each other in the downward way, all vying with each other in the boldness with which they can assail the Majesty of Heaven. Amid such scenes, we need not tell how vice in one foments vice in others, till the corrupting mass threatens to dissolve the whole framework of society. From time to time there is some dark deed unmasked, in which blood has touched blood, and the ferocity of the savage been engrafted on the subtlety of the fiend. Even womanhood, debased and brutalized, becomes the ringleader amid these atrocities, and for a little the nation is startled and appalled; but crime follows crime in such close succession, that it seems as if the guilty were coping in atrocity, and trying to show how very far degraded humanity can fall.
Or, if these grosser outbreaks be repressed, then there are the young systematically trained in crime. In the recesses of our streets and lanes, there are parents living on the profligacy of their offspring—a profligacy in which these very parents have schooled them. In a word, crime is reduced to a science : * it is taught with the painstaking of an ordinary business; and the wickedness of Nineveh is repeated or surpassed in the great cities of this Christian land—this land of Bibles, of Sabbaths, and of gospel light.
But why refer to these topics here! Because, in the spirit of the opening verses of the book of Jonah, we are to ask, What is the cure for all this crime? How is this festering social disease to be remedied ? How are the perishing to be rescued ? How is the beauty of holiness to supplant the brutality of vice ? Precisely as Jehovah meant to rescue Nineveh, by sending his prophet to preach repentance to men. Then and now, there and here, the remedy is the same; but it will be effectual because it is God's. While we are enjoying our privileges, there are in all our densely-peopled cities thousands upon thousands forgetting God as much as the
* The following account by an eyewitness will explain this remark :-" I was led,” he says, on a Sabbath night to a Sabbath School in London, after being provided with a ticket with the words,
Admit the bearer.' About one hundred and fifty persons were present. They were all being taught the process of picking pockets. A certain number were supposed to be policemen walking about the room. Then a certain number of men were teaching boys how to pick pockets to the best advantage; and that they might be the more expert at this, a bell was put into the pocket, and it was deemed the height of their profession to extract the money without tinkling the bell.”
THE FOOLISHNESS OF GOD
dwellers in Nineveh did; and were it not indeed a godlike thing—were it not the part of heaven-sent men -to endeavour to diminish the surrounding mass of wickedness, by withdrawing one, and another, and another, from the destructive vortex? Some try it to some extent : in works of faith, and labours of love and self-denial, they endeavour to reclaim the outcast, and win them to the decencies of civilized men, or better and higher, to the hopes and the happiness of the children of God. Now, be that trial accompanied with the prayer of faith, and ours may be the blessedness involved in the words, “He who converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins.” However vaunting ignorance may dream, that is to be done only by proclaiming the message
mercy from God to man; and that soul, that flock, will prosper most which is most believingly bent on beckoning the outcast to the Saviour of the lost, according to the mind of the Supreme.
But another thought occurs in connection with this topic. We offer it for encouragement to those who seek to reclaim the morally outcast, as Jonah was sent to do. Nineveh was an exceeding great city. Its inhabitants were counted by tens of thousands, and their wickedness was as great as their numbers; yet against all that mass only one man was sent. It seemed vain to Jonah, and he refused to go. Now, many still may deem it vain to endeavour to reclaim the children of crime by an agency so simple as the message
mercy from God to man. The very wisdom of God may seem foolishness to man; or what He declares to be his “power"-we mean Christ crucified—may appear to be
IS WISER THAN MEN.”
only weakness. Other devices may be adopted, and human substitutes employed, instead of the divine specific for the woes of man; but the message which tells of a Saviour is God's selected instrument notwithstanding, and he will honour it alone to accomplish the mighty work. He entrusts his gospel to his church and every converted member in it; in our several places and relations we are to make it known, and then the desert will blossom as the rose, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. Like Jonah, we may decline what God gives us to do. Seeking our own comfort, and not God's glory, we may shrink and flee from the crime which we should face and overcome. But let faith be in exercise. Let God's word be honoured as His. Let the
message of mercy be in mercy told. Let the love of God in Christ constrain us to constrain others. Let the Spirit of God be honoured to stamp and seal the whole, first upon the conscience, and next upon the heart; and then two results will follow : First, our own souls will prosper and grow rich in spiritual things, for “the hand of the diligent maketh rich;” and, secondly, those who are appointed to everlasting life will be gathered in to the fold of the Redeemer, while the fellow-workers with God in this love to souls will shine at last as the stars for ever and ever. The foolish things of the world will confound the wise; weak things will confound the mighty; base things of the world, and things which are despised, yea, and things which are not, will bring to nought things that are, according to the choice of the Sovereign mind.
“ But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of
the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish : 80 he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord."-Jonah i. 3.
It is frequently observed, that few things are more remarkable in the Scriptures than the honesty which they display in recording the faults even of the people of God. Without any attempt to palliate on the one hand, or to exaggerate on the other, nothing is left unrecorded that can show either the sinfulness of man when left to himself, or the holiness of man when guided by the grace, and upheld by the Spirit of his God. Does the king of Israel, for example, sin in high places, and do what he can to make religion contemptible, or turn it into mockery in the eyes of men ? Then he comes before us in the fifty-first psalm pouring out his heart unto God, at once confessing his guilt before all the people, and crying to the Holy One for pardon. Or does an apostle deny his Lord, and accompany that denial with oaths and imprecations ? That apostle is described precisely as the facts of his painful case demand. Not one word of extenuation. Not a whisper of excuse for Peter, as if sin were less sinful than God says it is. The most transparent honesty thus presides over all the