Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

itually taken the place of Egypt, reproduced the characteristics of Egypt. The prophet Hosea utters the divine malediction: "They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of Mine offerings, and eat it; but the Lord accepteth them not: now will He remember their iniquity, and visit their sins; they shall return to Egypt." That was exactly what happened to them; they did not return to the geographical Egypt, but spiritually they did so. They became the bondslaves of selfishness, pride, greed, and unmercifulness. As our Lord showed when they boasted of freedom, they were abject slaves of unrighteousness. And as the Egyptians persecuted the people of God, modern Jerusalem played the rôle of the ancient tyrants, killing prophets and righteous men, and finally consummating their wickedness by crucifying the Messiah. Jesus Christ found Israel full of idols and slaves; the priests were taskmasters, and Pharoah sat on the chief seat of the synagogue. That the great city was "spiritually" called Sodom and Egypt does not mean that it was in any sense better than those accursed places; it means that the Jews were worse than the heathen, and that the Jerusalem which crucified our Lord was filled with corruptions more intense and abominable than the iniquity of Sodom or Egypt. It is quite possible for evil to lose its revolting expression whilst its actuality is untouched and its virus is increased tenfold.

The point specially to be observed is, that Jerusalem had become thus infamous through the abuse of religious privilege. It was a religious city that was spiritually called Sodom and Egypt; perverted religious opportunity made it pre-eminent in iniquity

and retribution. It was not Thebes, Babylon, Athens, nor Rome that reached supreme wickedness, but Jerusalem. Solemn truth to be laid to heart by us moderns! Jerusalem, with its mighty corruptions ending in unparalleled tragedy, could not have become what it was, could not have suffered what it did, had it not been for its vast advantages of light and blessing. Tyndall, writing on The Forms of Water, remarks: "Curious then as the conclusion may be, the cold ice of the Alps has its origin in the heat of the sun." By one set of conditions the sun calls forth the leaves of grass, the blossoms of the garden, the charm of flowers, the glory of the corn, and paints with emerald, purple, and gold the palm, the vine, and the orange; but through another set of conditions it causes snow and ice, and becomes the architect of the awful avalanches and glaciers of the Alps.

It is thus with religious truth and privilege. Accepted and improved, the light and grace of Heaven enrich with all glorious things; but resisted and misused, the light that is in us becomes darkness, our worst passions are evoked, the most terrible possibilities of our nature are revealed, our sins and iniquities swell to the skies in ghastly pinnacles of defiance. If the sun of righteousness does not create tropics of moral beauty, brightness, and blessing, it must, when denied and abused, create poles of unrighteousness whose blackness and horror are like hell. It took ages of privilege-temple, lawgivers, prophets, psalmists, oracles of God, and lastly the presence of our Lord Himself-to make possible the glaring scarlet of Jerusalem's consummated sin.

All evils come to their worst in great cities; the evils exist in petty forms and inconspicuous colours in rustic scenes, but the wealth, liberty, numbers, and rivalry of a great city bring them out broadly and luridly. It is a forcing-bed where every vice attains abnormal growth. And when the benign influences of religion are rejected, the wickedness is in the same proportion aggravated. It is urged as a proof of the inefficiency of Christianity that the sin and misery of our great cities are greater than that of the pagan and savage. That the sin and misery of the Christian civilization are greater than that of heathen lands we are ready to admit, but this is no proof of the inefficacy of Christianity. Christianity proves its virtue by making most noble those who welcome it; and, on the negative side, its virtue is vindicated in the bitterer iniquities and wretchedness of those who reject its mercy and grace. To degenerate needs vital power; and wherever religious force is not allowed to express itself in forms of health and beauty, it demonstrates itself in intensified disease and hideousness. "Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." Such is the penalty of high privilege wickedly abused.

2. The Saviour of the city. "Where also our Lord was crucified." Christ crucified is the one antidote for the city's wickedness and woe, even when that city is Jerusalem. This Book of the Revelation pictures a city of jasper and pearl, of gold and crystal, a city burning with splendour and brimming with felicity. What does this metropolis of gold and glory signify? The ideal city; what cities ought to be, what God means them to be. The civic capitals are to be made

after the jewelled pattern shown in the mount called Patmos; glorious in holiness, transfigured by truth streaming through all their garniture, raised into the music of perfect harmony, and satisfied with a fullness of felicity that knows no end. What, then, is the process by which communities are to be reconstructed, what the secret of their ultimate transfiguration and blessedness? Will this be brought about by civic ingenuity, by political reform, by industrial programmes, by social adjustments, by economics, literature, science, art, music? Not so, but primarily and concurrently by the gospel of the Crucified. The ideal city is "the bride, the Lamb's wife." "The lamp thereof is the Lamb." In the twelve foundations are the twelve names of the "apostles of the Lamb." "The Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple thereof." They only become its citizens "which are written in the Lamb's book of life." And their eternal refreshment and joy is "a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb."

We are not going to cleanse, enlighten, uplift and idealize our cities without God; and then it will only be through God as He has been pleased to reveal Himself in His redeeming Son. Every sin that blasts the city is condemned in the Cross; every inspiration that saves it flows from the Cross. Calvary testifies to the everlasting righteousness of God, to His mercy to the penitent, to His sympathy and grace with upstruggling humanity. It is the centre of holiness and mercy, of power and hope, of present and eternal salvation. Only in the Cross do we get at the root of the

mischief; only there do we find the essential blessing. God is in Christ crucified, reconciling the world unto Himself; and only as sinners find their way to the foot of the Cross are Babylon, Sodom, and Egypt transformed into the City of God. "And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God."

« ForrigeFortsæt »