How to Sweeten the Life of Great Cities
Nehemiah 3:28
From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house.

I take these words mainly as suggesting some thoughts applicable to the duties of Christian people in view of the spiritual wants of our great cities. Consider —

I. THE RUINS THAT NEED REPAIR. If I dwell rather upon the dark side than on the bright side of city life, I shall not be understood as forgetting that the very causes which intensify the evil of a great city quicken the good — the friction of multitudes, and the impetus given thereby to all kinds of mental activity. Most of us have got so familiarised with the evils that stare us in the face every time we go out upon the pavement, that we have come to think of them as inseparable from our modern life, like the noise of a carriage wheel from its rotation. And is it so, then? Must it be that the shining structure of our modern society, like an old Mexican temple, must be built upon a layer of living men flung in for a foundation? If it be so, then I venture to say that to a very large extent progress is a delusion, and that the simple life of agricultural communities is better than this unwholesome aggregation of men. The beginning of Nehemiah's work of repair was that sad midnight ride round the ruined walls. So there is a solemn obligation laid upon Christian people to acquaint themselves with the awful facts, and then to meditate upon them, till Christlike compassion, pressing against the flood-gates of the heart, flings them open, and lets out a stream of helpful pity and saving deeds (Proverbs 24:11, 12).

II. THE RUIN IS TO BE REPAIRED MAINLY BY THE OLD GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST. Far be it from me to put remedies against each other. The causes are complicated, and the cure must be as complicated as the causes. Intemperance has to be fought by the distinct preaching of abstinence, and by the invoking of legislative restrictions upon the traffic. Wretched homes have to be dealt with by sanitary reform. Art and music, pictures and window gardening, etc., will lend their aid to soften and refine. I say, God speed to all these, but I believe that I shall best serve my generation by trying to get men to love and fear Jesus Christ the Saviour. This will produce new tastes and new inclinations, which will reform, sweeten, and purify faster than anything else does.

III. THIS REMEDY IS TO BE APPLIED BY THE INDIVIDUAL ACTION OF CHRISTIAN MEN AND WOMEN ON THE PEOPLE NEAREST THEM. If you want to do people good you must pay the price for it. That price is personal sacrifice and effort. A loving heart and a sympathetic word, the exhibition of Christian life and conduct, the fact of going down into the midst of evil, are the old-fashioned and only magnets by which men are drawn to purer and higher life. That is God's way of saving the world — by the action of single souls on single souls. "The priests repaired every one over against his own house." Possession involves responsibility. We get the grace for ourselves that we may pass it on. "God hath shined into our hearts, that we may give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." There is nothing so mighty as the confession of personal experience. If, like Andrew, you have found the Messias, you can say so. All can preach who can say, "We have found the Christ." The existence of a Church in which the workers are as numerous as the Christians ought to be something more than an Utopian dream. There are people in your houses, people that sit by you in your countinghouse, on your college benches, who work by your side in mill or factory or ware. house, who cross your path in a hundred ways, and God has given them to you that you may bring them to Him. Oh! if you lived nearer Christ, you would catch the sacred fire from Him, and like a bit of cold iron lying beside a magnet, touching Him, you would yourselves become magnetic, and draw men out of their evil and up to God.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house.

WEB: Above the horse gate repaired the priests, everyone over against his own house.

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