A distant view of New York

by Archibald Alexander

Within that small space nearly half a million of souls are congregated. There are the rich and luxurious, living in splendid palaces, and faring sumptuously every day. And there are also the wretched, suffering poor, crowded together in dark alleys, and lying sick in garrets and obscure corners, destitute of every comfort. And yet these and all the intermediate classes are of one blood, and are all hastening to a similar end.

If we could bring into one view the countless variety of feeling which at this moment agitates the breasts of this great multitude, what a strange spectacle would be exhibited. While some are rejoicing in scenes of mirth and revelry, others are groaning under the pressure of excruciating disease. While the rich and mirthful are indulging in the highest exhilaration, forgetful of the future, a far greater number are oppressed with poverty, and bowed down with incurable disease, or with the burden of increasing years.

As the contrast, on such a view, would be great between the joys and sorrows of the inhabitants of a large city, the difference of moral character is no less marked. How many are employed in works of shame, which shun the light of day. How many minds teem with schemes of wickedness, a large part of which they are never able to execute. Providence often places a barrier in the way of those who enterprise schemes of villainy and murder. How should we rejoice, and be thankful, that in this emporium of America, where the practicers of enormous vice so abound, God has provided a conservative body, by whose influence the wickedness of the multitude of evil-doers is restrained. We speak not of the efforts of the magistracy, and the watchfulness and energy of the numerous police, the benefits of which, however, are inestimable; but our reference is to a class of men and women, found in every Christian denomination, who are not conspicuous in society, but who labor incessantly to check the progress of abounding iniquity. These true friends of mankind are found operating with inextinguishable zeal and indefatigable industry in disseminating gospel truth, in admonishing and exhorting transgressors, and in unceasing supplications to the God of all grace, to send down, in copious effusions, the influences of the Holy Spirit, for the conviction and conversion of sinners.

Those church spires, which first meet the traveler's eye, and attract his attention in approaching the city, furnish interesting associations. As these point to heaven, they give us the delightful assurance that the fear of God is not banished from the place. There is here a worshiping people. Numerous assemblies flow into the spacious churches, whose doors are open to all on the Christian Sabbath. In these hallowed temples the preacher of the gospel dispenses "the word of life." Thousands and tens of thousands drink in the precious truth, and are enlightened, strengthened, and encouraged to go forward in their contest with the powers of darkness. The pulpit is God's device for the destruction of the works of the devil; no wonder, then, that Satan's greatest malice is directed against the pulpit. The influence of a sound, able, evangelical ministry on such a city is unspeakably great, not only in the positive good accomplished, but in the unknown evils which are prevented by the power of the truth on the consciences of men. It is only by the preaching of the gospel that a healthy tone of morals is preserved. By means of the sentiments often advanced in the public periodical prints, and by the influence of the theater, and even of legislative and judicial bodies, the standard of Christian morals is lowered. The conservative power against this tendency is the gospel. Take this away, and the deterioration of morals would be appalling.

We cannot omit also those obscure, but truly benevolent and useful people, who are seen penetrating into the darkest recesses of vice and infamy, bearing in their hands precious tracts, and whose lips are ever ready to pour forth from a benevolent heart words of exhortation, admonition, and encouragement. The Lord prosper the self-denying company of tract distributers; they are more efficient, and no less necessary than the city watch.