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Title: The Gathering of the Nations

Author: Anonymous

Release date: January 9, 2017 [eBook #53931]

Language: English


Transcribed from the [1862?] John Stabb (Tract 272) edition by David Price, email

Tract cover


There is something especially imposing in the sight of great multitudes; hence, apart from the bliss, the glory, and the joy which the happy hosts are represented as possessing in the Apocalyptic vision, there is a peculiar sublimity in the description given in Revelation vii. 9, 10: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”

The solitary traveller excites no attention; the ordinary concourse of even crowded cities soon becomes familiar; but when large masses of humanity are congregated together for any common object, it is impossible to be an unconcerned spectator of the scene.  We may have little personal interest in the purpose that has led them to assemble; we may be perfect strangers to the mighty host; but by some mysterious law we identify ourselves with them, and that not only when they are actually present, but even when they have but an imaginary existence on the graphic page of descriptive narrative.

These emotions were powerfully excited on the occasion of the Exhibition in 1851, when such vast numbers visited our metropolis to inspect the contents of the palace of glass.  The accumulated treasures of art and skill excited the astonishment of the observer; but it was the countless millions of our fellow-men, who were continually moving in our midst, that commanded the wondering observation of the most unreflecting mind.  And now we are called to witness a similar influx from all parts of our country and the world, to examine another display of the varieties of international skill.  p. 2Europe, forgetful for a time of the agitations of political strife, is pouring forth her thousands who are intent on the encouragement of those arts which tend to the promotion of peace.  Asia is sending her representatives to inspect those accumulations of treasure before which the boasted magnificence of Oriental splendour grows pale.  America spares some from her fratricidal struggle to admire the far more harmless and honourable competitions of industry.  Even Africa and the inhabitants of the beauteous islands of the vast Pacific have an interested share in the general gathering; while our colonies afford, by their contributions, and the number of visitors, pleasing indications of the rapidity with which they are following us in the race of civilization.  From the sunny dales, the fertile fields, and the rural villages, as well as from the busy towns and cities of our own land, our countrymen are also flocking to share in the peaceful rivalry of the assembled nations.  Who can look with indifference on this continually increasing aggregate of active, living men?  Imagination cannot but speculate concerning the various emotions which are throbbing in these countless bosoms; on the different objects each is pursuing; on the diversified impressions individuals will receive as they survey our busy streets, our ever flowing tide of population, our temples of religion, our government, our virtues, and our sins.  Piety, too, will anxiously inquire, as she surveys the mighty throng, “Who among them feareth the Lord?  Whither are all these immortal spirits tending?  What are the stores they are laying up for eternity?”  No, we cannot be indifferent to the scene.  We may look unmoved upon the majestic river, hastening onwards to the sea—upon the lofty mountain, towering to the skies—upon the solid fabric, which the skill of the architect has so reared that it may defy the attacks of ages; but it is impossible to behold with apathy the thousands whose minds are liable, like our own, to the ever shifting anxieties of life’s struggles, whose hearts are subject to the same conflicting passions with which our own are familiar, and whose souls are destined to survive the wreck of all material things in the joys or sorrows of an endless life.  Hence, amid the varied specimens of artistic skill, of splendid luxury, of earth’s products, and of the discoveries of science, which appear on every side, it is, we contend, the crowding hosts of the many families and races of mankind which troop along the aisles of the International Exhibition, which will, to a thoughtful mind, still present the most serious matter for interested meditation.  Oh, that the scene may awaken those who profess the religion of the Bible so to display its p. 3influence, that these occasional visitors may carry back with them deep, lasting, and salutary impressions of “the truth as it is in Jesus,” and learn that “it is righteousness alone which exalteth a nation!”  The opportunity is as favourable for exhibiting the moral influence of genuine Christianity as it is unusual.  May a powerful conviction of our national responsibility lead our countrymen to be faithful and effectual “witnesses for God,” and not impede the progress of the world’s evangelization by haughty pride, sordid covetousness, disgraceful profligacy, or atheistic indifference.  Our common faith is on its trial, and thousands of our fellow-men will be spectators of the issue.

How varied the scenes from which these teeming multitudes have come!  What diversities, arising from birth, residence, and occupation, mark their separate histories! and, when viewed in the light of the sacred Scriptures, what solemn thoughts arise in reference to them all!  Some have come from regions where the false prophet deludes the minds of millions with fatalism and sensual hopes; others from the wide-spread countries where Popery corrupts the truth of revelation, burdens the simplicity of the Gospel with Pharisaic rites, and hides the doctrines of the Cross behind the crucifix.  Some from the dark plains of heathenism, with its “lords many and gods many,” worshipped under hideous forms, where the glory of the incorruptible God has been changed into “an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things;” others from various parts of our own favoured land, where the Bible is known, and its truths professedly honoured.  But how few, it may be feared, of this vast multitude, have yielded their hearts to the influence of the Gospel! how few have realized their real condition as sinners, their solemn responsibility as accountable beings, and their need of the atoning blood of Christ!  Immersed in the world, and striving to make the most of their brief sojourn here, must it not be suspected that they are living for temporal purposes alone, and that very many are “without hope, and without God in the world”?

How painful is such a thought, when viewed in connection with the rapidity with which the generations of men are passing away from the face of the earth!

Eleven years since, and a similar gathering, buoyant with hope and energy, assembled in the Palace of Glass, and wandered amid the treasures then collected; but what numbers of the busy throng have now passed into the more impressive realities of eternity! some to inhabit the “house of many mansions;” p. 4others into scenes where unavailing remorse is the bitter fruit of opportunities neglected and privileges slighted!  The shadow of death seems indeed to mingle with the bright colours of splendour which adorn the present Exhibition.  We miss the familiar countenances of some who took prominent parts in the gorgeous ceremonial of 1851.  Our beloved Queen, whose presence shed a light and a lustre over the joyous throng, is absent, for death has entered her palace, and bereaved her of her Consort, so justly dear.  She, in widowed solitude, mourns his decease; and none who visit this stately building can fail to miss the lamented Prince, whose comprehensive intellect first adopted the idea, and defined the principles which regulated the arrangement of the former and the present Exhibition—whose cultivated taste was pervaded by genuine piety, and whose loss will not soon be forgotten by a grateful and a mourning nation.  He has been called to a nobler, a happier, a mightier assembly than that of which he was the guiding spirit here.

The venerable parent of our afflicted monarch, who gained the gratitude of the people of these realms by the appropriate training of the present illustrious occupant of the throne, has, too, become an inhabitant of the silent grave.  The aged Wellington, the hero of a hundred battles, formerly so interested in the trophies of a peaceful world, has yielded to the mighty conqueror, Death, and closed his chequered career.  These, with many others known only to the omniscient God, have gone, leaving mourning hearts and bereaved homes to recall those hours of happy and enlightened interest they spent eleven years since, amid the gathering of the nations.  They have gone to their account, and without vainly attempting to scan the varied, the solemn lot which is now their eternal destiny, let us listen to the warning voice, which says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment;” and cry, “O Lord, so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”  They have gone, and we are yet left; but how earnest should be the inquiry, “What progress are we making in the great purposes of our existence?  What have we done to benefit our race and promote the glory of our God?  Have the powers with which we have been entrusted been employed for good, or prostituted to evil?  Have we advanced in fitness for that state to which we are hastening, or have we yielded ourselves more willing slaves to those sins which degrade, debase, and destroy the soul?”

The purpose of the present Exhibition is to ascertain what p. 5improvements the various countries have made in the industrial, useful, and ornamental arts since the first comparison of national skill.  And truly great has been the progress—humanity has studied with intense eagerness to multiply the conveniences and diminish the evils of social life.  Luxury has devised new methods of gratifying the almost sated desires of self-indulgence.  Philanthropy has suggested additional means of employment for the increasing numbers of the sons of toil.  Science, ever striving to extend the bounds of human knowledge, has shed its illumination upon many subjects seemingly wrapped in hopeless mystery.  The religion of Jesus, too, we rejoice to believe, has been making progress during the past eleven years.  Though the obstacles which worldliness, infidelity, carelessness, and superstition usually throw into the way have been as great as ever—though the powers of evil have not abated in the least degree their accustomed activity, the Gospel of our salvation has been “mighty through God”—various parts of our own country have been visited with “times of refreshing,” and other lands have received the light of life—the realms of heathenism have been pierced, the gloomy regions of idolatry have been invaded, and in countries where a corrupted form of Christianity has long prevailed, the Word of God has been set free: progression has been the character of the times.

These facts afford cause for gratitude, but they also give intensity to the questions we have proposed.  How, then, reader, has it been with you amid this busy energy, this universal stir?  Have you realized the proper object of your sojourn here?  Have you found your way to the Cross?  Have you advanced in the road which leads to eternal blessedness?  Have you practically felt the solemn truth contained in our Lord’s words, “Ye must be born again?”  Many who at the last Exhibition were living only for this world, are now ripening for that far nobler gathering of which they shall hereafter form a part, “the general assembly and church of the first-born which are written in heaven.”  Are you yet a stranger to the blissful anticipation?##  Oh, press home the question, Am I born from above?  Soon will the crowds which now fill the aisles of this vast edifice be dispersed, to meet again only amid the realities of eternity; in what circumstances and in what condition will you rejoin them?  In a short time, the splendours of the International Exhibition will pass away, its bright colours fade, its unparalleled collection be removed, the deserted building remain as an illustration of the transitory character of worldly glory, p. 6and the labour of years be only a thing of memory.  But when all these accumulated treasures are scattered, the desire for further progress will still be active.  Still the plotting brain and the industrious hand will be engaged in devising new combinations of skill; the restless heart will never cry “Enough!”

Indeed, this panting after some undefinable perfection is the prominent feature of the age in which we live.  Since the last Exhibition, the vast empire of China has been opened to the schemes of commercial enterprise, and the efforts of religious zeal; Turkey has been rescued from the ambitious designs of Russia; India has been subdued, and restored to prosperity and peace after the horrors of mutinous anarchy; Italy has made large advances towards its much-desired unity; but still the unsatisfied soul of the world is aspiring after a perfection which is never to be attained by man.  The struggle still continues, and the omens of coming change multiply, while they assume a more portentous aspect than ever.

America reels with the internecine conflict which rages between her sons.  Rome trembles in the balance of futurity.  Popery grasps with senile obstinacy the last remnant of her temporal power.  France, indeed, maintains unwonted calmness, but the most sagacious observer is unable to determine whether it is a prelude to a coming storm, or the happy subsidence of its oft-excited elements into prospective peace; and Austria, with her prestige of past splendour, weak yet despotic, stubborn yet irresolute, strives with anxious solicitude to preserve her position among the nations.

At home, all classes and all conditions are forsaking the ancient landmarks, and seeking further advancement.  Science strives by its theories to surpass the discoveries which awakened the astonishment of past generations.  In politics, what would have been once regarded as the dreams of deluded imagination, are now esteemed as unquestionable principles of equity.  Even religion has its innovators, who affect originality, and pretend to be friends of progress by attempting to revive the discarded ceremonies of effete superstition, or by disentombing those rash speculations whose utter want of intellectual or spiritual life had long consigned them to oblivion.  In social life, contentment with the allotments of Providence is an uncommon sight, and “onwards and upwards” is the universal cry.  Oh, that this feeling arose from enlightened principles, and that it were always directed to appropriate ends!

p. 7Let it not be supposed that with cynic apathy we denounce the desire of progress as evil in itself.  So far from this, we believe that it was implanted in the heart of man to stimulate his efforts, and ultimately secure his welfare.  But let us not forget that gracious Providence by whose blessing only progress can become a real good, and let us practically recognize the supreme importance of individual progress in the paths of religion and virtue.  Formed “for the glory of God, and that we should show forth His praise,” we are not at liberty to devote our hearts exclusively or mainly to mere temporal pursuits.  “The fashion of this world passeth away, and the lusts thereof,” but the soul must endure for ever;—of priceless worth, no Koh-i-noor can compare with it in value;—capable of indefinite progression, though polluted with iniquity, nothing can purify and save it but the grace and merit of Christ;—destined to survive when the earth itself shall be a wreck, it must shine eternally like a gem in the Redeemer’s crown, or sink into never-ending wretchedness and ruin.  Oh, then, reader! neglect not your deathless soul; be not so dazzled with this passing splendour as to forget the “glory, honour, and immortality” which may yet be yours; while displaying a graceful courtesy to the foreigners who have honoured us with their presence, do not impiously slight that blessed Jesus who came from heaven and gave His heart’s blood for your salvation; while honouring the skilful, the scientific, the industrious minds, the fruits of whose labours are piled around you, do not dishonour that God in whom you live, and move, and have your being.  Be not so engrossed with the present as to overlook the future: another Exhibition is preparing—another gathering of the nations will occur—when, around the glorious white throne, “the dead, small and great, shall stand before God; when the sea shall give up the dead which are in it, and death and hell shall deliver up the dead which are in them, and they shall be judged every man according to his work.”  Here on earth you are but a unit lost in a crowded world; but in that assembly, in the sight of the omniscient God, your individuality shall stand out clearly and distinctly, with its weight of irremovable responsibility, its noble faculties, and its liability to eternal ruin or immortal joy: then, deeply interested in the proceedings of that solemn day, amid the fierce confusion, the flashing lightning, the rolling thunder, the falling stars, the awful sounds of angelic trumpets, the songs of the blessed, the shrieks of the lost, you shall receive that award p. 8from which there can be no appeal; and even now Time is rapidly hastening on to bring the final end of all things, and develop the dread catastrophe.

Your earthly journey, however, may be closed long ere this event arrives, and death introduce you to that world where your state will be irrevocably fixed.  Give, then, your heart to Jesus; do it now, and, faithful to His promise, He will receive you—His blood shall atone for your sin—His intercession secure your acceptance—His Spirit sanctify your nature, and, clothing you with the garments of salvation, more beauteous than were ever fashioned by artistic skill, He will “present you faultless before the presence of His Father with exceeding joy.”  Then, in the heavenly city, which needs neither sun nor moon, but where the glory of God sheds its unclouded beams, and the Lamb is the light thereof—where nothing enters that defileth, or worketh abomination, or maketh a lie—there, in the world’s great assembly, in the “building not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” with the great multitude which no man can number, who “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” shall you join the triumphant shout, “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty! just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints!”




J. & W. Rider, Printers, 14, Bartholomew Close, London, E.C.