The Country Church -- By: G. Frederick Wright

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 047:186 (Apr 1890)
Article: The Country Church
Author: G. Frederick Wright


The Country Church

Rev. Prof. G. Frederick Wright

The rapid growth of cities is one of the most marked features of modern times, and is much commented on by writers of every description. The facts are indeed startling, and they lend themselves to the support of much gloomy speculation respecting the future, and, in church work, to many readjustments of plans. In the United States, for example, in 1790, only one-thirtieth of the population was in cities of 8,000 and upwards; whereas, in i860, the urban population had so gained upon that of the country that it amounted to about one-sixth of the whole. At the present time it is probably about one-fourth. Again, since 1790 the total population of the United States has increased sixteen-fold, but the increase of the city population (counting every corporation containing 8,000 as a city) has been one-hundred-and-sixty-fold. Again, in 1850 there were only eighty-five cities having an average population of 35,000; whereas, in 1880, there were three hundred such cities.1

It cannot be denied that these facts are startling. Especially do they seem so, if we surrender ourselves to the illusion of ratios, and are made to believe that the city population is eventually so to outstrip that of the country that but a remnant will be left to till the fields. But close examination will show that, even under present conditions, while this process may go on somewhat farther,

there is a natural limit to it. Man cannot live without bread to eat and clothes to wear, a roof to shelter him, fuel to warm him, and iron with which to make effective the devices of his inventive faculty. And all these things must be obtained in increasing quantities and at increased expense from diminishing stores of nature. There must soon be a turn in the tide of affairs when the growth of the country population will keep pace with that of the city.

The recent rapid growth of cities has been facilitated by two temporary causes whose force will soon be spent. In the first place, labor-saving machinery actually tends to diminish the number of laborers needed to furnish the world with any given commodity. Its recent effect upon the growth of cities arises from its connection with improvements in transportation, whereby it has rapidly gathered those laborers into a comparatively few centres. Instead of a small number of cabinet-makers and weavers and shoemakers in every community, these and like classes of artisans are now gathered together in a few cities. But it is easy to see that this work of concentration has already come almost to its limit; so that the country has suffered nearly its full amount of shrinkage from the pro...

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