Sermons to the Natural Man

Sermons to the Natural Man

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Project Gutenberg's Sermons to the Natural Man, by William G.T. SheddThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it,give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online atwww.gutenberg.netTitle: Sermons to the Natural ManAuthor: William G.T. SheddRelease Date: August 17, 2004 [EBook #13204]Language: English*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SERMONS TO THE NATURAL MAN ***Produced by G. Graustein and PG Distributed ProofreadersSERMONS TO THE NATURAL MAN.BYWILLIAM G. T. SHEDD, D. D.,AUTHOR OF "A HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE," "HOMILETICS AND PASTORAL. THEOLOGY," "DISCOURSES AND ESSAYS," "PHILOSOPHY OFHISTORY," ETC.NEW YORK: CHARLES SCRIBNER & CO., 654 BROADWAY. 1871.PREFACE.It is with a solemn feeling of responsibility that I send forth this volume of Sermons. The ordinary emotions of authorshiphave little place in the experience, when one remembers that what he says will be either a means of spiritual life, or anoccasion of spiritual death.I believe that the substance of these Discourses will prove to accord with God's revealed truth, in the day that will try alltruth. The title indicates their general aim and tendency. The purpose is psychological. I would, if possible, anatomize thenatural heart. It is in vain to offer the gospel unless the law has been applied with clearness and cogency. At the presentday, ...

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Project Gutenberg's Sermons to the Natural Man,
by William G.T. Shedd
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at
no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.
You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the
terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net
Title: Sermons to the Natural Man
Author: William G.T. Shedd
Release Date: August 17, 2004 [EBook #13204]
Language: English
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG
EBOOK SERMONS TO THE NATURAL MAN ***
Produced by G. Graustein and PG Distributed
ProofreadersSERMONS TO THE NATURAL
MAN.
BY
WILLIAM G. T. SHEDD, D. D.,
AUTHOR OF "A HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN
DOCTRINE," "HOMILETICS AND PASTORAL.
THEOLOGY," "DISCOURSES AND ESSAYS,"
"PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY," ETC.
NEW YORK: CHARLES SCRIBNER & CO., 654
BROADWAY. 1871.
PREFACE.
It is with a solemn feeling of responsibility that I
send forth this volume of Sermons. The ordinary
emotions of authorship have little place in the
experience, when one remembers that what he
says will be either a means of spiritual life, or an
occasion of spiritual death.
I believe that the substance of these Discourses
will prove to accord with God's revealed truth, in
the day that will try all truth. The title indicates their
general aim and tendency. The purpose is
psychological. I would, if possible, anatomize thenatural heart. It is in vain to offer the gospel unless
the law has been applied with clearness and
cogency. At the present day, certainly, there is far
less danger of erring in the direction of religious
severity, than in the direction of religious
indulgence. If I have not preached redemption in
these sermons so fully as I have analyzed sin, it is
because it is my deliberate conviction that just now
the first and hardest work to be done by the
preacher, for the natural man, is to produce in him
some sensibility upon the subject of sin.
Conscience needs to become consciousness.
There is considerable theoretical unbelief
respecting the doctrines of the New Testament; but
this is not the principal difficulty. Theoretical
skepticism is in a small minority of Christendom,
and always has been. The chief obstacle to the
spread of the Christian religion is the practical
unbelief of speculative believers. "Thou sayest,"—
says John Bunyan,—"thou dost in deed and in
truth believe the Scriptures. I ask, therefore, Wast
thou ever killed stark dead by the law of works
contained in the Scriptures? Killed by the law or
letter, and made to see thy sins against it, and left
in an helpless condition by the law? For, the proper
work of the law is to slay the soul, and to leave it
dead in an helpless state. For, it doth neither give
the soul any comfort itself, when it comes, nor doth
it show the soul where comfort is to be had; and
therefore it is called the 'ministration of
condemnation,' the 'ministration of death.' For,
though men may have a notion of the blessed
Word of God, yet before they be converted, it may
be truly said of them, Ye err, not knowing theScriptures, nor the power of God."
If it be thought that such preaching of the law can
be dispensed with, by employing solely what is
called in some quarters the preaching of the
gospel, I do not agree with the opinion. The
benefits of Christ's redemption are pearls which
must not be cast before swine. The gospel is not
for the stupid, or for the doubter,—still less for the
scoffer. Christ's atonement is to be offered to
conscious guilt, and in order to conscious guilt
there must be the application of the decalogue.
John Baptist must prepare the way for the merciful
Redeemer, by legal and close preaching. And the
merciful Redeemer Himself, in the opening of His
ministry, and before He spake much concerning
remission of sins, preached a sermon which in its
searching and self-revelatory character is a more
alarming address to the corrupt natural heart, than
was the first edition of it delivered amidst the
lightnings of Sinai. The Sermon on the Mount is
called the Sermon of the Beatitudes, and many
have the impression that it is a very lovely song to
the sinful soul of man. They forget that the blessing
upon obedience implies a curse upon
disobedience, and that every mortal man has
disobeyed the Sermon on the Mount. "God save
me,"—said a thoughtful person who knew what is
in the Sermon on the Mount, and what is in the
human heart,—"God save me from the Sermon on
the Mount when I am judged in the last day." When
Christ preached this discourse, He preached the
law, principally. "Think not,"—He says,—"that I am
come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am notcome to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto
you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle
shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled."
John the Baptist describes his own preaching,
which was confessedly severe and legal, as being
far less searching than that of the Messiah whose
near advent he announced. "I indeed baptize you
with water unto repentance: but he that cometh
after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not
worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy
Ghost and with fire; whose fan is in his hand, and
he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his
wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff
with unquenchable fire."
The general burden and strain of the Discourse
with which the Redeemer opened His ministry is
preceptive and mandatory. Its keynote is: "Thou
shalt do this," and, "Thou shalt not do that;" "Thou
shalt be thus, in thine heart," and, "Thou shalt not
be thus, in thine heart." So little is said in it,
comparatively, concerning what are called the
doctrines of grace, that it has often been cited to
prove that the creed of the Church has been
expanded unduly, and made to contain more than
the Founder of Christianity really intended it should.
The absence, for example, of any direct and
specific statement of the doctrine of Atonement, in
this important section of Christ's teaching, has
been instanced by the Socinian opponent as proof
that this doctrine is not so vital as the Church has
always claimed it to be. But, Christ was purposely
silent respecting grace and its methods, until he
had spiritualized Law, and made it penetrate thehuman consciousness like a sharp sword. Of what
use would it have been to offer mercy, before the
sense of its need had been elicited? and how was
this to be elicited, but by the solemn and
authoritative enunciation of law and justice? There
are, indeed, cheering intimations, in the Sermon on
the Mount, respecting the Divine mercy, and so
there are in connection with the giving of the Ten
Commandments. But law, rather than grace, is the
main substance and burden of both. The great
intention, in each instance, is to convince of sin,
preparatory to the offer of clemency. The
Decalogue is the legal basis of the Old
Dispensation, and the Sermon on the Mount is the
legal basis of the New. When the Redeemer, in the
opening of His ministry, had provided the
apparatus of conviction, then He provided the
apparatus of expiation. The Great High-Priest, like
the Levitical priest who typified Him, did not
sprinkle atoning blood indiscriminately. It was to
bedew only him who felt and confessed guilt.
This legal and minatory element in the words of
Jesus has also been noticed by the skeptic, and an
argument has been founded upon it to prove that
He was soured by ill-success, and, like other
merely human reformers who have found the
human heart too hard, for them, fell away from the
gentleness with which He began His ministry, into
the anger and denunciation of mortified ambition
with which it closed. This is the picture of Jesus
Christ which Rénan presents in his apocryphal
Gospel. But the fact is, that the Redeemer began
with law, and was rigorous with sin from the veryfirst. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered not
far from twelve months from the time of His
inauguration, by baptism, to the office of Messiah.
And all along through His ministry of three years
and a half, He constantly employs the law in order
to prepare his hearers for grace. He was as gentle
and gracious to the penitent sinner, in the opening
of His ministry, as he was at the close of it; and He
was as unsparing and severe towards the
hardened and self-righteous sinner, in His early
Judaean, as He was in His later Galilean ministry.
It is sometimes said that the surest way to produce
conviction of sin is to preach the Cross. There is a
sense in which this is true, and there is a sense in
which it is false. If the Cross is set forth as the
cursed tree on which the Lord of Glory hung and
suffered, to satisfy the demands of Eternal Justice,
then indeed there is fitness in the preaching to
produce the sense of guilt. But this is to preach the
law, in its fullest extent, and the most tremendous
energy of its claims. Such discourse as this must
necessarily analyze law, define it, enforce it, and
apply it in the most cogent manner. For, only as
the atonement of Christ is shown to completely
meet and satisfy all these legal demands which
have been so thoroughly discussed and exhibited,
is the real virtue and power of the Cross made
manifest.
But if the Cross is merely held up as a decorative
ornament, like that on the breast of Belinda, "which
Jews might kiss and infidels adore;" if it be
proclaimed as the beautiful symbol of the Divineindifference and indulgence, and there be a
studious avoiding of all judicial aspects and
relations; if the natural man is not searched by law
and alarmed by justice, but is only soothed and
narcotized by the idea of an Epicurean deity
destitute of moral anger and inflicting no righteous
retribution,—then, there will be no conviction of sin.
Whenever the preaching of the law is positively
objected to, and the preaching of the gospel is
proposed in its place, it will be found that the
"gospel" means that good-nature and that easy
virtue which some mortals dare to attribute to the
Holy and Immaculate Godhead! He who really, and
in good faith, preaches the Cross, never opposes
the preaching of the law.
Still another reason for the kind of religious
discourse which we are defending is found in the
fact that multitudes are expecting a happy issue of
this life, upon ethical as distinguished from
evangelical grounds. They deny that they deserve
damnation, or that they need Christ's atonement.
They say that they are living virtuous lives, and are
ready to adopt language similar to that of Mr. Mill
spoken in another connection: "If from this position
of integrity and morality we are to be sent to hell,
to hell we will go." This tendency is strengthened
by the current light letters, in distinction from
standard literature. A certain class, through
ephemeral essays, poems, and novels, has been
plied with the doctrine of a natural virtue and an
innate goodness, until it has become proud and
self-reliant. The "manhood" of paganism is
glorified, and the "childhood" of the gospel isvilified. The graces of humility, self-abasement
before God, and especially of penitence for sin, are
distasteful and loathed. Persons of this order
prefer to have their religious teacher silent upon
these themes, and urge them to courage, honor,
magnanimity, and all that class of qualities which
imply self-consciousness and self-reliance. To
them apply the solemn words of the Son of God to
the Pharisees: "If ye were blind, ye should have no
sin: but now ye say, We see, therefore your sin
remaineth."
It is, therefore, specially incumbent upon the
Christian ministry, to employ a searching and
psychological style of preaching, and to apply the
tests of ethics and virtue so powerfully to men who
are trusting to ethics and virtue, as to bring them
upon their knees. Since these men are desiring,
like the "foolish Galatiana," to be saved by the law,
then let the law be laid down to them, in all its
breadth and reach, that they may understand the
real nature and consequences of the position they
have taken. "Tell me," says a preacher of this
stamp,—"tell me, ye that desire to be under the
law, do ye not hear the law,"—do ye not hear its
thundering,—"cursed is every one that continueth
not in ALL things that are written in the law, to do
them!" Virtue must be absolutely perfect and
spotless, if a happy immortality is to be made to
depend upon virtue. If the human heart, in its self-
deception and self-reliance, turns away from the
Cross and the righteousness of God, to morals and
the righteousness of works, then let the Christian
thinker follow after it like the avenger of blood. Let