An Old Sermon of Worth


#1

I have drastically abbreviated this wonderful sermon. I can direct you to the entire thing if you like.
What a great, wide, and intelligent discourse!!

PREACHING CHRIST.

Colossians i. 28: Whom we preach, warning every man, and
teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every
man perfect in Christ Jesus.

In the verses immediately preceding the text, we find
the Apostle enlarging with his usual zeal and earnest-
ness on a subject peculiarly dear to him ; on the glo-
rious mystery of God, or in other words, on the great
purpose of God, which had been kept secret from ages,
to make the Gentile world partakers, through faith, of
the blessings of the long-promised Messiah. Christ,
the hope of glory to the Gentiles, was the theme on
which Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, delighted to
expatiate. Having spoken of Jesus in this character,
he immediately adds, Whom we preach, warning
every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that
we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
On the present occasion, which invites us to con
sider the design and duties of the Christian ministry,
I have thought that these words would guide us to many
appropriate and useful reflections. They teach us what
the Apostle preached ; We preach Christ. They
teach us the end or object for which he thus preached;
That we may present every man perfect in Christ
Jesus.

I. What are we to understand by preaching Christ?
This subject is the more interesting and important, be
cause, I fear, it has often been misunderstood. Many
persons imagine, that Christ is never preached, unless
his name is continually repeated and his character con
tinually kept in view. This is an error, and should be
exposed. Preaching Christ, then, does not consist in
making Christ perpetually the subject of discourse, but
in inculcating, on his authority, the religion which he
"taught. Jesus came to be the light and teacher of the
world ; and in this sublime and benevolent character he
unfolded many truths relating to the Universal Father,
to his own character, to the condition, duties, and pros
pects of mankind, to the perection and true happiness
of the human soul, to a future state of retribution, to
the terms of forgiveness, to the means of virtue, and
of everlasting life.
Now whenever we teach, on the authority of Jesus, any doctrine or precept included inthis extensive system, we preach Christ. When,
for instance, we inculcate on his authority the duties of
forgiving enemies, of denying ourselves, of hungering
after righteousness, we preach Christ as truly as
when we describe his passion on the cross, or the pur-
pose and the importance of his sufferings.
By the word Christ in the text and in many other
places, we are to understand his religion rather than his
person. Among the Jews nothing was more common
than to give the name of a religious teacher to the sys
tem of truth which he taught. We see this continually
exemplified in the New Testament. Thus, it is said
of the Jews, They have Moses and the prophets.
What is meant by this that they had Moses residing
in person among them * Certainly not ; but that they
had his law, his religion. When Paul says, We preach
Christ, we ought to understand him as affirming, that
he preached the whole system of doctrines and duties
which Christ taught, whether they related to Jesus him-
self, or to any other subject.
I hope I shall not be misunderstood in the remarks
which I have now made. Do not imagine, that I would
exclude from the pulpit, discourses on the excellence of
Jesus Christ. The truths which relate to Jesus him
self, are among the most important which the Gospel
reveals. The relations which Jesus Christ sustains to
the world, are so important and so tender ; the concern
which he has expressed in human salvation, so strong
and disinterested ; the blessings of pardon and immortal
life which he brings, so undeserved and unbounded ; his
character is such a union of moral beauty and grandeur;
his example is at once so pure and so persuasive ; the
events of his life, his miracles, his sufferings, his resur
rection and ascension, and his offices of intercessor and
judge, are so strengthening to faith, hope, and charity,
that his ministers should dwell on his name with affec
tionate veneration, and should delight to exhibit him to
the gratitude, love, imitation, and confidence of man
kind.
It regards man in his diversified and ever-multiplying
relations to his Creator and to his fellow-creatures, to
the present state and to all future ages. Its aim is, to
instruct and quicken us to cultivate an enlarged virtue;
to cultivate our whole intellectual and moral nature.
It collects and offers motives to piety from the past and
from the future, from heaven and hell, from nature and
experience, from human example, and from the imitable
excellences of God, from the world without and the
world within us. The Gospel of Christ is indeed an
inexhaustible treasury of moral and religious truth.
Jesus, the first and best of evangelical teachers, did not
confine himself to a few topics, but manifested himself
to be the wisdom of God by the richness and variety
of his instructions.
It has been the object of these remarks, to show,
that preaching Christ does not imply that the offices
and character of Christ are to be made perpetually the
subjects of discourse. Where this idea prevails, it too
often happens that the religion of Jesus is very partial
ly preached. A few topics are repeated without end.
Many delightful and ennobling views of Christianity are
seldom or never exhibited. The duties of the Gospel
receive but a cursory attention. Religion is thought to
consist in a fervid state of mind, produced by the con
stant contemplation of a few affecting ideas; whilst the
only acceptable religion, which consists in living so
berly, righteously, and godly in the world, seems to
be undervalued as quite an inferior attainment. Where
this mistake prevails, we too often discover a censorious
spirit among hearers, who pronounce with confidence
on this and another minister, that they do not preach
Christ, because their discourses do not turn on a few
topics in relation to the Saviour, which are thought to
contain the whole of Christianity.
Let us never forget, that we none of us preach Christ in the
full import of that phrase. None of us can hope that
we give a complete representation of the religion of our
Master; that we exhibit every doctrine without defect
or without excess, in its due proportions, and in its just
connexions; but none are free from the
universal frailty, and none are authorized to take the
seat of judgment, and, on the ground of imagined errors,
to deny to others, whose lives are as spotless as their
own, a conscientious purpose to learn and to teach the
whole counsel of God.

II. Having thus considered what is intended by
preaching Christ, I proceed to consider, secondly, for
what end Christ is to be preached. We preach Christ,
says the Apostle, warning every man, and teaching
every man, that we may present every man perfect in
Christ Jesus; that is, perfect in the religion of Christ,
or a perfect Christian.
From the passage we derive a
most important sentiment, confirmed by the whole New
Testament, that the great design of all the doctrines
and precepts of the Gospel, is to exalt the character,
to promote eminent purity of heart and life, to make
men perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect. For
what end then is Christianity to be preached ? The
answer is plain. We must preach, not to make fiery
partisans, and to swell the number of a sect; not to
overwhelm the mind with fear, or to heat it with fever
ish rapture ; not to form men to the decencies of life,
to a superficial goodness, which will secure the admira
tion of mankind. All these effects fall infinitely short
of the great end of the Christian ministry.
We should preach, that we may make men perfect Christians;
perfect, not according to the standard of the world,
but according to the law of Christ; perfect in heart
and in life, in solitude and in society, in the great and
in the common concerns of life. Here is the purpose
of Christian preaching. In this, as in a common cen
tre, all the truths of the Gospel meet ; to this they all
conspire ; and no doctrine has an influence on salvation,
any farther than it is an aid and excitement to the per
fecting of our nature.
The Christian minister ought never to forget the great distinc-
tion and glory of the Gospel, - that it is designed to
perfect human nature. All the precepts of this divine
system are marked by a sublime character. It demands
that our piety be fervent, our benevolence unbounded,
and our thirst for righteousness strong and insatiable.
It enjoins a virtue which does not stop at what is posi
tively prescribed, but which is prodigal of service to
God and to mankind. The Gospel enjoins inflexible
integrity, fearless sincerity, fortitude which despises pain
and tramples pleasure under foot in the pursuit of duty,
and an independence of spirit which no scorn can deter
and no example seduce from asserting truth and adher
ing to the cause which conscience approves. With this
spirit of martyrs, this hardness and intrepidity of sold-
iers of the cross, the Gospel calls us to unite the mild
est and meekest virtues ; a sympathy which melts over
others’ woes ; a disinterestedness which finds pleasure
in toils, and labors for others’ good; a humility which
loves to bless unseen, and forgets itself in the perform
ance of the noblest deeds. To this perfection of
social duty, the Gospel commands us to join a piety
which refers every event to the providence of God, and
every action to his will; a love which counts no service
hard, and a penitence which esteems no judgment se-
vere ; a gratitude which offers praise even in adversity;
a holy trust unbroken by protracted suffering, and a hope
triumphant over death. In one word, it enjoins, that,
loving and confiding in Jesus Christ, we make his spot-
less character, his heavenly life, the model of our own.
Such is the sublimity of character which the Gospel
demands, and such the end to which our preaching
should ever be directed.
We need to feel more deeply, that we are in
trusted with a religion which is designed to ennoble
human nature ; which recognises in man the capacities
of all that is good, great, and excellent; and which
offers every encouragement and aid to the pursuit of
perfection. The Christian minister should often recol
lect, that man, though propense to evil, has yet powers
and faculties which may be exalted and refined to an
gelic glory ; that he is called by the Gospel to prepare
for the community of angels ; that he is formed for
unlimited progress in intellectual and moral excellence
and felicity. He should often recollect, that in Jesus
Christ our nature has been intimately united with the
divine, and that in Jesus it is already enthroned in heav
en. Familiarized to these generous conceptions, the
Christian preacher, whilst he faithfully unfolds to men
their guilt and danger, should also unfold their capaci
ties of greatness; should reveal the splendor of that
destiny to which they are called by Christ; should
labor to awaken within them aspirations after a nobler
character and a higher existence, and to inflame them
with the love of all the graces and virtues with which
Jesus came to enrich and adorn the human soul. In
this way he will prove that he understands the true
and great design of the Gospel and the ministry, which
is nothing less than the perfection of the human char-
acter.
May I be permitted to say, that perhaps one of the
greatest defects in our preaching, is, that it is not suf-
ficiently directed to ennoble and elevate the minds of
men. It does not breathe a sufficiently generous spirit.
It appeals too constantly to the lowest principle of hu
man nature; I mean the principle of fear, which under
judicious excitement is indeed of great and undoubted
use, but which, as every parent knows, when habitually
awakened, is always found to debase the mind, to break
the spirit, to give tameness to the character, and to
chill the best affections. Perhaps one cause of the
limited influence of Christianity, is, that, as it is too
often exhibited, it seems adapted to form an abject, ser
vile character, rather than to raise its disciples to true
greatness and dignity. Perhaps, were Christianity more
habitually regarded as a system, whose great design it is
to infuse honorable sentiments, magnanimity, energy, an
ingenuous love of God, a superiority to the senses, a
spirit of self-sacrifice, a virtue akin to that of heaven,
its reception would be more cordial, and its influence
more extensive, more happy, more accordant with its
great end, the perfection of human nature.

III.That the Gospel may attain its end, may
exert the most powerful and ennobling influence on the
human character, it must be addressed at once to the
understanding and to the heart. It must be so preached
as to be firmly believed and deeply felt.
very obvious principle, that a revelation from God must
be adapted to the rational and moral nature which he
has conferred on man ; that God can never contradict
in his Word what he has himself written on the human
heart, or teaches in his works and providence.

I have said, that this rational method of preaching
Christianity is important, if we would secure a firm be
lief to Christianity. Some men may indeed be recon
ciled to an unreasonable religion ; and terror, that pas
sion which more than any other unsettles the intellect,
may silence every objection to the most contradictory
and degrading principles. But in general the understand
ing and conscience cannot be entirely subdued. They
resist the violence which is done them. A lurking in
credulity mingles with the attempt to believe what con
tradicts the highest principles of our nature.
But this is not enough. It is also most important
that the Gospel should be recommended to the heart.
Christianity should be so preached, as to interest the
affections, to awaken contrition and fear, veneration and
love, gratitude and hope. Some preachers have addressed men as
mere creatures of intellect; they have forgotten, that
affection is as essential to our nature as thought, that
action requires motive, that the union of reason and
sensibility is the health of the soul, and that without
moral feeling there can be no strength of moral purpose.
They have preached ingeniously, and the hearer has pro
nounced the teaching true. But the truth, coldly im
parted, and coldly received, has been forgotten as fast as
heard ; no energy of will has been awakened; no resist
ance to habit and passion been called forth ; perhaps not
a momentary purpose of self-improvement has glanced
through the mind. Preaching, to be effectual, must be
as various as our nature. The sun warms, at the same
moment that it enlightens; and, unless religious truth be
addressed at once to the reason and the affections, unless
it kindles whilst it guides, it is a useless splendor; it
leaves the heart barren ; it produces no fruits of godli
ness. Let the Christian minister, then, preach the Gos
pel with earnestness, with affection, with a heart warmed
by his subject, not thinking of himself, not seeking
applause, but solicitous for the happiness of mankind,
tenderly concerned for his people, awake to the solem
nities of eternity, and deeply impressed with the worth
of the human soul, with the glory and happiness to
which it may be exalted, and with the misery and ruin
into which it will be plunged by irreligion and vice.
Let him preach, not to amuse, but to convince and
awaken ; not to excite a momentary interest, but a deep
and lasting seriousness; not to make his hearers think of
the preacher, but of themselves, of their own characters
and future condition. Let him labor, by delineating
with unaffected ardor the happiness of virtue, by setting
forth religion in its most attractive forms, by displaying
the paternal character of God, and the love of Christ
which was stronger than death, by unfolding the purity
and blessedness of the heavenly world, by revealing to
the soul its own greatness, and by persuasion, by en
treaty, by appeals to the best sentiments of human nature,
by speaking from a heart convinced of immortality; let
him labor, by these methods, to touch and to soften his
hearers, to draw them to God and duty, to awaken grati
tude and love, a sublime hope and a generous desire of
exalted goodness. And let him also labor, by solemn
warning, by teaching men their responsibility, by setting
before sinners the aggravations of their guilt, by showing
them the ruin and immediate wretchedness wrought by
moral evil in the soul, and by pointing them to approach-
ing death, and the retributions of the future world; let
him labor, by these means, to reach the consciences of
those whom higher motives will not quicken, to break
the slumbers of the worldly, to cut off every false hope,
and to persuade the sinner, by a salutary terror, to return
to God, and to seek, with a new earnestness, virtue,
glory, and eternal life.


#2

Another ‘sermon’ that is worthy of attention.
In this one, Channing is answering an essay by Fenelon, wherein Fenelon was calling for 'self-crucifixion" - a theme you still hear in certain circles.
By making the critical distinction between inordinate self-interest and the sense of self given to us by the Father, Channing draws some beautiful word-pictures of the glory of the image of God in human beings.Once again, I have shortened it.


(the mind) …It is God’s highest work, his mirror and representative. Its superiority to the outward universe is mournfully overlooked, and is yet most true. This preeminence we ascribe to the mind, not merely because it can comprehend the universe which cannot comprehend itself, but for still higher reasons. We believe, that the human mind is akin to that intellectual energy which gave birth to nature, and consequently that it contains within itself the seminal and prolific principles from which nature sprung. We believe, too, that the highest purpose of the universe is to furnish materials, scope, and excitements to the mind, in the work of assimilating itself to the Infinite Spirit; that is, to minister to a progress within us, which nothing without us can rival. So transcendent is the mind. No praise can equal God’s goodness in creating us after his own spiritual likeness. No imagination can conceive of the greatness of the gift of a rational and moral existence. Far from crucifying this, to unfold it must ever be the chief duty and end of our being, and the noblest tribute we can render to its Author.
We have spoken of the mind, that highest part of ourselves, and of the guilt we should incur by crucifying or renouncing it. But the duty of self-crucifixion requires still greater limitations. Taking human nature as consisting of a body as well as mind, as including animal desire, as framed to receive pleasure through the eye and ear and all the organs of sense, in this larger view, we cannot give it up to the immolation which is sometimes urged. We see In the mixed constitution of man a beautiful whole. We see in the lowest as well as highest capacity an important use ; and in every sense an inlet of pleasure not to be disdained. Still more, we believe, that he, in whom the physical nature is unfolded most entirely and harmoniously, who unites to greatest strength of limbs the greatest acuteness of the senses, may, if he will, derive important aids to the intellect and moral powers from these felicities of his outward frame. We believe, too, that, by a beautiful reaction, the mind, in proportion to its culture and moral elevation, gives vigor and grace to the body, and enlarges its sphere of action and enjoyment. Thus, human nature, viewed as a whole, as a union of the worlds of matter and mind, is a work worthy of a divine author, and its universal development, not its general crucifixion, is the lesson of wisdom and virtue.
We go still farther. The desire of our own individual interest, pleasure, good, the principle which is ordinarily denominated self-love or self-regard, is not to be warred against and destroyed. The tendency of this to excess is indeed our chief moral danger. Self-partiality, in some form or other, enters into and constitutes chiefly, if not wholly, every sin. But excess is not essential to self-regard, and this principle of our nature is the last which could be spared. Nothing is plainer than that to every being his own welfare is more specially committed than that of any other, and that a special sensibility to it is imperiously demanded by his present state. He alone knows his own wants and perils, and the hourly, perpetual claims of his particular lot ; and were he to discard the care of himself for a day, he would inevitably perish. It is a remark of great importance, that the moral danger, to which we are exposed by self-love, arises from the very indispensableness of this principle, from the necessity of its perpetual exercise ; for, according to a known law of the mind, every passion, unless carefully restrained, gains strength by frequency of excitement and action. The tendency of self-love to excess results from its very importance, or from the need in which we stand of its unceasing agency, and is therefore no reason for its extermination, and no reproach on human nature. This tendency, however, does exist. It is strong. It is fearful. It is our chief peril. It is the precipice, on the edge of which we always tread. It is the great appointed trial of our moral nature. ’ To this tendency, unresisted, tamely obeyed, we owe the chief guilt and misery of the present state, the extinction of charity, a moral death more terrible than all the calamities of life. This truth Fenelon felt and taught as we have shown, and in his powerful warnings against this peril the chief value of his writings lies. He treats with admirable acuteness the windings of self-partiality, shows how it mixes with the best motives, and how it feeds upon, and so consumes, our very virtues. All this is true. Still, self-love is an essential part of our nature, and must not and cannot be renounced.
The strong tendency of this principle to excess, of which we have now spoken, explains the strong language, in which Fenelon and others have pointed out our danger from this part of our constitution. But it has also given rise to exaggerated views and modes of expression, which have contributed, perhaps, as much as any cause, to the universal want of a just self-respect. Self-love, from its proneness to excess and its constant movements, has naturally been the object of greater attention than any other principle of action ; and men, regarding it not so much in its ordinary operations as in its encroachments and its triumphs over other constituents, have come to consider it as the chief constituent of human nature. Philosophers, " falsely so called," have labored to resolve into it all our affections, to make it the sole spring of life, so that the whole mind, according to their doctrine, may be considered as one energy of self-love. If to these remarks we add, that this principle, as its name imports, has self or the individual for its object, we have the explanation of a very important fact in the present discussion. We learn how it is, that self-love has come to be understood as if it constituted the whole individual, and to be considered as entering into and forming human nature as no other principle does. A man’s self-love, especially when unrestrained, is thus thought to be and is spoken of as himself; and hence the duty of crucifying or renouncing himself has naturally been urged by Fenelon, and a host of writers, in the broadest and most unqualified terms.
Now it is not true that self-love is our only principle, or that it constitutes ourselves any more than other principles, and the wrong done to our nature by such modes of speech needs to be resisted. Our nature has other elements or constituents, and vastly higher ones, to which self-love was meant to minister, and which are at war with its excesses. For example, we have reason, or intellectual energy, given us for the pursuit and acquisition of truth; and this is essentially a disinterested principle; for truth, which is its object, is of a universal, impartial nature. The great province of the intellectual faculty is, to acquaint the individual with the laws and order of the divine system; a system, which spreads infinitely beyond himself, of which he forms a very small part, which embraces innumerable beings equally favored by God, and which proposes as its sublime and beneficent end, the ever-growing good of the whole. Again, human nature has a variety of affections, corresponding to our domestic and most common relations; affections, which in multitudes overpower self-love, which make others the chief objects of our care, which nerve the arm for ever-recurring toil by day, and strengthen the wearied frame to forego the slumbers of night. Then there belongs to every man the general sentiment of humanity, which responds to all human sufferings, to a stranger’s tears and groans, and often prompts to great sacrifices for his relief. Above all there is the moral principle, that which should especially be called a man’s self, for it is clothed with a kingly authority over his whole nature, and was plainly given to bear sway over every desire. This is eminently a disinterested principle. Its very essence is impartiality. It has no respect of persons. It is the principle of justice, taking the rights of all under its protection, and frowning on the least wrong, however largely it may serve ourselves. This moral nature especially delights in, and enjoins, a universal charity, and makes the heart thrill with exulting joy, at the sight or hearing of magnanimous deeds, of perils fronted, and death endured, in the cause of humanity. Now these various principles, and especially the last, are as truly ourselves as self-love. When a man thinks of himself, these ought to occur to him as his chief attributes. He can hardly injure himself more, than by excluding these from his conception of himself, and by making self-love the great constituent of his nature. We have urged these remarks on the narrow sense often given to the word ‘self’, because we are persuaded, that it leads to degrading ideas of human nature, and to the pernicious notion, that we practise a virtuous self-sacrifice in holding it in contempt. We would have it understood, that high faculties form this despised self, as truly as low desires ; and we would add, that, when these are faithfully unfolded, this self takes rank among the noblest beings in the universe.
To illustrate this thought, we ask the reader’s attention to an important, but much neglected view of virtue and religion. These are commonly spoken of in an abstract manner, as if they were distinct from ourselves, as if they were foreign existences, which enter the human mind, and dwell there in a kind of separation from itself. Now religion and virtue, wherever they exist, are the mind itself, and nothing else. They are human nature, and nothing else. A good man’s piety and virtue are not distinct possessions ; they are himself, and all the glory which belongs to them belongs to himself. What is religion ? Not a foreign inhabitant, not something alien to our nature, which comes and takes up its abode in the soul. It is the soul itself, lifting itself up to its Maker. What is virtue ? It is the soul, listening to, and revering, and obeying a law which belongs to its very essence, the law of duty. We sometimes smile, when we hear men decrying human nature, and in the same breathing exalting religion to the skies ; as if religion were any thing more than human nature, acting in obedience to its chief law. Religion and virtue, as far as we possess them, are ourselves ; and the homage which is paid to these attributes, is in truth a tribute to the soul of man. Self-crucifixion then, should it exclude self-reverence, would be any thing but virtue. We would briefly suggest another train of thought leading to the same result.
Self-crucifixion, or self-renunciation, is a work, and a work requires an agent. By whom then is it accomphshed ? We answer, by the man himself, who is the subject of it. It is he who is summoned to the effort. He is called by a voice within, and by the law of God, to put forth power over himself, to rule his own spirit, to subdue every passion. Now this inward power, which self-crucifixion supposes and demands, is the most signal proof of a high nature which can be given. It is the most illustrious power which God confers. It is a sovereignty worth more than that over outward nature. It is the chief constituent of the noblest order of virtues; and its greatness, of course, demonstrates the greatness of the human mind, which is perpetually bound and summoned to put it forth. But this is not all. Self-crucifixion has an object, an end ; and what Its great end is, to give liberty and energy to our nature. Its aim is, not to break down the soul, but to curb those lusts and passions, " which war against the soul," that the moral and intellectual faculties may rise into new life, and may manifest their divine original. Self-crucifixion, justly viewed, is the suppression of the passions, that the power and progress of thought, and conscience, and pure love, may be unrestrained. It is the destruction of the brute, that the angel may unfold itself within. It is founded on our godlike capacities, and the expansion and glory of these is its end. Thus the very duty, which by some is identified with self-contempt, implies and imposes self-reverence. It is the belief and the choice of perfection as our inheritance and our end.

Channing, William Ellery, 1780-1842. The works of William E. Channing, D.D (Kindle Locations 2974-2985). Boston : James Munroe.