Thursday, October 12, 2006

A misplaced emphasis ...

I am spending a little time this afternoon getting caught up on cataloging books in my personal library, so I am blowing the dust off of some volumes that have been sitting in a corner since the day I bought them. As I opened a book I bought at an antique store and began to peruse it to determine how I shall classify it, I was struck by a quote I would like to share.

The book is called The Experimental Note, written by Wilbur Fletcher Sheridan, copyright 1911. While I have not read enough of the book to endorse en toto, I am intrigued enough by some lines in the early going to give it a more thorough read later. Look at this sentence from the first paragraph of the first chapter:

"A misplaced emphasis by the preacher changes God's evangel into man's evasion and is more fatal than many heresies."

Here are a few more quotes from the early chapters:

"How narrow Jesus and the apostles were! What themes they left untouched in their preaching! Their messages, like the shells of the Japanese gunners, all struck the center. The speculative preacher, on the contrary, seems to go on the supposition, as George Jackson puts it, 'that the chief end of man is to speculate on the unknown and argue about it forever.'"

"If I say that Jesus Christ died, I have declared a truth, but it is simply a history. If I say that Jesus Christ died for my sins, I have a gospel. ... A biographical Christ for the world's interest and entertainment is a very different thing from an evangelical Christ for the world's salvation. We are not always preaching the gospel when we preach about Christ. We are always preaching the gospel when we preach Christ. Take the lectures of Dr. Richard S. Storrs on 'The Divine Origin of Christianity as Shown by Its Historical Effects' as an illustration of preaching about Christ, and compare them with the sermons of Charles H. Spurgeon or Alexander Whyte as an illustration of preaching Christ. The former is a classic as a Christian apologetic. But it is not the gospel. It might be preached a thousand times and it would not save one sinner from his sins. But the sermons of Spurgeon led multitudes to Christ, both by their spoken utterance and by the printed page. ... We need a dozen or so volumes of sermons of the type of Dr. Storr's elegant classic, but we need millions of the kind that Spurgeon preached."

"Young men entering the ministry with a longing for scholarship and culture, and at the same time with a passion in their hearts to follow Jesus in His work of saving men, have had nothing so hard to bear as this attitude of sneering criticism by older men ... who stigmatize evangelism as emotional, ephemeral, superficial, and as enlisting minds only of small caliber. These wounds are hardest to bear because they are the wounds received in the house of our friends."

"[I]f you have a sure message--one that you have fallen down upon in the hours of your soul's great crises, and have found will bear you up gloriously--then you will never be satisfied with the speculative emphasis."

These are just a few brief highlights (more could be given) from the first two chapters of this book. I look forward to going farther with it someday when time permits. Perhaps I will find that it goes downhill from there, but it sure starts out on a high note.

The quotes are food for thought. Any comments?

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