Short Sermons on Important Subjects
By J. M. Pendleton
Not Ashamed of the Gospel
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone that believeth. Romans 1:16.
Paul was an admirable specimen of a gospel preacher. His heart was in his work. He felt his responsibility. He was untiring in his efforts to do good. The supreme desire of his heart was to glorify God and promote the interests of his cause. His love of souls was most intense – most affectionate. He loved the gospel, and proclaimed it everywhere. In obscure and in conspicuous places, among the wise and the ignorant, in the presence of philosophers and peasants, he was ready to tell the story of Calvary. Hence he says, in the verses preceding the text: “I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and the unwise; so much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.”
It is probable that Paul’s enemies insinuated that though he preached the gospel in other places, and professed to glory in it, he would be ashamed of it in the seven-hilled city. There Virgil sung, and Cicero electrified the crowds that hung on his lips. There philosophers taught, and military heroes were extolled. There science had made progress, and art displayed her stores. The wisdom of the world was there. Would Paul not blush to preach salvation through the “crucified Nazarene” in the great city – the metropolis of the greatest empire on earth? His enemies perhaps thought he would, but he said: “I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also, for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” He was not ashamed of the gospel – not ashamed of it in Rome. My object at present is to vindicate the avowal of the sentiment of the text, and show that there is nothing in the gospel to be ashamed of.
I. I am not ashamed of the Author of the gospel. Who is its author? Jesus Christ – God manifest in the flesh. He is the true God, possessed of every divine perfection. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. He upholds all things by the word of his power. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person. Everything august and glorious in divinity belongs to him. Nor is this all: the eternal Word was made flesh – became incarnate. He, however, assumed human nature in a miraculous manner, and thereby escaped its contamination. He is considered as a man, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. Spotless purity and immaculate excellence were never exemplified on earth except in the person of Jesus Christ. Everything lovely in sinless humanity may be found in the character of Christ. His mediatorial person exhibits a bright assemblage of divine and human excellences. There is in the wide universe but one Jesus Christ. His character is gloriously unique.
“All human beauties, all divine, In our beloved meet and shine.”
Infidels, with idiotic folly, deride the miracles of the New Testament, and indorse the proverb of the Greeks – “miracles for fools.” Those infidels, however, say that the writings of the evangelists and apostles are the productions of uninspired men. If this be so, it may well be said that the uninspired delineation of such a character as that given to Jesus Christ is a greater miracle than any recorded by the evangelists. No pen, unguided by inspiration, could ever have delineated such a character. The Christian’s Redeemer is “the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.” Deservedly has he “a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of beings in Heaven, and beings on earth, and beings under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that he is Lord.”
The author of the gospel is adored by all the hosts of Heaven. Every harp of glory is tuned to his praise, and “worthy the Lamb” resounds throughout the celestial mansions. Well, then, may the Christian say, “I am not ashamed of the author of the gospel.”
II. And, secondly, he may say, I am not ashamed of the immortality the gospel discloses. Many great men and distinguished theologians have, to some extent, discredited the Bible, and inflicted serious injury on the world by insisting that the light of nature teaches what the Scriptures alone teach. Who has not been disgusted at many things that have been written of “natural religion?” Strictly speaking, there is of such thing as “natural religion;” yet men write and preach as if there were. And how many attempts have been made to prove, independently of the Bible, the immortality of the soul? Men, to do this, have employed all their ingenuity, and put logic to the rack; and suppose they had accomplished their purpose, what then? Why they would have diminished greatly the value and utility of the inspired writings; they would have disparaged the Word of the living God. The immortality of the soul cannot be proved independently of the Bible; and it is time for everybody to know it. Life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel. The idea here is not that immortal life was an object of which there was no conception under the Old Testament economy. This is not true. But it is true that the gospel brings immortality to light – clearly, fully. It divests the doctrine of all obscurity, and clothes it with the richest splendor. “The law and the prophets” shed their twilight on the subject, but the gospel pours upon it noontide effulgence. This glorious gospel teaches man that he is his Maker’s equal in immortality of existence. What an idea! How it ennobles man! It divests him of all the insignificance that might attach to him on account of his short sojourn on earth, and exalts him to unspeakable dignity. Who can be ashamed of the gospel because immortality is disclosed by its teachings? Is not this a reason why it should be gloried in?
III. The Christian may say, I am not ashamed of the salvation the gospel reveals. This is a great, a precious salvation. It originated in the infinitely benevolent heart of the God of Heaven. His love to our apostate race prompted him to employ his wisdom in projecting the plan of this salvation. Created wisdom was altogether incompetent to its projection. In this plan the omniscient God himself has “abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.” in pursuance of the plan of salvation, Jesus submitted to the death of the cross, and made an atonement for sin. The Holy Spirit has come into the world to apply the benefits of redemption to the soul. The salvation of the gospel does everything for man which he needs. Is he guilty? it brings him pardon. Is he condemned? – it offers him justification. Is he polluted with sin? – it provides for his sanctification. Is he a dying creature? – it guarantees his resurrection from the grave. In the language of the Scripture, the author of this gospel is made to us “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.”
The salvation which the gospel reveals is honorable to God. It secures the concurring harmony of all the divine perfections in the redemption of the saved. It illustrates the divine character, and invests the divine administration with superlative glory. The dignity of the law is maintained; its majesty is vindicated; justice is satisfied; the honor of the divine government is sustained, and the Eternal Throne is radiant with a light that would never have encircled it if the Cross had not been erected on Calvary.
The salvation of the gospel does great things for man. It finds him the slave of Satan – in the deep miseries of the fall – in the suburbs of hell – without hope and without God. It commences its operations with him in these gloomy circumstances, and completes its work in his elevation to the throne of glory. Is this a salvation to be ashamed of? Is a poor sinner to be ashamed of it? As well might the darkness of midnight be ashamed of the light of the noonday sun – as well might death be ashamed of life – as well might a worm be ashamed to live in the same universe with an archangel.
IV. The Christian may say, I am not ashamed of the requirements of the Gospel. It requires nothing which ought not to be required; it prohibits nothing which ought not to be prohibited. Were its precepts universally complied with, earth would resemble heaven.
The gospel requires men to detach their affections from sin and the world; to place them supremely on God, and seek happiness in him. It is disgraceful to love sin – it is the most odious thing in the universe. It argues a miserably perverted moral taste to love sin. The gospel, in requiring the detachment of the affections of the heart from sin, consults the dignity as well as the safety of the sinner. To place the affections on God, and seek happiness in Him, is man’s most reasonable service, to the performance of which he should be prompted by a desire to please God and promote his own best interests. The gospel requires sinners to repent. There is nothing in repentance to be ashamed of. Sin is the thing to be ashamed of. So far as a depraved creature can be magnanimous, there is magnanimity in being sorry for what is wrong.
The gospel requires faith in Christ. Faith embraces the atoning mediator, and relies on His blood; it appropriates the benefits of redemption; it is the spiritual ligament that binds the soul to Christ; it makes the blessings of the new Covenant secure to the believer.
There is nothing in faith to be ashamed of. Indeed, we may thankfully regard it as the instrument of uniting us to the Redeemer.
The gospel requires the baptism of the penitent believer. This is a solemn ordinance – the divinely appointed method of making a public profession of Christianity. It commemorates the burial and resurrection of Christ, and symbolically proclaims the believer’s death to sin. There is surely nothing in baptism to be ashamed of – there is much in its symbolic import to glory in.
The gospel requires an observance of the Lord’s Supper. This ordinance is a memorial of the Savior’s death. It commemorates the most important event that ever occurred in the universe – the creation of the world is as nothing compared to it – angels study the glorious mysteries connected with the death of Christ. How solemn and delightful the scene, when a company of baptized believers commemorate the sufferings of Him who died for their redemption! They ought not to be ashamed to remember their best Friend – they should glory in remembering him.
The gospel requires prayer, perusal of the Scriptures, holy living, etc. On these points I cannot enlarge – I may say there is nothing here to be ashamed of. And this is true of all gospel requirements – they are all right. There is a manifest propriety in them. “Who would be ashamed of them?
V. The Christian may say, I am not ashamed of the effects the Gospel produces. Here, if space allowed, I might refer to the influence of the gospel on national character. The gospel is the great instrument of civilization. The best way to civilize, is to evangelize a nation. But I must not dwell on the national influences of the gospel.
What are its effects on individual moral character? It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. It is the instrument through which God exerts His saving power. Wherever believed it saves the soul. “To everyone that believeth.” No one is unsaved by the gospel who believes it. What an effect! Salvation – the salvation of the soul from sin, and the eventual salvation of the body from the grave. We have seen that the gospel provides for the sinner’s justification – it provides also for his regeneration, and through his justification and regeneration for the obedience of his life. The gospel, therefore, affects man’s state in law – affects his heart – affects his life.
The gospel produces patience and resignation under the trials and afflictions of life. It is not a system of stoicism which deprives man of sensibility, and makes him resigned because he has no feeling; it makes the sensibilities more exquisite, more acute, and yet produces quiet resignation. It causes the submissive sufferer to smile through his tears and say, “Not my will, O! Lord, but Thine be done.” It sanctifies sorrow; and, in its vocabulary, affliction means “blessing in disguise.”
The gospel extracts the sting of death, and dissipates the darkness of the grave. It lights up the valley of the shadow of death. Through its sacred influence how many a dying chamber has been illuminated with light from Heaven! How many a final hour has been more joyful than any preceding one!
The gospel inspires the soul with the hope of Heaven. Eternal glory is the grand object of the Christian’s hope. This hope is “an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, entering to that within the vale.” It is a hope that “makes not ashamed,” and, therefore, there is nothing in the gospel which inspires this hope to be ashamed of. Nothing to be ashamed of, but everything to glory in. The effects the gospel produces will never cause its friends to blush with shame.
1. How many who read this Short Sermon will be able to say in truth, we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ? Nominal professor, you are ashamed of it. Impenitent sinner, you are ashamed of it.
2. If there is so much in the gospel to glory in, how actively should Christians be engaged in conveying it to every land, that it may be published to every creature. Remember, Christian, as a motive to do this, that the gospel is the power of God to salvation to every believer.