H. B. (Henry Bidleman) Bascom.

Sermons from the pulpit online

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H^B^'bASCOM, D.D., LL.D.






185 0.






Entered, accoi'3ing to an Act of Congress, in the year 1849,


In the Clerk's office of the District Court of the United States, for

the District of Kentucky.


Preface, 5

Sermon I — Christianity — its Nature, Diffusion and Effects, 25

Sermon II — The Pulpit — its Institution and Functions, 5G

Sermon III — The Death of Christ — a Propitiation for Sin, 88

Sermon IV — Messiah's Kingdom, 110

Sermon V — Divine Mercy Eejected — the Ground and Reason

of Punishment, 141

Sermon VI — Grandeur and Humiliation of Jesus Christ, 171

Sermon VII — The Resurrection of Christ, 198

Sermon VIII—The Lamb of God — Seen and Sought, 234

Sermon IX — Christ Crucified — the Great Distinctive Burden

of Christian Preaching, 265

Sermon X — The Triumph of Christianity over Death, 288

Sermon XI — The Judgment, 315

Sermon XII — ^Heaven„ .346


The Author having consented to the publication of a
volume of his Sermons, owes it to those who may become
his readers, not less than to himself, to explain the cir-
cumstances under which they were prepared for use, and
are now, without any material alteration of any kind,
allowed to go to the press. Had these sermons been
originally prepared for publication, or even re-written
"with a view of adapting them to the reader rather than
hearer, he should have deemed explanation out of place,
because unlikely to be of any service to himself or the
reader. As it is, however, explanation becomes neces-
sary, and the author is compelled to risk a brief statement
of facts, by way of introduction.

Under the mingled influence of youthful ardor and relig-
ious zeal, encouraged and brought forward by the kind-
ness, and perhaps indiscreet solicitude of friends, the au-
thor, regarding himself divinely directed, early resolved
upon the Christian Ministry as the business of his life, and
was formally admitted to the Pulpit, and commenced
preaching when he was but sixteen years old, and with
such qualifications only, as in connection with his age,
may be inferred from the fact, that whatever native vi-
gor of intellect he possessed, and an education which had
been little more than commenced, had, under the pres-
sure of many disadvantages, been turned to some little ac-


count, by unremitted devotion to elementary books and
study, the two preceding years.

The very slight miscellaneous training he had received,
was as defective in kind as limited in extent, and with
heart and will to go forward in the great work before him,
he felt from the first, and at every step, that something
beyond the ordinary food and shelter of mind, was neces-
sary to prepare him for the pulpit. He saw that deter-
mined and earnest reliance upon his own efforts was his
only resource, and relying upon Divine aid, he sought to
apply himself accordingly. Without guide or model,
with no one to direct or strike out a course for him as a
student, he was left to project and explore his own path,
or be content with what he was likely to become, from
the mere force of circumstances.

With strong intuitive perceptions and sympathies, in
relation to the good and the beautiful in nature and mo-
rals, with irrepressible yearnings to learn and to know;
the means and expedients to which he would be driven,
as the only possible condition of ability and influence as
a minister, can be readily imagined. He soon found that
while improvement, in the field of thought and labor he
had chosen, had some fixed and necessary elements, many
of its phases were altogether doubtful and tentative, and
that all depended on trial and effort, and under the stim-
ulus and pressure of duty and necessity, the tension of
strong desire and unrelaxed endeavor, yielding to the
tendencies of his nature without rule or model, except the
ideal of his own perceptions, he appealed for aid to what-
ever was likely to avail him. He was the pupil, and
sought to learn of whatever there was about him, from
which he could derive instruction or aid. Reading, re-
flection, observation and experience — inward springs and
outward relations — all the aflfinities and influences of mind.


thouglit and action, within his reach, were honestly in-
voked in view of light and guidance. The urgent suces-
sion of labor and duty, called for constant preparation.
The night became a necessary part of the day's labor.
Thought demanded material, and ends exacted means.
Without constant effort and struggle for growth and en-
largement, all hope or chance of success was foreclosed.
Such were the circumstances of want and trial, un-
der which the author commenced, and for a series of
years prosecuted, his ministry ; and the reader will
soon perceive why he has deemed it proper that the
statement should accompany the publication of his ser-

The following discourses go to the press, in the precise
form in which they were prepared for the pulpit. No one
of them was written with a view to publication. They
are in fact the "Preaching Notes" of the author, as
used by him in preparing for the pulpit, during a term
of more than thirty years. These Notes, at first little
more than outline memoranda, have gradually grown
upon his hands as he has had occasion to use them in his
preparations for the pulpit from time to time, until they
have assumed the form of elaborate discourses. As none
of these discourses have been reconstructed, either in
plan or style, they will, as a matter of course, present
great diversity, and, it may be, want of unity and individ-
uality of character, on the score both of thought and
expression. From this obvious elementary trait, the au-
thor might have redeemed them ; but, for many reasons,
would not. He prefers the hazard of allowing them to
be read in the shape and livery in which they were pre-
pared for the pulpit, and have been called for by those
who heard them.

The subjects, with perhaps one or two exceptions, will


be found witliin the ordinary range of pulpit instruction.
The reader will perceive a sustained attempt at a popular
practical exhibition of the faith and ethics, the doctrines
and duties, of Christianity. The diversity, as it regards
style and thought, will be readily accounted for, in view
of the circumstances under which they were produced.
Several of them received the body and form in which they
now appear, at least twenty years ago, when the author
must be presumed to have thought and felt in a manner
more or less peculiar to the earlier years of a student, re-
lying upon his own energy and application, as the means
and Avarrant of improvement and usefulness. The larger
number of them date back more than fifteen years, and
none of them are of more recent origin than ten years
back. Thousands who have heard these sermons preached,
in diflferent parts of the United States, and at different pe-
riods during the last twenty-five years, cannot fail, should
they read them, to recognize them as actual pulpit minis-
trations, to which they were a party, and with which they
will find themselves more or less familiar. Should these
discourses be judged by the ordinary tests of composition
and authorship, their true character must of necessity be
misunderstood. They were never intended for the judg-
ment of such a tribunal. Not one in the series was con-
tinuously written out at one time, or even within a brief
period. They are the growth of years, gradually matured
and perfected, as the wants and exigencies of pulpit labor
led or urged the author to preparation. In these sermons,
whatever may be their value, or want of it, the writer is
essentially merged, and should be lost sight of, in the
•preacher. Any ambitious claim which might combine
with the former, gives place to the simple and the actual,
connected with the varied and current ministrations of the
latter. The reader, instead of meeting with the more


formal creations of regular continuous composition, will
meet with the somewhat irregular accumulations of
thought and language, such as have occurred to the au-
thor, and been noted down at different times, and under
almost ^yery variety of circumstance. In the prepara-
tion of these discourses, from the first elementary sketch to
the only finish they have finally received, and often amid
the haste and urgency incident to unexpected calls and
sudden occasions, the author had of necessity to " become
all things" to himself and others, in view of proper im-
pression and efifect ; and under all such circumstances, he
always regarded himself as at school to whatever book,
mind or other available means of preparation and im-
provement might be found in his way. He had to look
out of himself as well as within, and yield himself to the
shaping influence of necessity and the circumstances sur-
rounding him. He found laborious and often baffled
effort to meet the claims upon him, the stern condition of
all growth and every thing like progress.

The earlier nucleus forms of these sermons date so far
back in the personal history of the author, he may be un-
conscious in many instances of the extent to which he may
be indebted to others, for the scope and spirit, and even
the shape and coloring, of his own thoughts. Amid the
ever varying vicissitudes and appliances of laborious self-
instruction, he must have been largely indebted to others,
for the sources and inspiration both of thought and lan-
guage. He believes, however, from the best means of
judgment in his power, particularly his general habits of
study and composition, that the plan and prosecution, the
logic and language, of each discourse, are so essentially his
own and unlike any other productions with which he is ac-
quainted, as to stamp upon the whole series those distin-
guishing features of mental aptitude, constituting all that is


usually meant by originality of conception or style in the
instance either of the speaker or writer. Occasional imita-
tions and resemblances, more or less tangible, and applying
alike to forms of thought and language, in a sentence or
even paragraph, here and there, will no doubt be detected
by the critical reader ; and when he recollects how and
by what means and methods these discourses have assum-
ed their present form, he will be the more readily able to
account for them. Such probable resemblances, the re-
sult of his earlier habits of study, the author has no wish
to disguise or disavow. He is rather inclined to allow
criticism the benefit of any prominence they can be made
to assume. He affects in such connection, no creative power
of thought or independent force of conception, and fully
admits his deep indebtedness to other minds for the fur-
niture of his own. It will be proper to add, more cir-
cumstantially here, that the early and long-continued
habit of reducing to writing, as the means of self-improve-
ment, his first vivid i7nprcssions, in the shape of notes and
strictures, upon nearly all the more important subjects and
topics in the entire range of his reading, and freely using
such notes and memoranda, as he found it convenient or
necessary in his pulpit preparations, may have betrayed
him into the use of occasional trains of thought and forms
of expression to be met with in the works of others, and
with regard to which he has now no means of judgment or
correction, as he sought only to preserve thought ; and in
doing so, relied entirely upon impression and memory.
The author thinks it quite likely that defects of this kind,
incidental to his earlier habits of application, may, in man-'
instances, have escaped his notice. How far such occa-
sional blemishes, if met with, should affect the character
of the general subject or train of thought, as fused in the
mind of the author and elaborated in the following dis-


courses, is cheerfully left to the judgment of tlie well
informed reader.

The author's own ideal of fitness and excellence, mean-
while, has always in every instance furnished the start-
ing point, path, and goal. In the preparation of his dis-
courses, he has always been careful so to idealize and
vivify the sermo interior — the body of thought — the or-
ganic whole — as to make the vision his own, in con-
tradistinction from all others. He has always labor-
ed so to conceive and improvise the plan of his dis-
courses, as to give them, in his own mind at least, the
force of a scenic representation. The author has for
more than thirty-five years industriously sought after and
bowed low before the model forms and aspects of thought
in the instance of other minds, but he has not allowed
the aids for which he is indebted to others, to displace or
supercede the agency and activity of his own mind ; and
by how far he has turned such aids to new accounts and
uses, he cannot but regard himself as entitled to be heard,
as an original, separate witness. If in any instance he
has availed himself of such subsidiary helps, without
opening new sources of thought and feeling, and present-
ing new traits of observation, and thus giving them new
practical uses, he has done so most unconsciously and
without intention. All such means and methods have
been resorted to, as merely lateral and adjunctive, and in
no sense more than tributary to the controlling current of
his own thoughts. In this way and for such purposes, the
thickly noted page and record of the past and present,
have been constantly appealed to. Standing in his own
right of inquiry and search, the author has never hesi-
tated to shake hands with nature, books, the circum-
stances of the times, and his own position, that he mio-ht
the better fulfill his mission and make it be felt. And he


believes the light thus reflected from others, has been
with such variations, if not increase, as to justify the ex-
tent and manner of its use.

Intense sympathy with mind and thought in others —
the *' mighty shapes and mightier shadows" of intellect,
as found in the works of the dead and achievements of the
living — furnishes no presumption certainly of want of
self-reliance and independence on the part of the mind
of which it is affirmed. The mind may have center and
steadfastness of its own — may have proper balance of
power among all its faculties — may have ability faith-
fully to represent truth and nature — may have an eye
of its own, and see things in its own light — may have a
mechanism and texture of thought peculiar to itself,
and yet be so influenced by fellowship with other minds,
as to receive from them constant impulse and direction,
even when no note is taken of it, and no such result
dreamed of. Who does not know that the mind re-
ceives spring and momentum, in a thousand forms, from
causes and sources, and has its wants supplied by in-
numerable means and methods, unnoted and unobserved
at the time, or subsequently ? There is mental product
without knowing whence or how.

The expansive tendency thus given to the mind, vi-
gorously astir under the impelling circumstances of
spontaneous aspiration, or exigence and want, shows
how truly the thoughts of others may color and in-
vigorate our own, while the diffusion and interpenetra-
tion of our own throughout the whole mass, is too en-
tire and controlling not to give essential insulation and
independence with regard to all others. The power and
habit of perceiving things in a manner diff"erent from
others, and yet true to facts and nature — such mental
production bearing the impress of what is peculiar to


the mind producing it — is tlie true and only originality
of sound philosophical criticism, and the original interest
of any production is limited to this distinction, and
should be determined by it. The pages of Jeremy
Taylor and Bishop Hall, Robert South and John Milton,
may tend directly to increase the power both of thought
and expression, without any implication of servility or

The author has been thus explicit on this topic for
several reasons, in which his readers have an interest
as well as himself. First, as it regards himself and the
sermons found in this volume, the peculiar if not en-
tirely unique circumstances under which they received
body and form, suggested the propriety of enabling the
reader to perceive that while the author has received
impression and inspiration from the might and influence
of other minds in their production, these discourses,
such as they may be found to be, are his own ideal
creations, both as it regards the tout ensemble of their
structure &nd the great mass of their elementary de-
tails. In the next place, without reference to himself,
the author has felt disposed to suggest caution with
regard to the commonly received tests and standards
of judgment on this subject, by which profoundly orig-
inal productions are often pronounced mere imitations,
because in them, forsooth, are found occasional and
more or less striking resemblances to the productions of
other men ! And on the other hand, it is not uncom-
mon to meet with works, commended as highly original,
merely, it would seem, because so utterly common-place,
both in matter and style, as not to remind the critic of
anything of note he has ever seen or heard before! And
finally, it has been the wish of the author to attract to
this subject the attention of the ministry, and especially


the younger divisions of tlie ministry in his o^n church.
He greatly fears the popular sophisms and dogmas of a
false taste and bastard criticism, are rapidly tending to
injure and reduce the power and influence of the pulpit.
Its incumbents are required to adjust themselves to
rules and conformities, whose only tendency is to place
the pulpit, as an engine of influence, in the hands of
those who have no just conceptions of its mission and
functions, and who are withal, perhaps, interested in
giving it misdirection. These suggestions are at least
worthy of careful examination. The author does not
regard himself as having more than a common interest
in them, and beyond this has no wish to claim their pro-
tection or deprecate consequences. His sole object is to
direct attention to the fair and the just in relation to a
mooted question, connected with the rights and interests
of the pulpit.

Of the true character and relative value of these dis-
courses, the author, on many accounts, can scarcely be
considered as a competent judge. In his own personal
history they are the memoirs of thought and feeling,
as belonging to the past rather than present. They
received form and expansion, and were prepared and
preached, as he thought and felt, and in view of resource
and opportunity, at the time. They are the living type
of his actual conceptions and emotions, in preparing for
the pulpit, and before the audiences to which they were
addressed. There is not a paragraph in them, that was
not written for immediate use before an audience soon
to be met. There is not a thouo-ht entering into the
substance of any one of them, that has not mingled with
the devotions and been part and parcel of the worship
of assembled thousands.

Such as they are, and whatever reception they may


meet with, they exist in deep and vivid association with
the past ; and regard for the living, and reverence for
the dead, who have in various forms asked for their
publication, have mingled with other reasons in with-
holding the author from any attempt to change their
character. Connected as they are with years of toil and
study — with the interests and activities of a severe and
hazardous course of self-training — they have become
invested with a melancholy traditional interest, about
which the heart ( however the judgment may demur )
will have its superstitions and exact indulgence. As a
part of himself — the renewal of his past history — aflford-
ing lessons of fidelity to the real and actual in the drama
of hfe — linking thought and feeling to scenes, events and
persons, dear to the heart's best memories — the author
cannot consent to change them. Left to his o"\\ti judg-
ment, he should have withheld them from the press, but
change them he cannot. He would much rather sup-
press them.

To furnish the reader with the means of correct judg-
ment, is the sole object of this preface. How the suc-
cessive elements of thought gained lodgment and force
in the mind, and put on their final livery — where were
found the germs of thought, or how suggested — what
gave life and pulsation to reflection and feeling, and led
to development and individuality — others, with the state-
ments of this preface before them, can perhaps explain
better than the author. He only knows they were pro-
duced in sympathy with a thousand forms of interest and
excitement ; and to whatever extent they may be found
pervaded and vitalized by a oneness, a continuous unity
of conception and idiom, must be traced to the fact, that,
amid all the moods and phases of activity and efi"ort, in-
terest and excitement — that, while availin^^ himself of


all the objective aids within his reach — he has always
sought to give everything of the kind proper subjective
basis in the clear perceptions of his own understanding,
however humble or unimportant they may have been.

In the structural plan of his sermons, the author has
aimed at substance rather than form, and sympathy
with the general mind rather than an appeal to the fas-
tidiousness of cultivated taste. It has been his wont to
blend, as far as he might, the vivid and impressive with
the more occult and profound. Judging others by him-
self, he has preferred fruit and foliage, in natural com-
bination, believing this to be the true simplicity of style ;
and, without substituting shadows for things, he has not
forgotten how necessarily they coexist, both in nature
and the human mind. He has been careful, also, while
dwelling largely upon the more important truths of the
Gospel, not to give undue expansion to any one element
or topic, or to press any single truth, to such over-
balance in the system, as to destroy the proper effect of
others — Of the whole.

The selection of the discourses composing this volume,
has been made by the persons calling for their publica-
tion. There is not a sermon in the volume that has not
been called for by special and formal application.

As these sermons were written for the author's own
exclusive use, in his character of preacher, the right,
and indeed necessity, of explanation, would seem to ex-
tend to whatever there may be about them in any way
unusual or peculiar ; and he would regard it as by no
means a recommendation of these discourses, were' he
unable to show reasonable motive for any serious depar-
ture from established pulpit usage. He feels obliged,
therefore, to ask attention to one or two additional


The author has long been impressed with the idea —
perhaps he should say conviction — that the force and
value of pulpit instruction are greatly lessened by the
restraints and mannerism of pulpit style, arising mainly
perhaps from undue attachment to creeds, confessions
and church formularies, as the tests and standards of
truth and uniformity among different denominations of
Christians, and the vicious standards of critical judg-
inent already adverted to. The natural, manly and
varied, freedom of expression found in the Bible, and
preserved in greater or less degree in all its translations
into different languages, is laid aside, and gives place to
the staidness and precision of an exclusive technical
phraseology, and often having all the essential charac-
teristics of a mere pulpit patois. And on this account
alone, with or without reason, the pulpit too often be-
comes to the hearer a mere limbo of common-place,
from which he turns away with indifference, if not dis-
gust. It is felt not to be true simplicity, either of
thought or language, and is therefore rejected by the
popular taste. Entertaining such an opinion, it is pos-
sible the author may have erred in preferring a some-
what abrupt and irregular, but, as he believed, true ver-

Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bidleman) BascomSermons from the pulpit → online text (page 1 of 28)