“Overlaying the Gospel”: Bonar on the temptation to be ashamed of the Gospel
“The apostle so knew it, as to be able to say, ‘I am not ashamed of it,’ [Romans 1:16] — just as elsewhere, speaking of the cross, he says, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ’ [Galatians 6:14]. He was not ashamed of it at Jerusalem, or Athens, or Rome. Many things were there to make him ashamed of it — Jewish prejudice and Gentile pride. But these prevailed not. In spite of contempt and hatred, he held it fast.
We are apt to be ashamed of it. It looks weak, foolish, unintellectual, unphilosophical. It lags behind the age. It has become obsolete; or rather, it refuses to become obsolete. It is beginning to be supplanted by learning and eloquence. Men are apt to shun the gospel as a feeble, childish thing, that has done its work in time past, but is giving place to something higher, and more in accordance with the ‘deep instincts of humanity.’
There were some places in which the apostle might have been specially tempted to be ashamed of the gospel, or afraid of preaching it: at Jerusalem, for there the whole strength of Jewish ritualism rose against it; at Athens, for there it was confronted by the power of Grecian wisdom; at Ephesus, for there the dazzling subtleties of heathen magic rose against it; at Corinth, for there the torrent of human lust and pleasure rushed against it; at Rome, for there was the concentrated energy of earthly idolatry. Yet none of these things moved him. He was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, though all that was intellectual, and eloquent, and sensual, and refined, and powerful in humanity protested against it, or mocked it as folly.
We are tempted in our day to be ashamed of the gospel. It is thought to be bare, unintellectual, almost childish, by many. Hence they would overlay it with argument and eloquence, to make it more respectable and more attractive. Every such attempt to add to it is being ashamed of it.”
–Horatius Bonar, The Christian Treasury in The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar (CD-Rom, Lux Publications) pp. 828. (Posted with permission from publisher.)