Newton's inspiration for his sermon series was the popularity of Handel's Messiah.
From the foreword written in 1786:
Since we do not always so much stand in need of new information, as to have, what we already know, more effectually impressed upon the mind; there are truths which can scarcely be inculcated too often, at least, until the design, for which they were uttered once , be effectually answered. Thus, when the strokes of a hammer are often repeated, not one of them can be deemed superfluous; the last, which drives the nail to the head, being no less necessary, than any of those which preceded it.
THE MESSIAH, the great subject of the oratorio, is the leading and principal subject of every sermon. His person, grace, and glory; His matchless love to sinners; His humiliation, sufferings, and death; His ability and willingness to save to the uttermost; His kingdom, and the present and future happiness of His willing people; are severally considered, according to the order suggested by the series of texts.
Nearly connected with these topics, are the doctrines of the fall and depravity of man, the agency of the Holy Spirit, and the nature and necessity of regeneration, and of that holiness, without which, no man shall see the Lord.
The one principle, which, he [Newton] assumes for granted, and which, he is certain cannot be disproved, is, That the Bible is a revelation from God. By this standard, he is willing, that whatever he has advanced, may be tried. If the Bible be true, we must all give an account, each one of himself, to the great and final Judge. That when we shall appear before His awful tribunal, we may be found at His right hand, accepted in the Beloved, is the Author's fervent prayer, both for his Readers and for himself.From the first sermon, but, concerning the project.
The Messiah of Handel consists of three parts. The first , contains prophecies of His advent and the happy consequences, together with the angel's message to the shepherds informing them of His birth, as related by St. Luke. The second part describes His passion, death, resurrection and ascension; His taking possession of His Kingdom of glory, the commencement of His Kingdom of grace upon the earth, and the certain disappointment and ruin of all who persist in opposition to His will. The third part expresses the blessed fruits and consummation of His undertaking in the deliverance of His people from sin, sorrow and death, and in making them finally victorious over all their enemies. The triumphant song of the redeemed, to the praise of the Lamb who bought them with His own blood, closes the whole.
The good seed of the word of grace, can only take root and flourish in a soil duly prepared. And this preparation of the heart (Proverbs 16:1) is wholly from the Lord --without which all that is read or heard concerning MESSIAH produces no permanent good effect.
I apprehend, that true Christians, without the assistance of either vocal or instrumental music, may find greater pleasure in humble contemplation on the words of the Messiah , than they can derive from the utmost efforts of musical genius.
There is no melody upon earth to be compared with the voice of the blood of Jesus speaking peace to a guilty conscience, or with the voice of the Holy Spirit applying the promises to the heart, and sweetly inspiring a temper of confidence and adoption. These are joys which the world can neither give nor take away, which never pall upon the mind by continuous repetition; the sense of them is always new ; the recollection of them is always pleasant. Nor do they only satisfy, but sanctify the soul. They strengthen faith, animate hope, add fervency to love, and both dispose and enable the Christian to run in all the paths of holy obedience with an enlarged heart.Are you familiar with Handel's Messiah? Do you like it? love it? hate it? Do you find it boring? wonderful? Have you ever thought of it as being Christ-centered and for the glory of God? Or is it just another piece of classical music? I'd love to HEAR from you!!!
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible