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"The Conflict in Human Nature," Sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

Author: 
King, Martin Luther, Jr.
Genre: 
Sermon
Topic: 
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry

Details

King draws on J. Wallace Hamilton’s sermon “Horns and Halos in Human Nature” to develop this handwritten introduction.1

“The good that I would, I do not … ”2

Introduction: These words from the pen of the apostle Paul tell us a great deal about the nature of human nature. Paul, through the undisputed authority of experience, had learned something basic about man. The theology of Paul is not a systematic formulation that he quietly worked out through persistent contmplation. Rather, it is a system that grows out of his experience. Paul had tried desperately to live up to the demands of the law. And yet in the midst of all of his attempts, he failed. The good that he wanted to do, he couldn’t do, and the evil he didn’t want to do, he found himself doing. This was his tragic and helpless plight.

This experience in the life of Paul is a persistent experience in the life of all. There is a basic conflict in human nature. Me Man is not all good, and not all bad—a mixture and a conflict. Whenever man seeks the high there is the drundry of the low. Whenever he seeks to [strikeout illegible] commune with the stars, he feels the blinding gust of dust blocking his vision. Mans quest for the divine is interrupted by the nagging movements of the demonic. From Adam on, the story of man is one of magnificent devotion and shameful degradation.3

The pages of literature, both ancient and modern, abound with illustration of this conflict.4

Man is false of spirit, bloody of hand, a wolf in greediness, a lion in prey5

1. King wrote “Preach at Dexter August 16, 1959” on the folder containing this sermon.

2. Cf. Romans 7:19.

3. Hamilton, Horns and Halos, p. 59: “From Adam on, it is the story of magnificent devotion and shameful degradation.”

4. Hamilton, Horns and Halos, p. 60: “You see it in literature,” referring to “that everlasting warfare in man between the halos and the horns.”

5. Hamilton, Horns and Halos, p. 60: “ ‘Man is false of spirit, bloody of hand, a fox in stealth, a wolf in greediness, a lion in prey.’ ” Cf. Shakespeare, King Lear, act 3, sc. 4.

Source: 

CSKC, INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon Files, folder 157.