King warns that throughout history, “new and creative ideas” were not accepted when the “historical atmosphere at that time was not sufficiently new and strong to contain them.” He cites Henry Wallace's “vision of Racial equality” as a recent example of an idea ahead of its time and, in contrast, highlights the timeliness of Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, and Jesus Christ.
“Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”—Matt. 9:17.
Introduction: Jesus came in the world conscious that he was bringing something essentially new. The long caravan of humanity had been moving in one direction for centuries, now it was to stop and change its course. Wherein it had been moving toward the city of legalism, it was now to move toward the city of Grace. Wherein it had been moving toward an earthly Kingdom of God political in scope, it was now to move toward a spiritual kingdom which is both “now” and “not yet.”1 It was the recognition of this newness which funished the figure which Christ is using in our text [strikeout illegible] as he thinks his own new ideas, He is compelled to think also how it will adapt itself to the old ways and thoughts and habits which it finds. To put this new life into the old patterns of thinking was like putting fresh flowing wine in a dry and rotten bottle. It is inevitable that the bottle will break and the wine will run out. The old will not hold the new.
It is not necessary to go into the full application of Christ [strikeout illegible] figure. By now we can see the central idea which it imparts: that what is new and strong and creative needs something new and strong to hold it.
On the other hand there are times when history is ready to accept a new event. This was the case in the event of the coming of Jesus. That is why it can be said that he came at the fullness of time.5 The atmosphere of time and history had been so impregnated with a newness and fullness that the new event of God's revelation that appeared in his person was destined to succeed. The new event which appeared in the coming of Jesus was so world shaking because it was contained in a new bottle of historical receptivity. Time and history were ready for his coming. (ill Luther's reformation (Lincoln's ending of slavery)
Why is it that we find it difficult to follow resolutions?
1. We concentrate on changing this one bad habit, forgeting that this one bad habit infiltrates the whole personality, and to change this habit means changing the whole habit structure, the whole general make up. The fresh new desire for changing is poured back into the same old general framework.
2. We often accept a thing intellectually, but not emotionally. The new intellectual change must be poured into an [strikeout illegible] old rotten emotional make up. (White students)
3. We often accept a thing emotionally, but not intellectually. (Revivals)
Preached at Dexter Third Sunday Oct. 17, 1954
1. “The Kingdom Present” and “The Kingdom Not Yet” are chapter subheadings in L. Harold DeWolf's A Theology of the Living Church (New York: Harper, 1953), pp. 302-303. DeWolf was King's advisor at Boston University.
2. President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) presented the idea of the League of Nations as part of his fourteen-point plan for a post-World War I world in a speech given before Congress on 8 January 1918. Although adopted and implemented by many nations, the United States Senate refused to ratify this provision.
3. Wilkie, One World.
4. King refers to Henry A. Wallace (1888-1965), vice president under Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1941-1945) and the unsuccessful 1948 Progressive Party candidate for the presidency. During the 1948 campaign, Wallace spoke out against segregation and for voting rights for African Americans. A student poll conducted at Morehouse College during the campaign supported Wallace's candidacy (see note 146 to Introduction, in Papers 1:45).
5. Cf. Galatians 4:4 and Ephesians 1:10.
6. Cf. John 3:1-8.
CSKC-INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands: Sermon file, folder 146, “New Wine in New Bottles.”