Most of the so-called evangelism of our day is a grief to genuine Christians, for they feel that it lacks any Scriptural warrant, that it is dishonoring unto God, and that it is filling the churches with empty professors. They are shocked that so much frothy superficiality, fleshly excitement, and worldly allurement should be associated with the holy name of the Lord Jesus Christ. They deplore the cheapening of the Gospel, the beguiling of unwary souls, and the carnalizing and commercializing of what is to them, ineffably sacred. It requires little spiritual discernment to perceive that the evangelistic activities of Christendom during the last century have steadily deteriorated from bad to worse — yet few appear to realize the root from which this evil has sprung. It will now be our endeavor to expose the same.
Its AIM was wrong, and therefore, its fruits faulty. The grand design of God, from which He never has and never will swerve — is to glorify Himself: to make manifest before His creatures what an infinitely glorious Being He is. To glorify Himself is the great aim and end He has in all that He does and says.
For His glory — He allowed sin to enter the world.
For His glory — He willed His beloved Son to become incarnate, render perfect obedience to the divine Law, suffer, and die.
For His glory — He is now taking out of the world a people for Himself, a people who shall eternally show forth His praises.
For His glory — everything is ordered by His providential dealings, unto that everything on earth is now being directed, and shall actually effect the same.
Nothing other than His glory — is what regulates God in all His actings: “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things — to Him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36).
That grand and basic truth is written right across the Scriptures with the plainness of a sunbeam, and he who sees it not, is blind. All things are appointed by God to that one end. His saving of sinners is not an end in itself, for God would have been no loser had every one of them eternally perished. No, His saving of sinners is but a means unto an end: “To the praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph 1:6).
Now from that fundamental fact, it necessarily follows that we should make the same our aim and end — that God may be magnified by us, “Whatever you do — do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). In like manner, it also follows that such must be the preacher’s aim; and that everything must be subordinated thereto, for everything else is of secondary importance and value. But is it so?
Take the latest slogans of the religious world. If the evangelist fails to make the glory of God his paramount and constant aim — he is certain to go wrong, and all his efforts will be more or less a beating of the air. When he makes an end of anything less than that, he is sure to fall into error, for he no longer gives God His proper place. Once we fix on ends of our own — we are ready to adopt means of our own. It was at this very point, that evangelism failed two or three generations ago; and from that point, it has farther and farther departed. Evangelism made “the winning of souls” its goal, its summum bonum — and everything else was made to serve and pay tribute to the same. Though the glory of God was not actually denied — yet it was lost sight of, crowded out, made secondary.
Further, let it be remembered that God is honored in exact proportion as the preacher cleaves to His Word, and faithfully proclaims “all His counsel,” and not merely those portions which appeal to him. To say nothing here about those cheap-jack evangelists, who aim no higher than rushing people into the making of a formal profession of faith in order that the membership of the churches may be swelled — take those who are inspired by a genuine compassion and deep concern for the perishing, who earnestly long and zealously endeavor to deliver souls from the wrath to come — yet unless they are much on their guard, they too will inevitably err! Unless they steadily view conversion in the way that God does — as the way in which He is to be glorified — they will quickly begin to compromise in the means they employ.
The feverish urge of modern evangelism is not how to promote the glory of the triune Jehovah — but how to multiply conversions. The whole current of evangelical activity during the past fifty years has taken that direction. Losing sight of God’s end, the churches have devised means of their own. Bent on attaining a certain desired object, the energy of the flesh has been given free reign; and supposing that the object was right, evangelists have concluded that nothing could be wrong which contributed unto the securing of that end; and since their efforts appear to be eminently “successful,” only too many churches silently acquiesced, telling themselves, “the end justified the means.” Instead of examining the plans proposed and the methods adopted by the light of Scripture, they were tacitly accepted on the ground ofexpediency. The evangelist was esteemed — not for the soundness of his message, but by the visible “results” he secured. He was valued — not according to how far his preaching honored God, but by how many souls were supposedly converted under it.
Once a man makes the conversion of sinners his prime design and all-consuming end, he is exceedingly apt to adopt a wrong course. Instead of striving to preach the truth in its purity — he will tone it down so as to make it more palatable to the unregenerate. Impelled by a single force, moving in one fixed direction — his object is to make conversion easy, and therefore, favorite passages (like John 3:16) are dwelt upon incessantly, while others are ignored or pared away. It inevitably reacts upon his own theology, and various verses in the Word are shunned, if not repudiated.
What place will he give in his thoughts to such declarations as “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” (Jer 13:23), “No man can come to me — unless the Father who sent me, draws him” (John 6:44), “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). He will be sorely tempted to modify the truth . . .
of God’s sovereign election,
of Christ’s particular redemption,
of the imperative necessity for the supernatural operations of the Holy Spirit.
In twentieth-century evangelism, there has been a woeful ignoring of the solemn truth of the total depravity of man. There has been a complete underrating of the desperate case and condition of the sinner. Very few indeed have faced the unpalatable fact . . .
that every man is thoroughly corrupt by nature,
that he is completely unaware of his own wretchedness,
that he is blind and helpless, and dead in trespasses and sins!
Because such is the reality of man’s case, because his heart is filled with enmity against God — then it follows that no man can be saved without the special and immediate intervention of God.
According to our view here, so will it be elsewhere: to qualify and modify the truth of man’s total depravity — will inevitably lead to the diluting of collateral truths. The teaching of Holy Writ on this point is unmistakable: man’s plight is such that his salvation is impossible — unless God puts forth His almighty power.
No stirring of the emotions by anecdotes,
no regaling of the senses by music,
no oratory of the preacher,
no persuasive appeals —
are of the slightest avail!
In connection with the old creation — God did all without any assistance. But in the far more stupendous work of the new creation — it is intimated by the Arminian evangelism of our day that He needs the sinner’s cooperation. Really, it comes to this: God is represented as helping man to save himself — the sinner must begin the work by becoming willing — and then God will complete the business. Whereas, none but the Spirit can make him willing in the day of His power (Psalm 110:3). He alone can produce godly sorrow for sin, and saving faith in the Gospel. He alone can change us from “lovers of ourselves,” and bring us into subjection to the Lordship of Christ.
Instead of seeking the aid of outside evangelists, let the churches get on their faces before God, confess their sins, seek His glory, and cry for His miracle-working operations. “Not by might [of the preacher], nor by power [of the sinner’s will] — but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty!” (Zechariah 4:6).