By James A. Stewart
The grand design of the blessed Gospel is the glorifying of God and the exalting of His beloved Son. When William C. Bums was leaving Scotland for China, a man said to him, 'I suppose you are going to convert the Chinese.' 'No,' Mr. Burns replied, 'I am going to China to glorify God.' Yes, this is the grand design of all Gospel preaching.
We invite the reader to carefully ponder over the following words of A. W. Pink, on their knees before God. They are startling, but true. '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 any motive to be 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 further and further 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.
'To say nothing here about those cheap-jack evangelists who aim no higher than the rushing of people into making a formal profession of faith in order that the membership of the churches may be swelled, let us consider 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; unless they be much on their guard they too will inevitably err. Unless they steadily view conversion from the way God does-the way in which He is to be glorified-they will quickly begin to compromise in the means which they employ. Bent on attaining a desired object the energy of the flesh has been given free rein; 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 have acquiesced telling themselves that the end justifies the means. Instead of examining the plans proposed and the methods adopted in the light of Scripture, they tacitly accept them on the ground of expediency. The evangelist is esteemed, not for the soundness of his message, but for the visible results he secures. He is valued, not according to how far his preaching honors God, but according to how many souls are supposedly converted under him.
'Once a man makes the conversion of sinners his primary design and all-consuming end, he is exceedingly apt to adopt a wrong course. Instead of striving to preach the Truth in all its purity he will tone it down in order 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 are dwelt upon incessantly, while others are ignored or pared away.
'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 his case ; because his heart is filled with enmity against God, it follows that no man can be saved without the special and immediate intervention of God. According to our view here, so it will be elsewhere; to qualify and modify the truth of man's total depravity will inevitably lead to the diluting of collateral truth. 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 mighty 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.'
Of course, the Word of God is not bound, nor is the Spirit necessarily circumscribed by the limitation of the message or the messenger. Indeed, such a ministry has often been blessed to the salvation of souls. God, in His sovereign grace, will hear the prayers of His believing people and bless His Word. The light of the Gospel may shine into a darkened soul through a single sentence or through a single verse. We have known the case of a modernistic preacher in the south of Scotland who greatly opposed evangelistic meetings, but who was the means of the conversion of one of his members through the reading of the Scripture lesson from the pulpit!
Neither is it suggested for a moment that every aspect of Gospel truth can be incorporated into one single sermon. Such would be well nigh an impossibility. But it is essential that we do not omit the proclamation of the sovereignty of the risen Lord, which is the dominating principle forming the background of every true, evangelistic appeal.