By W. W. Hamilton, D.D.
in Convention Teacher
To preach the whole gospel, from the whole Bible, to the whole world, for the whole man, during the whole time, by the whole church — this is the Baptist, the Bible ideal. All preaching, all teaching must be doctrinal necessarily, and he who objects to doctrinal sermons, whether he knows it or not, is expressing objection to all preaching. If, then, the breaking of a least commandment, and the teaching of others to do the same, causes the offender or the preacher to be less esteemed in the kingdom of heaven, it is surely important that so-called "nonessentials" have due place in the proclamation of the truth. This is sufficient argument for that type of evangelism which gives the subject for this article, and is sufficient warrant
for the statement that the evangelist can no more afford to pervert or'to neglect these least commandments than can the pastor.
We are all very human, and it is no reflection upon our honesty or loyalty to say that evangelism under denominational control so fortifies the evangelist as to help discharge his duty more fully. It is so easy to do wrong, and it is so easy to make compromises, to find excuses for such compromises that we need all the help and all the encouragement we can get to keep us in the very best way. The craze for numbers, the desire for gain, the danger of one-sidedness, the drift toward professionalism and formalism are to be feared and to be shunned by the pastor and by the evangelist. It is easy for the one to criticise the other, and by doing so to judge himself out of his own mouth.
Then again it should be kept in mind that much of the objection to the denominational evangelist is not really opposition to proclamation of truth, but to the spirit in which it is done. Often the preacher waits until the close of the meetings, gets out of the revival spirit into the fighting spirit, makes peopte mad, and undoes much of the good which he had really set on foot. No truth should be presented which cannot be presented in the revival atmosphere. The thing to do is to preach the whole truth during the whole time. When opportunities
come, as come they do all along, to refer to some negelected truth or command, to give a passage of Scripture, to give an illustration which calls duty to mind, let these times be properly used in the same warm, earnest, tender, evangelistic spirit, and the heart will be far more open and willing to receive them.
Some independent evangelists are not what they ought to be, and the same charge may be made against some pastors and some denominational evangelists. Many of these men are God's noblemen, and to their presentation of the truth many of us owe our salvation and our advancement in knowledge and in service. This, however, does not make any less true the fact that the very best environment, the very best motives, the very best methods, the very best results should be found in what is known as "Denominational Evangelism." The purpose of this article is to give some reasons why this should be true.
1. It gives encouragement to the preaching of the whole truth, the whole gospel. — No doctrine is right which cannot stand the test of evangelism, and no method of presenting truth is best which chills the revival spirit. The Bible is for conquest. The gospel is missionary. If doctrine is not evangelistic it is not worth while. We should try our doctrines and propagate our doctrines in the fires and the seasons
of revival. If they are of God, they will bring forth fruit, and if they fail to teach or to win men at such times, then the doctrine or the preacher one would better be again carefully examined. The teaching of Jesus angered the hypocrites, but it found the hearts of those who were lost. Did Jesus make men mad whom he expected to win? Dr. Charles L. Cocke, of Hollins Institute, used to say to the preachers, as he met them here and there in associations and in fifth Sunday meetings: "Preach the symbolism of baptism, preach the symbolism of baptism." He would then explain to them that such did not put people on the defensive, but gave the truth without argument. The denominational evangelist ought to be able to present distinctive doctrines in his every sermon in a way most attractive and most convincing.
2. It encourages men to do the work of the evangelist who would not be willing to enter upon it in an independent way. — The churches, the denomination, the pastors need their help, and only in this way are they to fill full their ministry. All of us have seen the law of spiritual heredity at work in times of revival. Evangelists leave their mark upon the people to whom they minister just as do the pastors, and those who come into the kingdom under their preaching partake in some way of the characteristics of the preacher and the meeting.
It is a great thing to have people born into the kingdom in a good, healthy, loyal, missionary atmosphere. Such members will be loyal to the truth, will be interested in all the work of the people of God, and will enter into every endeavor for the furtherance of the kingdom in the years to come. Such evangelism will lay upon the hearts of the saved the duty to preach and teach, and will in the true sense produce a church with apostolic succession.
3. It implants vital truth in hearts at the time when they are most open and, most receptive. — How very, very careful the pastor and church should be in selecting their helper for such a time! Churches will pray over the question of a pastor, and will appoint committees to find out about the man whom they think of calling, and then will take little or no concern as to the evangelist who is to have perhaps as large a share in the shaping of the life of church and people. The evangelist comes to the kingdom at a time when every mind in and out of the church is watchful and alert, at a time when a wrong word or act will make a deep and lasting impression. The iron is at white heat, and the blow given is to shape it for all time. The twig is just beginning its growth, and a thoughtful, loyal, consecrated hand will see to it that the best life and the best fruitage are kept in view. At the same time it should be
said with equal emphasis that a harsh, selfish, godless hand may do injury to enquiring, doubting souls which can never be corrected, and may turn from Christ and his service those who were earnestly seeking for the truth.
4. It gives to the church and its work and its worship their rightful place. — We never get over the place of our birth. For all time to come we will turn with peculiar affection to the conditions under which our lives began. Daniel Webster relates how much pleasure it gave him to each year visit the humble home that sheltered him in his infancy, and tells of his endeavor to impress upon his children the debt of gratitude which we owe to those who faith fully faced their opportunities and their duties. The log hut, the royal parentage, mean more than mansion and money and book learning. Better a kingly birth in an old log meeting house than an unholy beginning amid plush and marble.
People who are born in a meeting which disclaims all church connection are usually sickly children, and rarely, if ever, recover from this influence. A tent or a hall or a barn or a dwelling or a street corner or a grove or a mountain side will be all right if only it be the church which is there assembled for its work. Society dies at the top; and God saves future generations by winning the common people. If the
churches do not go after these people and find them and save them, if other organizations are given this privilege, then future leaders will care nothing for the churches.
5. It sends strong and capable and godly men to places which are not so likely to secure safe leaders. — These are the very people who in the next generation will be the leaders in political and in religious life and thought, and it will be irreparable disaster if they be led astray, or if they miss the truth. If the denomination fails of its duty here, then some enthusiast, who has zeal without knowledge, will regard it as his duty to lead them his way. What an incalculable blessing the evangelists of our State Boards and of our Home Board have been to the churches and to the denomination! We are beginning to see this, but other generations will arise to call the names blessed which have been listed in this gracious work. They have planted churches and schools, they have aroused latent forces, they have led to consecration church members, they have won the young and the old to Christ, they have walked by the side of those who were entering the kingdom, they have prayed with those who were seeking guidance as to life's work, they have rejoiced with those who were entering upon service for the Lord. These mission churches, these helpful schools, these hard-won victories, these blessed revivals,
these nights of prayer, these struggles with self and sin, these constant and taxing seasons will supply the churches in future years and in future crises with strong and with earnest and with consecrated workers.
6. It encourages the highest motives in this delicate and important task. — An evangelist is just as open to subtle temptation as is the pastor or as are the other members of the church. It is just as possible that he may be influenced by the love of money, by a desire to have his name heralded, by a mania for numbers, by self-seeking and self-sufficiency as is true of other poor ordinary mortals. Denominational evangelism presents so many safeguards for the church, for the pastor, for the convert and for the evangelist that it seems strange we have been so slow to give it a large place and a hearty support.
It brings salvation under most favorable conditions, and makes the best service possible. The evangelist comes to his work under the best conditions. Our motives are so subtle and so complex, and at the same time enter so surely into every act and word and thought, into every ordinance and doctrine, that they need every safeguard. This is true of all people, whether preacher or not, and it is not enough for us to say, "Who is sufficient for these things?" We must know God, must walk with him, love him,
be loyal to him, seek to win others to him, and to put about ourselves and others those conditions which will help most in begetting and in fostering the mind of Christ.
Lynchburg, Va. ===============
[From The Baptist Message, SSB/SBC, 1911, pp. 88-96. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH.] — jrd]
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