A MUST-READ 68-year-old sermon from the days when the Lord’s church was growing like wildfire; when baptisms were frequent and Baptists and other Protestants were becoming N.T. Christians at a constant and consistent rate – and the ultimate reason why. Oh that we might ever and unashamedly continue to imitate them and their Christ-like example with ever more boldness and Biblical consistency and clarity!!!
A VOICE OUT OF THE PAST
(By Franklin Camp; via “Standing in the Gap,” the bulletin of the Nesbit, Mississippi congregation)
Few men associated with the Restoration had the ability of brother N.B. Hardeman to present the gospel in such a simple, yet eloquent, way. Recently, I ran across a sermon preached by brother Hardeman in Dallas, Texas, in 1943. Some of the things he said are so timely for our day that I am passing along part of the sermon.
“Then came his disciples, and said, ‘Master knoweth thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?’” Now stop and analyze conditions. The Jews in the lifetime of Christ were divided into three denominations: Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. Of the three, the Pharisees were far the more prominent. They were the elite, the bontons, the uppertens of their day, and for Christ to speak against them was to them abuse and ridiculous as well as preposterous. After they had spoken these things, the disciples came and said, “Lord, you gave offense to the Pharisees. You have actually offended the leading sect of the day. And they are up in arms against you.” Now I want you to note Christ’s answer. “Every plant which my Heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.” That’s the answer that Christ made when the disciples told him that the Pharisees were offended at the doctrine he had thus spoken.
Brethren, I have often wondered what on earth I might say that would not be of offense to someone. If I preach Christ as the Son of God, the Unitarian is offended. If I preach He was born of a virgin, all modernists are offended. If I preach baptism for the remission of sins, the sectarian world takes offense. If I preach again that there is one church, all denominations become offended. If I preach against apostasy, our Baptist friends are offended. If I preach that immersion is God ordained, our Methodist and Presbyterian and Lutheran and Congregational friends are offended. If I preach against the popular sins of the day, the socialites and clubs are offended. Well, again if I preach about giving, all the old stingy tight wads in the church are offended. Brethren, what on God’s earth can I preach without offending? You just name it, and I will obligate myself to say that somebody will be offended at the thing thus said.
Now there are brethren in diverse places who say, “I don’t think they manifest the right spirit. That’s not the Christian spirit.” Isn’t that ridiculous in its expression of ignorance of the Bible? Did Paul evidence the right spirit? Did he manifest the spirit of Christ? Let me tell you the background of all of this. I think you will appreciate it. Brethren, hear it. My attitude toward error depends upon my attitude toward truth. Whenever you see a man that does not care much about truth, he is always compromising with error. The less regard he has for truth, the more anxious he is to apologize for error. The man who loves the truth, who is willing to buy it and sell it not, stands out foursquare against anything and everything that is contrary to the word of God. He knew no such thing as compromise, from an angel or from any point of view whatsoever. Christians cannot under any circumstance compromise God’s truth, no matter who may be offended. If anything is only a matter of opinion of mine, I am ready to hear arguments against it and possibly change. But if it is a matter of faith in God’s Book, there is no such word as COMPROMISE in my vocabulary.
(Brother Hardeman gives the example of Daniel being cast into the lions’ den and then adds these comments). He was indeed cast into the lions’ den but the God whom he trusted shut the lions’ mouths and they did not hurt him. He slept as sweetly with his head upon the shaggy mane of a ferocious lion as any child ever did upon its mother’s arms. The result of such an attitude was that old Darius issued a decree to the effect that all in his kingdom should worship the God of Daniel. We will never convert men by yielding to or by overlooking their errors. Honest men want the truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be. Old Sanballat and Tobiah thought they could stop Nehemiah from building once again the walls round about Jerusalem. They invited him to come down for a conference. He said, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down to you.” It would have been a come down, had he thus descended. Friends, that is the attitude evidenced by men who are about the Father’s business. In this talk tonight, I want to say something about the kind of preachers discussed in recent years. Our attitude toward live issues among us determines the class to which you belong. Some are considered “Hard” and others are designated as “Soft.” Just what do we mean by such terms? The standard varies among different people and at various places. Some will think a preacher is “hard” while others will call him “soft.” Let me mention some characteristics of a “soft” preacher first.
1. He preaches the truth but has it mixed with error to such an extent that it is impossible to tell where he stands.
2. He preaches the truth in an apologetic manner. He is ever fearful of offending some dear friend and thus he carries no conviction. Like the chief rulers. They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. They have never learned what Paul said, “If I seek to please men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”
3. He preaches the truth in a general way so that he gets exactly nowhere. They are preacher who have a multiplicity of words and they are not intentionally unsound, but they never get to the point. They can “pace all day in the shade of a tree.”
The man who is considered “hard” preaches the truth unmixed with error, in a firm and positive manner. He cares not for the person of any man. Having convictions, he contends earnestly for the right and exposes error regardless of friendly ties. He gets to the point and the audience knows what he has said and where he stands. These are times when a preacher is known not only for what he stands by, but also by what he stands against. I have often said that I would be ashamed of myself, if I could not make clear my attitude toward any matter affecting the peace and happiness of the church on a post card. I pray that our attitude toward all affairs may ever be such as will cause His smiles to be upon us.
— Originally in Spiritual Sword, April, 1989; recently quoted in Old Paths Studies Bulletin
As is so eloquently stated above, everything Biblical, preached by anyone faithful, is surely going to offend someone sinful. Every truth Biblically taught is always going to offend those who do not wish to accept and obey it. Every preacher who insists on faithfully teaching the whole council of God is going to be considered “hard,” “harsh,” “offensive,” and “judgmental” by someone who does not wish to humbly accept, obey, and live the stronger, more exclusive truths of Scripture (See John 6:6o-69). For faithful preachers following in the footsteps of their Lord Jesus, this reality just “goes with the territory.” They know that to God there are only two kinds of preachers (and by extension, only two kinds of Christians): The faithful, and the “ear-ticklers” (II Tim. 3:12-4:5). But “faithful to the word brethren” not only know, but fully accept and understand that, and are quite satisfied to endure whatever persecution from men might be required of them, in order to remain faithful to their God and His word (Contrast Matt. 5:10-12 with Jn. 12:42-48; see also Gal. 1:6-10).
May God help us all to always stand steadfast and united on the Scriptures in His Kingdom here in Cleveland (Phil. 1:27-2:2), no matter who is offended as long as it is not Him! For it is those people who have in mind the things of men instead of the things of God that Jesus is offended by (Matt. 16:23; see Matt. 11:6 too)!