Spirit Rather Than Form
By M.R. Coon
Experience has forced me to the conclusion that the vital point of spiritual contact lies in the messenger delivering the sermon, rather than in the form of announcing the subjects to be presented. We must make use of phraseology which will rivet the attention of sinners, before we can present the themes of the message which make a marvelous appeal to the heart when Jesus is given His rightful place as the center and the circumference of all truth.
The longer I preach, the more I am convinced that the Sabbath, the sanctuary, the second coming, the mark of the beast, and all phases of doctrinal truths must be given with a ringing clearness and with such spiritual force as to shake men out of their seats and lead them to step over the line. It is the clear-cut warning message of the judgment now in session, holding up Jesus as our intercessor and pardoner, that startles the sinner and turns him to seek refuge in Christ. This is no time for any tame message. Our commission is to give warning and point the way to safety.
When I presented the seal of God and the mark of the beast in an effort just closed, the response was very impressive. I did not mince words, but explained exactly what was meant and what was involved. When I finished, I asked those who would promise God, right then, that by His grace and strength they would observe the next Sabbath in loyalty to God, and repudiate the false sabbath forever, to come forward and sign a card to that effect. Sixty persons came down the aisles and signed the card that night. During the call there were appropriately rendered those inspirational songs, " I have left all to follow my Saviour " and " You must do something with Jesus tonight." Those who responded to the call came weeping, their countenances indicating a genuine conviction and determination. The Spirit of God was present in such a marked manner that some of our church members went up into the balcony to pray and to weep before the Lord.
The preacher, realizing that he has a life-and-death message, must lay " aside every weight," and plunge into his topic with the burden of souls on his heart, knowing that men and women will be saved or lost according as they accept or reject the message.
There is little, use to preach a Saviour unless we preach the reality and penalty of sin. As we portray sin, man recognizes his need of a Saviour from sin. We cannot preach sin without declaring it to be the transgression of God's holy law. These are days in which sin is scoffed at. But sin is a reality; and the sinner desperately needs a Saviour, although he may not recognize his need until he sees that he is a sinner. How I love to point to the way which leads by the cross of Calvary! How I love to see the sinner, in penitence, creep to the foot of the cross, and there find applied the blood which cleanses white as snow! The presentation of God's holy law and Christ as the end of the law for righteousness, is effective. I am happy in this presentation. How I love to declare a gospel and a truth which no one can answer! All else must give way to it.
Preaching Christ in Doctrine
There is a growing conviction on the part of many evangelists and Bible teachers, that doctrine is of little value when presented as an abstract truth, and that in the public presentation of doctrines we should seek to lift up Jesus as the embodiment of divine truth, and the doctrines as shafts of light streaming from His sacred person. Each doctrine is but one phase of the truth which He came to reveal; and all doctrines, when rightly presented, blend together for revealing Jesus in the beauty of holiness, with impelling power which causes men to leave all and follow Him. Theoretical assent to this is more or less general; it is the application of this principle to evangelism that needs further development.
During the past two years I have made a careful study of the life of Jesus, and have been led to see a new world of beauty in His marvelous character. I am convinced that there is nothing which the world so greatly needs today as to see Jesus. On all sides there are men and women who, like the ancient Greeks, are wandering about in quest of that which will satisfy the soul, and eagerly exclaim, " We would see Jesus." In order for them to see and believe, Jesus must be lifted up in the life and teaching of His followers, and the promise is that when this is done, He will then draw all men unto Himself. As a result of this special study, I have in one of my Bible classes followed the plan of building the doctrines of the message around the life, incidents, and teachings of our Lord. This has led me to work out a new method of approach which I am beginning to use as I return to the evangelistic field again.
The usual plan in an evangelistic series has been to present the doctrinal sermons according to various orders of topics, presenting the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation and the lines of doctrinal truth which emanate therefrom, and conclude with certain practical themes pertaining to the spiritual life. I am now starting a series of meetings on an entirely new basis, reversing the order and the approach. I shall take the life of Jesus, and follow it through from beginning to end, following the chronological order as far as possible. My present outline covers an entire series on the life of Christ, and while this does not cover every point, it is my hope that any person who follows through the series will have a fairly comprehensive picture of His life, while the various doctrinal and prophetic truths will be fitted into the great spiritual picture in their proper place and setting.
It will be readily seen how the various features of the gospel message for today will fit into this plan, but to illustrate, I will say that the first sermon of the series would be on the order of an introduction, tending to show how Christ fitted perfectly into the Old Testament predictions. The next sermon would present the virgin birth and the childhood of Jesus. I would not spend a great deal of time on the first part of Christ's life, but dwell more largely on His ministry, covering such topics as repentance, conversion, the nature and consequences of sin, et cetera.
When I reach the point in the life of Christ where He speaks about the law, I plan to present the general Bible teaching on the law, and show how the law is but the expression of His life and teaching. The Sabbath would be presented in this connection, and on the same basis — the monument to Christ's creative and redemptive work.
The doctrine of the second coming would be introduced in the words of Christ Himself, with all the signs which He gave concerning this event, and His assurances of fulfillment. The prophecies which point to this event would be woven in at this point, and the subject of the new earth would logically follow.
As I come to the death of Christ, I shall seek to present it as I believe it to be, on the one hand, the most awful revelation of sin and its nature, and on the other hand, the most sublime revelation of God's love and redemption,— the subject of all subjects which appeals to the human heart to renounce sin and yield wholly to God. The next stage in the series of sermons would be the presentation of the resurrection of Christ, and His commission to every Christian to preach the gospel in all the world.
The advantages which appear to me to be obtained by such a method, are, first, it exalts Christ, and presents doctrines as they stand related to Him; second, the appeal is to the heart rather than the head; third, the sermons may be made intensely practical. I do not plan to give merely historical lectures; my sole objective is to reveal Christ, and through this revelation make a practical application of Christian principles to our present-day life, and in pending issues I shall seek to show that Christ is the only answer to our moral and spiritual needs today.
In preparing for such a series, I would suggest that the preacher familiarize himself thoroughly with the life of Jesus, making special study of " The Desire of Ages," by Mrs. E. G. White, Geikie's " Life of Christ," and Edersheim's " Life and Times of Jesus, the Messiah." There are, of course, many other books dealing with special features of Christ's life and teaching, which would be helpful. It would also be well to study several translations of the Gospels, and I would suggest also the study of such books as " An Order of Events," or " Harmony of the Gospels." But the preacher must not be disconcerted by the fact that no two scholars agree on any order of events. It is not so important that each event should follow in its exact chronological order as it is that the people to whom we preach get a fairly comprehensive view of the life and teachings of Jesus, with special emphasis on His message for today. This should be given in such a way as to inspire hearers to become followers of Jesus, and members of His remnant church.
When the preacher has become familiar with this field of special study, then I would suggest that he proceed to map out his series of sermons. This should be done first in a general way, making observations to see that the entire ground is covered in the time allotted to the series. He should know well in advance where the different doctrinal points are to be presented, and make sure that his outline furnishes a balanced presentation of the whole gospel for today. All this should be carefully worked out before the preacher starts his effort, as a prevention of bungling work and disappointing results.
It is my earnest prayer that the blessing of God will rest on every worker as he goes forth into the harvest field. Let us lift up Jesus as never before, for just as surely as we do, He will draw all men to Him.
Adaptation to Present NeedsBy Stemple White
We are indeed living in a very critical time. Atheism, higher criticism, and modernism are rampant. I believe that the best way to meet such unbelief in public preaching is to preach Christ in the distinctive doctrines of Holy Scripture. That which brings us out of Babylon, and makes us a peculiar people, will also hold us together as a united people. So I say with Paul, " Preach the word." We must present old truths in a new manner, yet ever adhere closely to the written word of God. I never preach a sermon on any doctrinal or prophetic subject without endeavoring to permeate it with the great truth of righteousness by faith; and I hold that any of the doctrinal, prophetic, and practical truths can be presented to any audience in such a manner that Christ and His righteousness will be revealed as the only means of salvation.
Subjects announced under such titles as (See PDF for List)
The secret of effective presentation of these themes lies in portraying Christ crucified, raised, and soon to return, as the background of every sermon; and this can be done only as the speaker himself is filled with the Spirit of the living Christ and becomes the messenger of warning and of safety.
The following list of subjects gives the titles as used in a recent evangelistic series. This list is suggestive only, for I never follow a uniform list of subjects. It will be noted that in this arrangement the subject, " The Nature of Man," is placed before the presentation of the Sabbath truth. To me this seems logical for the reason that man was created before the Sabbath was made. In fact, I am inclined to favor the plan of making the Sabbath last in the presentation, first, for the reason that people will not have occasion to say Seventh-day Adventists are always harping about the Sabbath; and second, I believe that the more carefully we instruct the people on all the various beautiful truths, the more apt are they to accept the Sabbath when they hear it,
Suggestive Order of Subjects (See PDF)
One Hundred Themes
F.W. Johnston, successful in conducting theater efforts, writes: " I submit a complete list of subjects as I am now using them, covering nearly a hundred themes. I have just given my ninetieth lecture, and the crowds are still coming! "
World League of Nations
Another King Will Rule the World
Silence in Heaven for Half an Hour
Great Celestial Disturbances (Foretold in Prophecy)
Why Didn't God Kill Satan?
The Millennium, or the Devil's Vacation
The End of the World From Standpoint of Reason
What Will Become of the Millions of
Heathen Who Have Died?
Another World War Predicted (Eastern Question)
The World's Future Metropolis
The Marriage of Christ His Wife, Her
Name and Description
Four Peculiar Beasts
Peter and the Keys of Heaven
Will Hell Burn Out?
Which Is the True Church?
The Flying Roll of the Prophecy of Zechariah
God's Everlasting Challenge to the Atheist
Who Changed the Sabbath From Saturday to Sunday?
The Unpardonable Sin
Explosion of the Lost-Time Theory
Seal of God ; Mark of the Beast ; Who Are the 144,000?
Coming of Elijah the Prophet
The Soul and the Spirit — What Are They?
The Rich Man (in Hell) and Lazarus
Popular Arguments Examined (Sunday)
Spiritism — Can We Talk With the Dead?
Are the Angels Departed Souls?
Relation of Civil Governments to Religion
How to Put the Doctor Out of Business
Striking Mathematical Prophecy
The Great Red Dragon
A Court Trial in Heaven
Aerial Navigation and Communication
The Man Whose Number Is 666
The United States in Prophecy
A Letter From Heaven,— Discovered on a
Mountain in Arabia
The Two Witnesses Who Prophesy
The Seven Last Plagues
Who Will Be the Chief Justice?
Great World Problems
Doctrine of Predestination
An Inspired Record That Christ Himself
The Clock of Heaven — How God Keeps
The Fifth and Sixth Trumpets
The Seventh Trumpet
Modern Universal Perplexities
Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary
The Apocalyptic Vision of Seven Churches
Ten Days' Tribulation
Satan's Throne on Earth
The Bride of Lucifer
Was the Protestant Reformation a Failure?
Modern Christendom in Prophecy
How a Woman Saved a Nation
Furnished Apartments in Heaven
The Divinity of Christ
Will World-wide Prohibition Ever Become a Reality?
First Great Submarine Experience Mentioned in the Bible
Spiritual Gifts in the Church
The Origin of Easter
Christ Preaching to the Spirits in Prison
The Thief on the Cross in Paradise
How to Support the Preacher
The Four (White, Red, Black, Pale) Horses
Souls Under the Altar
A Great Earthquake Predicted
Doctrine of Transubstantiation
A Baptism of Fire
Satan's Great Counterfeit of the Holy Spirit
Married After Rising From the Dead
A Great Gymnastic Wonder, Performed by
the Apostle Paul
The Seven Trumpets
What Is the Difference Between Sins and Faults?
Ezekiel's Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
What Civilization Owes to the Christian Church
A Victorious Defeat
A Round Trip to Heaven
An Actual Surgical Operation Without Steel
Instruments or Surgeon
A Tree More Than Ninety-five Million Miles
High Planted in Babylon
The Vicarious Atonement
The The Third Coming of Christ
Born Twice and Dying Once, or Born Once and Dying Twice
A Fourfold Objective
W.P. Mclennan, of Memphis, Tenn,. writes: " In the light of present-day conditions, it has seemed to me to be wise to keep in mind, when arranging our subjects, First, the establishment of confidence in the Bible as the word of God, through the presentation of prophecy; second, the conviction that God has a message for this generation; third, God's plan for man's salvation; fourth, dealing with errors in present-day teaching. I submit a list of subjects as I presented them in my last tent effort: "
The Crash of Nations
Return of Jesus
Christ Will Return in This Generation
Prophetic Cartoons of the Nations
The Devil Bound 1,000 Years
God's Eternal Plan
Why Voltaire Called Newton a Fool
Who Made the Devil?
Armageddon — the Next War
Birthmarks of Regeneration
What Is Sin?
The Christian Sabbath
The Little Horn and the Big Mouth
The Mark of the Beast (Rev. 14 : 9, 10)
The Seven Seals of Revelation
True Test of Discipleship
The Judgment Now in Session — When Did It Begin?
Court Week in Heaven
God's Message for Today
Has Elijah Come?
Where Are the Dead?
Hell — 25,000 Miles in Circumference
Parable of Rich Man and Lazarus
Nailed to the Cross
The Woman, the Child, and the Dragon
When It Is Wrong to Pray
The Jerusalem Prophecy
The Two Covenants
How to Postpone Your Funeral
Question and Answer Service
God's Last Call
The Life of Job
Sunday Blue Laws
Should Christians Use Tobacco?
Will a Man Rob God?
What It Means to Be a Christian
From World Wonder to World Worship
The Man of the Mystic Number
Striding Back to the Dark Ages
The Specter of the East
Keep Your Eyes on the Eastern Sky
Sunday Night Subjects
H.S. Prenier, dean of the Bible Department of E. M. C., furnishes a list of his Sunday night subjects used in his last evangelistic series, as follows:
The Sublimity of the Present — A message of optimism
Is There a Personal Devil? — The lesson of why sin was permitted
The Evolution of War — Story of the mightiest conflict
Two Men Who Went to Heaven and Returned to Earth — What news for you?
The Meaning of Current Conditions An explanation of our times
The Time of Christ's Coming — Not the day nor hour
True Greatness — Washington, Lincoln, and YOU
The Ten Commandments — What did the gospel abolish?
The Seventh-day Sabbath — Not Saturday nor Sunday
Christ Did Not Establish Sunday, Nor His Apostles Sunday Keeping — How Sunday eclipsed God's Sabbath
Who Changed the Sabbath From the Seventh Day to Sunday? — Come ! Hear the confession read
The Mark of the Beast and Seal of God
— How does God know His own? The New Birth and New Covenant -
Obscure things made clear
Lazarus!! Where Were You? — Mysteries of the dead unveiled
Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise — Come ! Make your reservations
Wonder-working Spirits From Other
Worlds — An exposition of Spiritism Springtime in God's New Creation
Graphic portrayal of life hereafter Does Man Owe God a Dime for Every Dollar? -- Partnership with God
The Spirit That Prophesies What are the eyes and tongue of the church?
What Is the Unpardonable Sin? — How you may know you have not committed it.
True Baptism by Immersion — Christ's memorials mark a change of heart de
Further Suggestive Titles
Marvels of the Starry Sky
The Price of Liberty
Court Week in Heaven
Signs on the Billboard of Heaven
God's Great Searchlight on Our Day
The World's Drama in Five Acts
The Bible and the Spade
The Torch That Never Fails
The Superscription of God
God's Footprints in the Solar System
Breaking Into the Future
The Keystone of Prophecy
Running Past the Danger Signals
The Master Key of Life
The Way Out of Uncertainty
The Heavenly Mirror
God's Measuring Rod
Reforming the Reformation
Protestantism's Turning Point
Signposts on the Way to Heaven
The Arbiter of Destiny