From time to time one I hears a familiar phrase common in some quarters: "We miss the old ring of the Advent preacher of a half-century or more ago." This is particularly true among those whose main burden seems to be to go forth, sword in hand, to slash to ribbons all opposers, conscientious or not, in a violent "defense of the faith." Some feel that the old ring comes about by donning their spurs and riding the beast. But is not this a false caricature of the wonderful, heartwarming, converting power of the Advent sermon with the old ring?
Just what is it that makes a sermon have the old ring? Do we have any instruction or homiletical guide in this important phase of the Advent preacher's life and work? A critical study of the book Evangelism is most revealing. No preacher can possibly miss presenting the Advent message with the old ring if he conscientiously casts his sermons within the framework of this divine counsel:
"The Lord desires His servants today to preach the old gospel doctrine, sorrow for sin, repentance, and confession. We want old-fashioned sermons, old-fashioned customs, old-fashioned fathers and mothers in Israel." Evangelism, pp. 179, 180.
Pursuing further this thesis of "old-fashioned sermons," we soon come upon some amazing factors that inspiration declares should have a part in every sermon. We list them here so that none need ever doubt just what constitutes an Advent sermon with the old ring. There are at least seven things that are to be included in every sermon we preach. Examine these seven points, then honestly grade your sermon accordingly! What a revelation!
1. Practical Godliness.
"Practical godliness should find a place in every discourse we preach." Evangelism, p. 178.
It is by emphasizing this important element in our sermons that we will be able to reach more hearts. (See also Ibid., p. 186.)
2. Love of Christ.
"In order to break down the barriers of prejudice and impenitence, the love of Christ must have 3 part in every discourse." Ibid., p. 189.
"Our words, our deportment, how we present the truth, may balance minds for or against the truth; and we want in every discourse, whether it is doctrinal or not. we want that Jesus Christ should be presented distinctly." Ibid., p. 299.
There is nothing we need to add, nor is there anything that we could add, to this clear instruction.
3. The Cross.
"The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. . . . This is to be the foundation of ever)' discourse given by our ministers." Ibid., p. 190.
"No discourse should ever be preached without presenting Christ and Him crucified as the foundation of the gospel." Ibid., p. 186.
"There are many who want to know what they must do to be saved. They want a plain and clear explanation of the steps requisite in conversion, and there should not a sermon be given unless a portion of that discourse is to especially make plain the way that sinners may come to Christ and be saved." Ibid., p. 188.
What a mandate is here handed to the minister! He is to explain in every sermon the way that sinners are to come to Christ! It is the old ring renewed and reinstituted!
5. The Second Coming.
"All the discourses that we give are plainly to re veal that we are waiting, working, and praying for the coming of the Son of God. . . ."The second coming of the Son of man is to be the wonderful theme kept before the people." Ibid., p. 220.
Here is the central hope of deliverance made vocal. Here is the assurance all men must never forget!
6. Comer for Children.
"In every sermon let a little corner be left for their [the children's] benefit." Ibid., p. 349.
This is truly a real challenge for most preachers. How can this be done? Examine your sermons. Do they have a story, device, illustration, or appeal of some kind directed primarily to the youth of the audience? An Advent sermon with the old ring- will contain it!
"He [the minister] will not dismiss a congregation without presenting before them Jesus Christ, the sinner's only refuge, making earnest appeals that will reach their hearts. ... At the close of every meeting, decisions should be called for." Ibid., pp. 280, 281.
These, of course, may take the form of wide variety in their application. Evidently the old Advent ring is more than a lecture imparting information, but by direct appeal effects a deep, genuine transformation. It is more than a warning against sinister apostate forces, against which every true follower will war. It is truly a message of saving, transforming power. It is not enough to warn them; we must save them.
Here is the most concise, effective, challenging course in homiletics any Advent preacher can ever take. Now let us examine those pet sermons of ours and see whether they have the old ring. Are we substituting arguments, reasoning, warnings, threatenings, dark sayings, exposes, castigations, condemnations, sarcasms, legalisms, human phraseology, for these seven important and imperative elements that should be in every sermon? Is our preaching impoverished? Are we robbing the people of that true old Advent ring by an emphasis or perhaps an overemphasis on something far from these fundamentals?