Evangelical preaching is that preaching which accords with the spirit and substance of the Gospel of God. It is that preaching which is tainted neither with legality nor licentiousness: which gives full place to both the grace of God and the righteousness of God. It maintains the claims of Divine holiness without bringing the soul into bondage. It proclaims a free salvation without making light of sin. It presents a Savior who is suited to and sufficient for the very chief of sinners, yet affirms that only those who have been brought to loathe themselves and are sick of sin will welcome such a holy Physician. It announces the glorious liberty into which the sons of God have been brought and urges them to stand fast in the same, yet it also points out that such liberty is the very reverse of being a license granted us to indulge the lusts of the flesh without fear of consequences. While denying that good works enter at all into the ground of our acceptance by God, care is taken to show that a faith which does not produce good works is worthless and saves no one.
Our lot is cast in a day of such spiritual darkness, ignorance and corrupting of the Truth that there is a real need for pointing out what true evangelical preaching consists of, as there is for showing what is not either legal or licentious preaching. Where real evangelism is to be found (and few are the places were it now exists) so great is the confusion in many minds that there are not a few who will charge that preacher with either legality or licentiousness. Both are items of opprobrium, the former especially being one which Satan is very fond of using for discrediting the servants of God, and once the rumor gains currency that such and such a preacher is "Legalistic," many people will shun his ministrations. Those who insist that the Moral Law is the believer's Rule of Conduct and who press the preceptive parts of Scripture are often dubbed "Legalists" and charged with bringing God's people into bondage, but such accusations are both baseless and slanderous and must not be heeded by lovers of the Truth.
One object before us in writing on our present subject is that the few Servants of God now remaining may be freed from the unjust aspersions which religious libertines are so fond of heaping upon them, and that those Christians who read this article may be more on their guard against giving ear to false accusations. Those who declare that sanctification or practical holiness is an essential part of salvation, who insist upon a godly walk as the necessary evidence of a credible profession and who faithfully warn the Lord's people that looseness of conduct and lack of strictness in their deportment will certainly sever communion with their Beloved, will be most unfairly charged with "legality." Those who lay much emphasis upon the vital importance of maintaining a conscience void of offense toward God and men, who insist upon the needs-be of the Christian's daily confessing every known sin before his Father and of making full restitution unto every fellow creature he has wronged in any way, will be unjustly charged with bringing the saints into bondage.
Not only should the reader be much on his guard against forming or entertaining any unwarrantable criticisms of a true servant of God, but he needs to be watchful lest he give ear unto any of Satan's lies against himself. So difficult is it to keep the scales equally poised, so easily do we fail to heed both sides of the Truth, that we are ever prone to lose the balance. Yet, knowing our danger here, yes, even when preserved therefrom, the great Enemy of our souls will seek to persuade us we are guilty of erring. When such a Scripture as, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:22), is before us and we perceive that a moral fitness is required in order to obtain an audience with the Majesty on high, the Devil will be ready to tell us that we are denying the sufficiency of Christ's blood to give us access—confounding our legal title to do so with our experimental fitness. When we give heed to such a word as, "If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me" (Psalm 66:18), the Devil will come as an angel of light bidding us beware of entertaining the thought that God's answering of our prayers is dependent upon something good in ourselves.
Now evangelical preaching is designed to equip the Lord's people so that they can repel such assaults of the Enemy and preserve them from the two extremes to which they are prone. Evangelical preaching will expound the Everlasting Covenant which God has made with His people in Christ and show that the whole of their salvation is found therein. It will show how that Covenant is one of grace, pure and simple, free, sovereign, invincible and immutable grace—entirely independent of anything in or from the creature, either foreseen or actual. It will make clear the office and part played by each of the glorious Persons in the incomprehensible Godhead so that each One may be distinctly owned and honored, intelligently worshiped and adored. How that God the Father made choice of those who were to be the recipients of His inestimable favor, predestinating the same unto the adoption of sons. How that God the Son agreed to become incarnate, serve as the Surety of the elect, making an atonement for their sins and providing for their everlasting righteousness. How that God the Spirit undertook to regenerate them, to sanctify them through the Truth, to work in them a saving faith which produces good works and to preserve them from apostasy and bring them into their blessed inheritance.
Evangelical preaching is careful to show how this wondrous Covenant of Grace exemplifies, secures and maintains the Divine righteousness of each point. So far from making light of sin it furnishes the climacteric demonstration of God's hatred thereof, for Jehovah exacted from the Surety full satisfaction to His broken Law and caused Him to endure the unabated curse of the same. When the Holy Spirit quickens the elect He so illumines their understandings that they perceive the infinite evil of sin. He so convicts their consciences that they are horrified at their own depravity and confess they are utterly undeserving of the least of God's mercies. He so renews their hearts that indwelling corruption becomes their greatest burden and grief. At regeneration God puts His laws into their hearts and writes them in their minds (Hebrews 10:16) and so places His holy fear within them that they shall never fully or finally depart from Him (Jeremiah 32:40). After their regeneration the Spirit renews them day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16), causing them to walk in the paths of righteousness and recovering when they stray therefrom.
Evangelical preaching places the crown of honor where it rightfully belongs: not upon the creature, but upon the head of the Lord Jesus. It makes nothing of man and everything of Christ. It ever reminds the believer that it is a sovereign God who makes him to differ from the reprobate and that he has nothing good whatever in himself save what has been communicated to him by the blessed Spirit (1 Corinthians 4:7). It teaches him that "all his springs" are in the Lord (Psalm 87:7), that he must draw upon and draw from Him all that he needs, receiving out of His exhaustless "fullness, grace for grace" (John 1:16). It teaches him that Christ is his "life" (Colossians 3:4), that he has no life apart from Christ, so that he must daily live in Christ, live on Christ, live unto Christ. Said the Apostle, "Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20); and again, "for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21; and yet again, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" (4:13).
At the same time evangelical preaching is careful to insist upon human responsibility and to call for the full discharge of Christian duty. It presents to view the exalted and changeless standard at which we must ever aim: "Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). It warns us against making any excuse for failure to attain unto that standard, bidding us judge ourselves unsparingly for all failure, and to renew our efforts in pressing forward to the same. It tells us we have no strength of our own but must seek it from above, yet points out that the way to obtain more is to use what we already have (Luke 8:18). It calls the believer to a life of unreserved obedience to his Lord but insists that the motive for the same must be love and gratitude for all He suffered on his account. It faithfully declares that backsliding will bring severe chastisement upon the Christian (Psalm 89:30-32) and that if he would have the rod removed, he must forsake that which occasioned it.
Evangelical preaching avoids the snare of legality by bringing in Christ as the believer's Object: the One to whom he owes everything, the One to whom he must apply for the supply of every need, the One to whom he is to glorify by a walk which is pleasing in His sight. Evangelical preaching lays the axe at the roots of self-righteousness by constantly reminding the believer of his continual indebtedness to Divine grace, that nothing he can do is to the least degree meritorious, and that should he fully perform his duty he is still "an unprofitable servant." On the other hand, evangelical preaching avoids the snare of licentiousness by steadily holding up the Divine standard of "Be you holy in all manner of conversation" or "behavior" (1 Peter 1:15), by constantly pressing both the exhortations and warnings of Scripture, and by reminding its hearers "without holiness no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). Well may every true servant of God exclaim, "Who is sufficient for these things!" (2 Corinthians 2:16); and well is it when he can—humbly, dependently, but truthfully—add, "our sufficiency is of God" (2 Corinthians 3:5).