Some powerful quotes from great evangelists of centuries past (taken from OldTruth.com):
"It's got to be at least 75 percent law and judgment, and 25 percent grace and forgiveness". Those are the words of John MacArthur, echoing the "old truth" way to present the Gospel message. MacArthur's reasoning goes like this: "God's grace cannot be faithfully preached to unbelievers until the Law is preached and man's corrupt nature is exposed. It is impossible for a person to fully realize his need for God's grace until he sees how terribly he has failed the standards of God's Law".
But more and more today, Gospel presentations are based on a "half truth" message that emphasizes only the good news, with little or no mention of any bad news. And as the saying goes: A half truth, presented as though it were the whole truth, is an untruth. The modern evangelistic half-message contains only 'positive' things, and is often based on a man-centered theme of lifestyle improvement.
To contrast modern methods, let's go back in time and see how the Gospel was preached, by a few noteworthy representatives of previous centuries:
J. C. Ryle:
People will never set their faces decidedly towards heaven, and live like pilgrims, until they really feel that they are in danger of hell . . . Let us expound and beat out the Ten Commandments, and show the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of their requirements. This is the way of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount. We cannot do better than follow His plan. We may depend on it, men will never come to Jesus, and stay with Jesus, and live for Jesus, unless they really know why they are to come, and what is their need. Those whom the Spirit draws to Jesus are those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin. Without thorough conviction of sin, men may seem to come to Jesus and follow Him for a season, but they will soon fall away and return to the world.
That is the reason we have so many 'mushroom' converts, because their stony ground is not plowed up; they have not got a conviction of the Law; they are stony-ground hearers.
First, then, before peace can be spoken to your hearts, you must be made to see, made to feel, made to weep over, made to bewail, your actual transgressions against the Law of God.
D. L. Moody:
It is a great mistake to give a man who has not been convicted of sin certain passages that were never meant for him. The Law is what he needs . . . Do not offer the consolation of the gospel until he sees and knows he is guilty before God. We must give enough of the Law to take away all self-righteousness. I pity the man who preaches only one side of the truth-always the gospel, and never the Law.
I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the Law. Lower the Law and you dim the light by which man perceives his guilt; this is a very serious loss to the sinner rather than a gain; for it lessens the likelihood of his conviction and conversion. I say you have deprived the gospel of its [its most powerful weapon] when you have set aside the Law. You have taken away from it the schoolmaster that is to bring men to Christ. . . They will never accept grace till they tremble before a just and holy Law. Therefore the Law serves a most necessary purpose, and it must not be removed from its place.
God [has] appointed a Day in which He will judge the world, and we sigh and cry until it shall end the reign of wickedness, and give rest to the oppressed. Brethren, we must preach the coming of the Lord, and preach it somewhat more than we have done; because it is the driving power of the gospel. Too many have kept back these truths, and thus the bone has been taken out of the arm of the gospel. Its point has been broken; its edge has been blunted. The doctrine of judgment to come is the power by which men are to be aroused. There is another life; the Lord will come a second time; judgment will arrive; the wrath of God will be revealed. Where this is not preached, I am bold to say the gospel is not preached. It is absolutely necessary to the preaching of the gospel of Christ that men be warned as to what will happen if they continue in their sins.
The unsaved are in no condition today for the gospel till the Law be applied to their hearts, for "by the Law is the knowledge of sin." It is a waste of time to sow seed on ground which has never been ploughed or spaded. To present the vicarious sacrifice of Christ to those whose dominant passion is to take fill of sin, is to give that which is holy to the dogs.
In 1741, Edwards preached one of the most famous sermons in American History. It was called "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God", and it prepared the way for the good news, by first presenting the bad news. The sermon sparked revival in Enfield Connecticut, an area that had been largely untouched by the Great Awakening up to that point.
Read "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" online at:
Or listen to this sermon online (audio):