One of the more successful evangelistic efforts of the 20th century would have to be the cooperative gospel meetings in Nashville, TN at Ryman Auditorium preached by N. B. Hardeman who was president of Freed-Hardeman College. This reviewer’s intention is to present a review of brother N. B. Hardeman’s sermons (and other works) over the next few articles. There are several reasons why this is being done, but the most prominent reason is the need for these lessons to be read by every member of the church. The lessons are fundamental and are considered classics in the style of preaching. Writing on the quality of these sermons, Guy N. Woods stated:
The Hardeman Tabernacle Sermons, all things considered, is the finest series of sermons ever published in the English Language. As long as the world stands, they will never be surpassed for their amazing simplicity of style, striking clarity of diction, and widest possible inclusion of basic and fundamental truth. The Gospel Advocate Company is performing a service of inestimable value in making available this marvelous material to a younger generation of preachers who may profit greatly not only from the study of the truth presented, and the principles embodied, but who should also master the sermons as models of homiletic skill. All who would be informed in a mode and method of preaching now altogether too rare, whether preachers or not, should obtain these sermons.
The first Hardeman Tabernacle Sermons were delivered from March 28 to April 16, 1922. N. B. Hardeman was chosen as the preacher rather than C. M. Pullias who was also a very effective evangelist being considered for the meetings. When the leaders approached brother Pullias about leading the congregational singing rather than preaching, his response was that he would be willing to sweep the floors in order to assist moving the meeting forward. L. L. Brigance assisted in some of the research and outlines of material used by brother Hardeman. It has been reported that L. L. Brigance stated “I cannot preach like brother Hardeman, but I can load his gun.”
Attendance figures were estimated to be 6-8,000 people with as many as 2-3,000 being turned away. Two prominent newspapers in Tennessee, The Tennessean and the Nashville Banner printed texts of entire sermons in their coverage of these meetings and the impact on the church abroad was substantial. At the time, and probably since, it was believed that no other preacher of churches of Christ was so extensively quoted or had sermons printed in full by secular papers. Thankfully, these sermons were compiled into a book which has continued to bless countless others.
A list sermon titles include the following: The Bible; Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth; The Power of God’s Word; Federalist and Antifederalists; Conversion; The Great Commission; The Conversion of a Civil Officer; The Conversion of a Military Officer; God’s Immutable Laws; God’s Foolishness vs. Man’s Wisdom; What Must I Do To Be Saved?; The Savior’s Invitation; Repentance; Baptism; What Church to Join?; Reconciliation; The Terror of the Lord; Reformers and Restorers; Theory and Practice; and The Bible in Business (by C. M. Pullias).
The sermon on Federalists & Antifederalists is an excellent example of a past political controversy that continues to resurface in our nation’s courts—does the Constitution’s silence on a matter indicate permission or restriction? This principle we often discuss in this manner—does the silence of the scriptures authorize an action or restrictions an action? N. B. Hardeman expressed it this way:
If your preacher is not preaching these types of fundamental lessons, you should insist that he does so. If he refuses, then you need to find a gospel preacher. Preachers should not hesitate to preach these fundamentals because the spiritually mature will always love to hear them, the spiritually immature need to hear them, and the lost must hear these fundamental truths. The Gospel Advocate has reprinted these sermons in paperback and these are currently available.
Do I look upon it [word of God] as a law granting me the liberty to do anything not specifically forbidden therein? Or, on the other hand, have I accepted God’s constitution and do I propose to be governed by what it says rather than by what it does not say? [N. B. Hardeman, Hardeman Tabernacle Sermons, Vol. 1, p. 80].