While I was a student at Freed-Hardeman College (soon to be University), brother E. Claude Gardner (then President) worked with brother Hardeman’s grandson, Joe Hardeman Foy, to reprint volumes 1-3 and distribute to preaching students at Freed-Hardeman University. I read an article where brother Gardner was told by an admirer of N. B. Hardeman, “The young preachers will not buy them. Many do not preach these fundamental sermons.” Refusing to preach the types of lessons taught in these volumes is an excellent diagnosis of the problem we are facing today. As brother Gardner wrote in the Foreword of Volume 3,
The sermons N. B. Hardeman preached are the kind which enabled the church to grow and prosper. Because of current conditions both in and out of the brotherhood the sermons brother Hardeman preached should live again. Today the church sorely stands in need of this kind of preaching.
The third Hardeman Tabernacle Gospel Meeting was March 18 – April 1, 1928 again at the famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN. The following is a list of topics from this volume of sermons:
- Establishment of the Church
- Christ on David’s Throne
- Church History of First Century
- The Development of Ecclesiasticism
- Catholic Church of Sixteenth Century
- The Primacy of Peter
- The Reformation, No. 1 & 2
- The Restoration; Unity, No. 1, 2 & 3
- Vowing, No. 1 & 2
- The Way
- Is the Bible Credible
- Three Prayers
- The Cost of Discipleship
- The Crucifixion of Christ.
Notice the emphasis on church history from the falling away of the church into Roman Catholicism, to the earlier attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church, to the final plea to return to the Bible and restore the church of the New Testament. Apparently this created quite a sensation among those who prefer sectarianism over what Alexander Campbell often called “New Testament-ism”. In the original Foreword of the book, F. W. Smith speaks to the reaction of the sectarians to the preaching of N. B. Hardeman:
From both sacred and profane history, with which N. B. Hardeman shows himself to be perfectly familiar, it was shown how the church established by the Lord Jesus Christ had departed from the truth. He showed the origin, creed, doctrine, and practice of all the denominations as purely the work of uninspired men, and how far they were from the word of God.
This unusual presentation of historical facts stirred the defenders of sectarianism as they have not been for generations, and many criticisms were hurled at the preacher. However, these only served to emphasize the far-reaching and revolutionary effects of the truth so ably, earnestly, courteously, and kindly presented by N. B. Hardeman, who, modest, unassuming, and void of egotistical mannerisms, is one of the greatest preachers of the age.
I particularly profited from Hardeman’s use of topography to illuminate the misinterpretation of Matthew 16:13-19 by Catholics in the sermon “The Primacy of Peter”. Here is what N. B. Hardeman proclaimed:
Here they are at Caesarea Philippi, a city builded upon a rock and surrounded by a rock wall in which there are gates with a keeper holding the keys. The very stability of this rock founded, rock bounded, and rock surrounded city suggested the idea of the church of our Lord. Hence he said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” Now get it. In that imagery Christ is the builder. The rock, which is the great foundation truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is the foundation, and Peter is out yonder at the gate holding the keys admitting those who would pass in and out.
Now, here is a general proposition. It is a violation of the principles of every language, for one character to occupy two different positions in the same illustration at the same time. I repudiate therefore the idea that Peter can play a two-fold part in this scenery. He cannot be represented as a keeper of the gate with the keys in his hand, and at the same time be the foundation upon which the thing rests.
But that is not all. Paul said, 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, “As a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which
is Jesus Christ.” Therefore, instead of the possibility of Peter’s being the foundation of the church to be built by Christ, the exact reverse is true and Peter’s position, I want to insist, in this tropical language, is not underneath the structure. His is the gatekeeper and holds the keys in his hands. The beautiful imagery is destroyed if the Catholic idea were correct. (Page 80-81)
Based on what I hear reported, it seems that some have become either too timid or ashamed of the gospel to have the truth proclaimed along these lines. Jesus taught that the truth would be divisive, but we have others who think they know better in trying to compromise the truth to avoid the possibility of offending others. Accepting religious error at the expense of the truth is not unity but union. Jesus desires unity based upon, not the compromise of, the word of God.
As stated in the review of Volume One, the Gospel Advocate has reprinted these sermons in paperback and these are currently available.