Dr. John Sung
40 John Sung Revival Sermons
Translated by Timothy Tow
Dr. John Sung was probably the greatest preacher of this century. I have heard almost all the great preachers from 1910 until now, including R. A. Torrey, Billy Sunday, Henry Jowett, the great holiness peachers, the Methodist bishops, including Bishop Quayle, even Harry Emerson Fosdick, who set a great example of the homiletic art, though I did not agree with him, and finally Billy Graham. Yet John Sung surpassed them in all pulpit power, attested by amazing and enduring results, of which we will give examples later.
William E. Schubert
JESUS, MY LORD, I YEARN FOR THEE
- Translated from John Sung Revival Choruses
Forty years on, and John Sung converts are found faithfully serving the Lord in every nook and corner of South East Asia. Those who had received the new birth through his ministry long for a return of those blessed times when the Word was fed to multitudes of hungering souls, three times a day, two hours each time; when congregational praying was a torrent of fervent vocal supplication; when oftentimes tears of repentance were freely outpoured; when the hardest of hardened sinners surrendered to the Lord; when crowds surged forward after each meeting for counseling and instruction; when praises and new-found joy were the blessed experience of thousands.
In many ways, John Sung's ministry was unique. Just one man, Spirit-filled and burning out for the Lord, and it pleased God to mightily use him. Immersed in Prayer and the Word, John Sung was evangelist, songleader, soloist, and counsellor, all in one --- a far cry from today's crusades which call for a vast organisational set-up of committees, chairmen, secretaries, directors, managers, not to mention the army of counsellors, massed choirs, and guest soloists. More manpower, less Spirit power!
John Sung was a genius of the pulpit. His messages were fresh and vibrant with excitement, buoyant with humour, penetrating with power, and lively with song. A unique feature was the use of one theme chorus sung over and over at appropriate points in the message. Catchy tunes and scriptural words were afterwards carried away to be heard on the streets and in many a home. Glorious spiritual afterglow!
In this first volume, twenty John Sung's sermons are made available for the first time in English. May the reader catch a glimpse of the blessed ministry of a great servant of God whose work continues to bear fruit today.
TOW SIANG HWA.
In the early years of the thirties, "the voice of one crying in the wilderness" of the Church in China began to echo to her sons and daughters in Southeast Asia. It was the voice of a Chinese John the Baptist, the greatest preacher China has ever heard.
The voice of John Sung, preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ, brought thousands, campaign after campaign, to the feet of the Saviour. The voice of John Sung, preaching holiness and dedication, called thousands more to an evangelistic crusade and hundreds into the fulltime ministry. In a brief fifteen years, this apostle of modern China had traversed the length and breadth of his own country and all over Southeast Asia, winning several hundred thousand souls to Christ.
John Sung was born in Hinghwa, Fukien Province in 1901, one of many sons and daughters of a Methodist pastor. A brilliant scholar with a high ambition, he found his way to the United States in 1920. From 1920 to 1926 he applied himself with all his might to the study of science. He graduated with a Ph.D. in chemistry at the head of his class.
At the zenith of success glittering with many honours, there came the Word of the Lord Jesus to him, "For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).
Remembering his vow of earlier years to serve the Lord, John Sung gave up a lucrative profession to study for the Gospel ministry. He was introduced by a friend to Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Alas! A seminary that taught a "God-is-dead" theology under the care-taking of a principal surnamed (Henry Sloane) Coffin became but a "cemetery" to John Sung's troubled soul. But God showed John Sung the way to salvation and life everlasting as he diligently sought Him, the modernist theologians notwithstanding. This brought such a flood of joy to his quickened soul that he literally burst out to tell his teachers and friends of his newfound salvation.
Supposing John Sung had lost his mind, the Seminary authorities sent him to a mental hospital. Here he was kept for 193 days, days of bitter suffering, yet of deeper communion with his Lord. During this period, says William E. Schubert his bosom friend, he read his Bible forty times!
His wilderness days over, John Sung made his way back to China, answering the call of God to minister to his own people. As the ship he sailed in ploughed through the Pacific Ocean, he tossed into the sea all his academic awards, even medals and gold keys, save his doctor's diploma to show his father in filial piety. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it" (Mark 8:35).
The first three years of his labours were years of probation. From 1930 onwards, however, the Lord began to multiply his ministry, more and more, until the close of the decade. Knowing from the Lord that he had but "five-times-three" years to finish his work, John Sung burned the candle of his life at both ends without any let up. He died in Peking August 18, 1944 at the age of forty-two, consumed in the Master's service.
One decade after John Sung's death, his exploits were made known to the English-speaking churches by Leslie T. Lyall through “John Sung, the Flame for God in the Far East." Other English publications on John Sung, such as William E. Schubert's "I Remember John Sung" and numerous articles appearing in magazines and periodicals from time to time have also increased this knowledge, to the edification of saints old and young.
In the Introduction to his book, "I Remember John Sung," veteran missionary William E. Schubert says of China's flaming evangelist:
Dr. John Sung was probably the greatest preacher of this century. I have heard almost all the great preachers from 1910 until now, including R. A. Torrey, Billy Sunday, Henry Jowett, the great holiness preachers, the Methodist bishops, including Bishop Quayle, even Harry Emerson Fosdick, who set a great example of the homiletic art, though I did not agree with him, and finally Billy Graham. Yet John Sung surpassed them all in pulpit power, attested by amazing and enduring results, of which we will give examples later.
A young missionary after reading Schubert's book in which are appended a couple of John Sung's Sermons asked for more. So have other English readers of Dr. Sung's biographies.
Dr. Sung's sermons are published in Chinese by my aunt Miss Alice Doo. With her cooperation and in response to popular request, I have translated a first instalment of twenty sermons (of a total of forty), particularly the shorter ones and those it was my blessing to hear at the peak of his ministry in Singapore in 1935. The reason why Forty Sermons are chosen is that this was the number preached in Singapore during a two-week period, three sermons a day. To go through all forty sermons would give the reader a sampling of the Revival we went through.
These Sermons are called "Revival Sermons", for such they are. The aim of the preacher in these sermons is the breaking down of strongholds of resistance of the unregenerate heart, rebuke of carnal Christians and professional Church workers. The style of John Sung's preaching is eminently expository, verse by verse, under a given theme. But the centrality of any theme is always the Cross --- Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3). Hence the power of his sermons.
Another feature of John Sung's sermon delivery was the coupling of the message with an appropriately chosen Gospel chorus --- one with a catchy tune, Western or Oriental, that helped to drive home the sermon into the hearer's heart. The evangelist usually preached a two-hour sermon. That he was able to keep up the interest of his audience was by the recurrent singing of these choruses. Hence the inclusion of a "Theme Song" at the beginning or end of these translated sermons.
Though much of the power released by the Holy Spirit during the Revival in the thirties could not be preserved on paper, the faithfully recorded words of his sermons are surely a means of grace to lead a new generation to Christ. Nor are some of the things he said without reproach, for after all, he was but an earthern vessel --- but God was pleased to use him for His own glory.
If some souls will be brought into the Kingdom and oldtimer Christians re-quickened through these Sermons in English syllables, the efforts of this translator will not have been made in vain.