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THE PURITAN UNDERSTANDING OF PREACHING
 

The Puritan movement was highly marked by the renewal of preaching.  The Puritans had brought a new, fresh understanding of preaching to the English pulpit of the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries.  They preached not only for the reformation of the Church of England but also for effective communication of the gospel. 

The Puritan movement marked the age of perplexing change when many men and women, especially those of lowly position and simple understanding, were racked by anxiety for their future here and hereafter.  It was a period of storm and stress.  A group of Puritan preachers laid their learning aside in order to win the ear and confidence of all men.  Their function was to probe the conscience of the downhearted sinner, to name and cure the malady of his soul, and then to send him out strengthened for the continuance of his lifelong battle (Haller 1957:27).    

The Puritans preached large numbers of sermons.  Some preached every day of the week, and on Sundays more than once.  People would travel considerable distances in order to hear such preaching.  Nothing was so characteristic of the Puritan preaching as their belief in preaching and their delight in listening to preaching.  They printed remarkable number of sermons.  So much of the theological teaching of the Puritans was given in the form of preaching and sermons (Lloyd-Jones 1987:379).

Pierson comments that The Puritans wanted godly, learned pastors who are able to expound the Scripture, and who were resident in every parish.[1]  In the Anglican Church, there were priests who were appointed, but uneducated and even did not know where his parish was.  The Puritan ideal was the godly, well-trained preachers resident in the parish.[2]


The Puritan View of Preaching

The Anglican and the Puritan views were different in that to the Puritans preaching was central, and the most important thing of all.  Lloyd-Jones quotes from the Elizabethan Archbishop saying:

With regard to preaching, nothing is more evident from Scripture than that it was a great blessing to have the gospel preached, and to have plenty of laborer sent into the Lordís harvest.  That this was the ordinary means of salvationÖthat through reading homilies was good, yet it was not comparable to preaching, which might be suited to the diversity of time, plays, and hearers, and be delivered with more efficacy and affection (Lloyd-Jones 1987:375-76). 

William Haller observes that the difference between the preaching of the Anglicans and that of the Puritans, between witty and spiritual preaching so-called, between the Wisdom of Words and Ďthe Word of Wisdom,í was not merely one of style.   As a matter of conviction and of convention, the Puritans professed to disapprove the citation of human authors and to depend solely upon Scripture (1957:23).
           

The Centrality of Preaching

Jams I. Packer discusses that preaching takes the supreme importance in the ministries of the Puritans.  To them, the sermon was the liturgical climax of public worship.  ďPreaching, under any circumstances, is an act of worship.Ē  Nothing, they said, honors God more than the faithful declaration and obedient hearing of his truth (1994:281-82).

Preaching, the Puritans said, is the exposition of the Word of God.  They even said that, in faithful preaching, God himself is preaching, and that if a man is giving a true exposition of Scripture, God is speaking because it is Godís Word, and not the word of man.  The Puritans also asserted that the sermon is more important than the sacraments or any ceremonies.  They claimed that it is as much an act of worship as the Eucharist and more central in the church service (Lloyd-Jones 1987:379-380).

             

The Human Needs in the Puritan Preaching

What was the human need to which they preached?  The Puritanís anthropology accented manís total depravity.  Ever since Adam, all the Puritans proclaimed, man has been a slave to sin.  Not only ignorance of the divine will, but also obstinate perversion from the divine way makes up the human character.  Adam's sin left manís nature died.  This, however, did not destroy manís rational and volitional faculties.  In these Godís image remains imprinted.  To menís natural faculty God addresses himself in the book of nature  and of Scripture (Rooy 1965:310-311).


  © This manuscript was only Dae Ryeong Kim's study note toward a paper, but contains some key ideas for a missiological understanding of the Puritan preaching.