Puritans and preaching – Part 2

24 Oct

I am continuing through my reading / study of “Light and Heat : the Puritans View of Preaching” by R. Bruce Bickel. While reading through the chapter titled “The Direction of Preaching” I found some more gems that I wanted to share.

In order to understand the direction the Puritan view had for preaching Bickel brings to light the view the Puritan preachers had of themselves. Taken from the Horton Davies book “The Worship of the English Puritans“,

They viewed themselves as men sovereignly appointed by God to declare a message that was not their own, but a message that had already been given by God Himself in the pages of sacred writ.

Under such conviction, no wonder a Puritan preacher mounted the steps of his pulpit as if he were Moses ascending the mountain of Sinai.

Now that is what I call a high view of preaching. Not that they highly viewed themselves but their calling.

According to Bickel the direction of the Puritan sermon involved the very character and structure of the sermon. As he quotes again from the Davies book;

Every Puritan sermon began with a definite biblical text. Once a text was selected, the preacher’s immediate duty was to clarify it in all possible ways. Thus, the lengthy Puritan sermon has a structure of its own. Basically, it had a triple division; Doctrine, Reason, and Use.

In other words the aim was to first identify from the text a truth and discuss its practical application. The text is methodically taken apart and analyzed. After the analysis of the passage, the practical appeal is made by the preacher or teacher in order to make the Bible applicable to real life.

The Puritan preacher’s concern was (like the book title) light and heat; light from the pure shining Word of God to penetrate the darkness of the heart and soul of the hearer, heat from the passion of the heart and soul of the preacher to bring about conviction. Unlike the dramatic, bait and switch tactics we see in churches today, the Puritan preacher had faith in what scripture says in Isaiah 55:10-11;

10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

According to Bickel:

They did not engage in feverish panic about it. They were firmly convinced that by faithful preaching of the message of salvation God would call out the elect everywhere – not because of the gifts of methods of the preacher, but by reason of God’s sovereign operation.

Finally the last gem to share is a quote Bickel uses from the Puritan Richard Sibbs that epitomizes the inspired direction for every preacher commissioned by God.

The preachers are the friends of the bridegroom, that are to procure the marriage between Christ and His church; therefore are not only to open the riches of the husband, Christ, but likewise to entreat for a marriage, and to use all the gifts and parts that God hath given to them, to bring Christ and His church together.

I think that quote sums up the direction and duty of the Christian preacher. Preachers are to be concerned with preaching the gospel to bring the called to salvation and to edify and equip those who were called out of darkness to His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9) Please look for more as I read trough this wonderful and enlightening book.

Soli Deo Gloria!


4 responses to “Puritans and preaching – Part 2

  1. Really Robin

    October 24, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    I love that they did not panic about whether they “closed the deal” on salvation, but depended on God to draw his elect to Him with His word. Because of that dependence, they were free to preach His word in a truthful, honest approach – one that did not apologize for content, but joyfully praised the very word given to preach.

    May the Lord draw more men to the path of the Puritan, so God’s word may be preached without apology and without exception!!

  2. Steve

    October 29, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    This is really good. I’ve heard of the book, I am quite tempted to buy it now. It is so good to read such things. It re-directs my thinking about preaching. It is easy to get sloppy in ways that no one but me and the Lord know of. Thanks for the re-direction.

  3. barrydean

    October 29, 2008 at 1:27 pm


    I totally agree. I continue to appreciate the ways of the Puritans, especially where it concerns the Word of God. I never considered their influence in Christian history until we moved to OBC. Thanks God or that.


    I am quite sure you would enjoy the book. I so appreciate the way the Puritans unashamedly approached the preaching of the content found in God’s word. We can still learn much from them.

  4. shepherdsteve

    October 30, 2008 at 12:04 am

    I like the picture drawn that the anxious panic wasn’t found in the voice of these men. What a great point that our undertones when preaching truths from God’s Word shouldn’t contradict the message. Never thought about it but it makes a valid point.


    PS barry are you going to shepherds conf. 2009?


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