The Westminster Assembly is celebrated for its doctrinal standards and debates on church polity. But how often is the assembly noted for its extraordinary intervention in the pulpit ministry of the Church of England? In God’s Ambassadors, Chad Van Dixhoorn recounts the Puritan quest for a reformation in preachers and preaching and how the Westminster Assembly fit into that movement. He examines the assembly’s reform efforts, tracing debates and exploring key documents about preaching in a way that both highlights disagreements within the assembly’s ranks and showcases their collective plan for the church going forward.
Moreover, Van Dixhoorn reveals the rationale behind the assembly’s writings and reforms, both in terms of biblical exegesis and practical theology. Unlike any other book, God’s Ambassadors draws attention to the lengths to which the Westminster Assembly would go in promoting godly preachers and improved preaching.
Table of Contents:
Preface and Acknowledgements
Note on Sources
Part I: Blind Guides and Scandalous Ministers
1. The Call to Reform
2. The Road to Reform
3. "Democratick Annarchie"
Part II: A Reforming Assembly
4. Purifying Pulpits: Assembly Examinations
5. The Pastor's Office: Assembly Debates
6. Ordaining Preachers: The Directory for Ordination
7. Directions for Preaching: The Directory for Public Worship
Part III: In Theory
8. On Preachers: Godly, Trained, and Ordained
9. On Preaching: The Word of God as the Ordinary Means of Grace
10. On Preaching: Audible and Visible Words
11. On Preaching: Christ-Centered Sermons
12. On Preaching: Christ-Centered Exegesis
13. On Study and Style: "The Spirit's Working"
Appendix A: The Duties of a Minister
Appendix B: The Directory for Ordination
Appendix C: The Subdirectory for Preaching
Chad Van Dixhoorn is Chancellor’s Professor of Historical Theology and Associate Professor of Church History at Reformed Theological Seminary, Washington D.C.
“The Westminster Assembly spent more of its time on ensuring Christocentric preaching than on scriptural prescriptions for church governance. This book gets to the heart of its deliberations, instructions, and regulation. All those interested in notions of godliness in the seventeenth century and all those wrestling with what it is now to break and share the Word of God will learn much from Van Dixhoorn’s exemplary study.” — John Morrill
“The Westminster Assembly is chiefly known today for its confession of faith and related documents. The members of the assembly, however, were just as preoccupied with the need to disseminate Reformed teaching throughout the church, and this could only be done by providing an adequate supply of worthy preachers. This had been the great failing of the English Reformation, and the Westminster divines were determined to put it right. Chad Van Dixhoorn brings their work to life by detailing what their concerns were and how they set about resolving the problems they encountered. This book fills an important gap in our knowledge which must be addressed if we are to understand what the Puritans were all about.” — Gerald Bray, research professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
“Preaching has been the central means of grace for churches that look to the Reformation as God’s greatest work of ecclesial renewal and recovery in the past millennium. And in the anglophone world, this conviction was reinforced by the Puritans above all, and especially at the Westminster Assembly, which was a key moment in the history of the pulpit—not simply for its Presbyterian majority, but also for the Congregationalists and Particular Baptists whose piety and polity were deeply shaped by its confession. In this rich study, grounded in a thorough knowledge of the assembly, its participants, and their thought, Chad Van Dixhoorn has given us a superb study of the assembly’s view of the importance of preaching, its nature and spirituality. This is vital reading for anyone seriously concerned about the prosperity of the church today, for without the preached Word there can be no hope of human flourishing, neither individual nor corporate.” —Michael A. G. Haykin, professor of church history and biblical spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Every policy-making discussion acquires frequent speakers grinding their axes. Dr. Van Dixhoorn's pioneering study takes the lid off the Westminster Assembly and shows how this was true there. It makes a fascinating read!”
—J. I. Packer, Board of Governors' Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia