Preaching: “So Weighty A Service”

One of the major and most important things that the Westminster Assembly (1643-1653) did for the Church of England was reforming the pastoral ministry. During the first part of the 17th Century in many areas of England there was a shortage of good biblical preaching. In fact, there was a shortage of preaching in general. It’s a bigger discussion, but suffice it to say that preaching and the pastoral ministry in were quite weak and lacking during these years in England. The Westminster Assembly addressed this situation and worked to strengthen the pastoral ministry and the preaching in England.

The Westminster Standards, of course, addressed preaching more than a few times. For one example, WLC says that “the Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners…” (etc. Q/A 155). Preaching was also discussed in more detail in the Assembly’s “Directory for the Publick Worship of God.” Here’s one section of the part of the DPW that addresses preaching. As a pastor in a Presbyterian church, I appreciate these words and give an “amen” to them. I believe these words will be fitting and helpful for pastors in other Christian churches as well:

Preaching of the word, being the power of God unto salvation, and one of the greatest and most excellent works belonging to the ministry of the gospel, should be so performed, that the workman need not be ashamed, but may save himself, and those that hear him.

It is presupposed, (according to the rules for ordination,) that the minister of Christ is in some good measure gifted for so weighty a service, by his skill in the original languages, and in such arts and sciences as are handmaid unto divinity; by his Knowledge in the whole body of theology, but most of all in the holy scriptures, having his senses and heart exercised in them above the common sort of believers; and by the illumination of God’s Spirit, and other gifts of edification, which (together with reading and studying of the word) he ought still to seek by prayer, and an humble heart, resolving to admit and receive any truth not yet attained, whenever God shall make it known unto him. All which he is to make use of, and improve, in his private preparations, before he deliver in public what he hath provided (i.e. prepared).

 Westminster Assembly, The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition (Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851), 485–486.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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