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
Part I: Blind Guides and Scandalous Ministers
- The Call to Reform
- The Road to Reform
- “Democratick Annarchie”
Part II: A Reforming Assembly
- Purifying Pulpits: Assembly Examinations
- The Pastor’s Office: Assembly Debates
- Ordaining Preachers: The Directory for Ordination
- Directions for Preaching: The Directory for Public Worship
Part III: In Theory
- On Preachers: Godly, Trained, and Ordained
- On Preaching: The Word of God as the Ordinary Means of Grace
- On Preaching: Audible and Visible Words
- On Preaching: Christ-Centered Sermons
- On Preaching: Christ-Centered Exegesis
- 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 Bibliography Index
Chad Van Dixhoorn (PhD, Selwyn College, University of Cambridge) is a Professor of Church History and the Director of the Craig Center for the Study of the Westminster Standards at Westminster Theological Seminary. He also serves as an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.
Dr. Van Dixhoorn’s pioneer study takes the lid off the Westminster Assembly . . . a fascinating read.
– J. I. Packer
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, it’s 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 Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Anything that Dr. Van Dixhoorn writes in this area commands our attention. But this book carries a special attraction because it combines a double interest of the author–the assembly proceedings on the one hand, and the topic of preaching on the other. It should, therefore, engage the interest not only of scholars but also of those who make most use the documents of the assembly (or should!), namely ministers and preachers. Not only those who trace their theological and ecclesiastical roots back through the Westminster Assembly, but all who have an interest in and concern for preaching should find in God’s Ambassadors much to inform, stimulate, and cause reflection.
–Sinclair B. Ferguson
“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, Professor of British and Irish History, Selwyn College, University of Cambridge
“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 teachign 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.”
“… incredibly helpful … fascinating … informative …”
– Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology
“… scholarly, thoroughly documented … surprisingly readable.”
– British Church Newspaper
“I know of no books on preaching quite like this one . . . Hopefully it will serve as a foundation and catalyst for further work on the theology of the puritan pulpit.”
– Free Church Witness
“Chad Van Dixhoorn’s God’s Ambassadors fills a gap in our understanding of the Westminster Assembly . . . . God’s Ambassadors is informative, clearly written, and provides new significant material regarding the Westminster Assembly in an area that might not otherwise be associated with their work.”
– Presbyterians of the Past