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Evaluation of Bruce Bickel's "Light and Heat: The Puritan View of the Pulpit" by C. Matthew McMahon

A Work on the Puritan View of the Pulpit

I’m always interested in the author of a work being read. I don’t know much about Bickel except that the back cover says he is involved in Ligonier, possibly at the time of writing, and he says he is a pastor, though I found almost nothing on him online. He seems to be CEO of Transformational Leadership (some kind of success website about being a better leader in your company?). Soli Deo Gloria, back in the day, touted this work as, “Bickel’s master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation on, “The Puritan View of the Pulpit,” and, “The Focus of the Gospel in Puritan Preaching.””

There is a glaring difference between the first part of the work which seems to me to be exceedingly weak in its content mainly quoting other secondary sources rather than first sources (at 80 pages long), and the doctoral dissertation, which is the second half of the work (at 90 pages), which does in fact quote a good deal of original sources (generally Banner of Truth reprints of puritan works), but lacks in, I think, sources overall. Initially reading this volume years ago, I’m sure it seemed adequate and even a bit overwhelming for a novice. It did, however, fill a void where there were relatively little books on the subject of the puritan view of the pulpit. Today, however, there are a few books which lend themselves to teaching on this subject, or exhorting on the subject, which seem to me, to be far better than this volume. In rereading this work, it feels woefully inadequate, and demonstrates, to me, that a more substantial work on the puritans and the pulpit should be written.

In part 1 there are 6 chapters, and in part 2 there are 7 chapters.

Preface and Chapter 1: Introduction

Bickel says, “I have sought to read as many of the original works of the Puritans as possible while reserving the works about the Puritans to fill in the historical data not presented in their sermons or studies of divinity.” I’m going to disagree with him. What he’s done is interacted with what might have been readily available to him in his day (this volume was 18 years ago) concerning books anyone could buy at the local Christian bookstore. In a master’s thesis, or a doctoral dissertation, original source documents can be found through a variety of means, which, seemingly on my current read of this work, he missed out in adding in. That limits the scope of the work immediately.

Bickel is concerned with modern preachers who neglect a high view of the pulpit. I share such a sentiment. He says, “The picture of the one who preaches the Word from the pulpit as a doer of the Word appears to be dimming.”[1] “Many “share” rather than “preach,” pray rather than pronounce blessings, and perform under a clouded vision of their ministry because they have no clear conviction about the nature of preaching.” This is true enough, and from my own search to find good preaching, this is the case all up and down churches along the Eastern United States. What is the problem with this? Bickel says, “Many ministers allocate their time accordingly. More time is spent in motivational discussions, program planning, and church administration than in sermon study and preparation.”[2] In other words, they are men-pleasers and are out to keep their job and level of respect in their congregations, rather than being preachers of the word. Bickel says the Puritans are different than this. He would be correct. He broadly defines the rise of Puritanism in light of three concepts, “the New Testament pattern of personal piety, sound doctrine, and properly ordered church life.”[3] Godliness, Bickel says, was the great business that defined Puritanism.[4]

The Puritan movement began in 1559 with the Act of Uniformity, and ended in 1662. Bickel says, “Having been defeated politically and having failed to reform the Church through parliamentary legislation, they began to reform the Church from the bottom up by their vigorous persuasion from the pulpit, the press, and their personal influence.”[5] The Puritans didn’t suddenly start preaching from the “bottom up” because they lost a political squabble. As ministers of the Gospel, they would have been preaching godliness throughout the whole course of their ministry. Bickel really needed to add in the reality that the basic trait of Puritan preaching was that they took the doctrine of the bible recovered in the doctrinal teaching of the Reformation, and they applied these to every area of life, in every way possible. This was simply their regular practice in preaching God, Christ and godliness.

Chapter 2: The View of the Pulpit

“The Puritans held that the pure Word of God was the criterion to which doctrine, worship, and church government must conform, [so the] proclamation of the Scriptures occupied the central position in their worship.”[6] In other words, since God’s word reigns supreme in the act of preaching, the Puritans, who desired to see a pure church, preached from the pure word of God as their foundation. They knew God alone would transform the church through the preached word. They saw preaching as, “the declaration by the preacher of the revelation of God, confirmed in the hearts of the believers by the interior testimony of the Holy Spirit.”[7] Richard Baxter said, “It is no small matter to stand up in the face of a congregation, and deliver a message of salvation or damnation, as from the living God, in the name of our Redeemer. It is no easy matter to speak so plain, that the ignorant may understand us; and so seriously that the deadest hearts may feel us; and so convincingly, that contradicting cavilers may be silenced.”[8] Bickel quotes Davies which sums up the chapter nicely, “They [the Puritans] hold that the highest and supreme office and authority of the Pastor, is to preach the gospel solemnly and publicly to the Congregation, by interpreting the written word of God, and applying the same by exhortation and reproof unto them. They hold that this was the greatest work that Christ and his apostles did.”[9]

Arthur Hildersham said, “preaching was Christ’s chief work in his ministry,” and Henry Smith said preachers are like “counselors sent by God.”[10] In other words, “He who hears you hears Me,” (Luke 10:16). The sheep will always hear the Shepherd’s voice. Preaching, then, is God’s appointed means of bringing men to salvation, and teaching them about God.[11] Godward preaching exalts Christ, and this high view of God and His subsequent appointment of men to be preachers of the gospel message, determined the aim of their entire ministry.[12] Thus, to the Puritan minister, his “principal duty” was to preach.[13]

Chapter 3: The Direction of Preaching

Robert Trail and William Perkins were of the same mind on the act of preaching. Trail said, “The principal work of a minister is preaching; the principal benefit people have by them is to hear the Lord’s word from them.”[14] This is the vision of puritan preaching. Baxter said preaching  should be accomplished “as a dying man to dying men.”[15] The preacher is to direct the hearer to Jesus Christ, and to God. They believed that the preacher was the man of God, the prophet, who declared to the people the gospel mystery.[16] Thomas Goodwin said that the very nature of the dullness of the hearer required good preaching.[17] Nehemiah Rogers said, “The text is the word of God abridged; preaching is the word of God enlarged.”[18]

The character of Puritan preaching is mainly “plain.” Bickel quotes Perry Miller, “The doctrines of the organization of the sermon and of the plain style were prominent.”[19]  John Flavel speaks to the style of the sermon and preaching when he says, “A crucified style best suits the preachers of a crucified Christ.”[20] The Puritans thought simple was better. It was high enough for people to be brought up to God, and low enough so that the ploughboy could understand it. Bickel says, “The character of the Puritan sermon was such that it had enough rhetoric to get through to the heart, but never so much that the understanding of the simple or the earnest was hindered.”[21]

Bickel says that the Puritan sermon has a particular style which aided in its plain delivery. He says, “Basically, it had a triple division: Doctrine, Reason, and Use.”[22] Here Bickel is somewhat off. He is quoting Horton Davies,[23] but even on this, the structure is not laid out that way in actual Puritan sermons. It would be better to explain their structure in terms of 1) The Text Opened and Explained, 2) The Doctrine Taken from the Text that all Christians in all ages ought to believe, and 3) The Text Applied, or the Uses and Reasons the text is beneficial to the immediate local congregation. An important point here is that “the sermons of the Puritans were restricted almost entirely to biblical citations.” This is true and false. Yes, for the local congregation they almost always simply quoted Scripture. But in republishing their sermons, they would almost always add a great amount of information into the piece to turn it into a longer treatise or book which included copious footnotes and extra biblical references.

The reason the Puritans held so tightly to the structure of the sermon as I have outlined above, was, as Bickel says, “the chief end of preaching was “the glorification of God in the restoration of his image in the souls and lives of men.”[24] For some reason today’s preachers think they can do better. Jonathan Edwards comments on the exercise of faithful preaching when he says, “As the servant of the Word the pastor’s message out of the Word should cleanse the consciences of the people who listen to him. The whole church is edified and built up by this soul-washing, hence the primary importance of the pastor is to be an expository preacher.” Jay Adams would disagree.[25] Many contemporary authors of “new” books on homiletics would say that such preaching is stoic, and drab. Really? The Puritans held to preaching to be both light and heat, “The Puritan’s concern was light and heat—light from the pure Word of God to penetrate the darkness of the heart and soul of the hearer, heat from the pathos and passion of the heart and soul of the preacher to bring about conviction.”[26] It would encompass a certain number of traits such as the sovereignty of God,[27] conviction of sin,[28] and evangelism,[29] in order to lead the listener to Christ.[30]

Chapter 4: The Demands of Preaching

The Puritan view of God and His Church, of God and His Word, and of God and His messengers, gave the Puritan minister the awesome judgment that an “erroneous or unfaithful minister was likely to do more hurt than good to the church.”[31] In other words, if the minister is unqualified or lacking the necessary skills, he should get out of the pulpit and into the pew. The pulpit is not a classroom experiment in the exercise of “attempting to preach.” Richard Baxter said, “Many a preacher is now in hell, that hath a hundred times called upon his hearers to use the utmost care and diligence to escape it.”[32] In this way Baxter exhorts ministers to continually self-examine themselves to be sure they are not unfit for the office.[33] The Puritan minister had a keen understanding of the real relationship between his personal holiness and the success of his ministry.[34] They took very seriously their own oversight as a result. If the Puritan preacher could not preach to his heart and win over his own heart, he had no place preaching from the pulpit to others.[35]

Chapter 5: The Duties of the Pastor

The Puritans considered themselves as watchman over their local congregations.[36] That means no one was left out of being tended to; no sheep is left out in the cold, or left lost in the field. This prompted the Puritan minister to be about preaching and catechizing the flock.[37] Catechizing from house to house was their regular practice. Baxter’s successful ministry in Kidderminster saw the conversion of 600 souls as a result.[38] Added to preaching and catechizing was counseling. Bickel says rightly, “Much of the counseling ministry of the Puritans came as a result of the catechizing of the families of their congregations. Because so much emphasis was laid upon the heart of the Puritan pastor to be able to read his people as he would read a book, spiritual depressions or queries unto salvation were easily discerned.”[39] “Counseling was an extension of catechizing, as catechizing was an extension of preaching the whole council of God.”[40] The Puritans saw the intent of the pastoral ministry as establishing a stronger relationship to Christ by faith.[41] William Whitaker said, “Christ is all, to fill every condition with comfort. The best of conditions is not good without him, nor is the worst bad with him.”[42]

Chapter 6: Conclusion

Bickel’s opening statement of his conclusion is maybe the best part of the first half of the book. “The spirit of this age would have us believe that the avenue of preaching is no longer the means by which God will revive His Church. Rather, we are to engage in and enlist more contemporary means to accomplish what God has said He would do through the foolishness of preaching.”[43] Preachers in today’s pulpit would not even know what to make of such a statement except that they would argue they need to be more relevant. I would argue they need to be more faithful to God and His word, (or “converted” and then faithful). Bickel says, “If the test of a sermon is the quality of life that it produces, then the Puritans were superbly successful.”[44] I heartily agree, and then I wonder why preachers don’t imitate them today?[45]

The Puritans knew that to the degree they saw God in Scripture clearly, to that degree their ministries would be effective.[46] Bickel says, “As a result, their pulpit ministry did not end at the closing of their sermons. Instead, an entire concept of pastoring, or overseeing the flock, was generated. This ministry of oversight began with themselves.”[47] Bickel believed that the English Puritans were better at this than their American counterpart in the New World. In some ways I would agree, and in other ways I know Bickel hasn’t considered all those he should take time to consider in this. There is no mention of Shepard, Willard, Mather, etc., much less really dealing with Jonathan Edwards. But he concludes by saying, rightly, the contemporary pulpit[48] must become, as it was to the Puritan pastors before us, the very axis on which our entire life and ministry revolves.[49]

Part 2: Preface / Chapter 1: Introduction

Bickel’s second work (the second half of his work) is more thoughtful than the first, and compared and contrasted two methods of evangelism in the pulpit: Finneyism (the seeker sensitive nature of contemporary preaching for the natural man’s religion) and Puritan evangelism (centered on a hearty knowledge of scripture, the depravity of man, and the doctrine of God).[50]

Because church history seems to show that the church slowly drifts away from Scripture, there is a need to examine one’s self in light of the Scripture, and draw our hearts back to God. This is relevant particularly to the two kinds of evangelism noted in the thesis. “Modern evangelism adopts a twofold concept of life in the local church: an alternating cycle of converting and edifying.”[51]  In an attempt to consent to man’s will, modern evangelism fabricates some kind of public invitation to come to Christ at the end of a given service, or could be the scope of a whole service, where such preachers believe they are not only theologically correct, but also emotionally sound. The basis for this view is found in the writings and practical methods of Charles G. Finney, not the bible. In the 1820s, Finney introduced what he called the protracted meeting—our present-day evangelistic campaign. In addition, he provided a pew in the front [of the church] where individuals could come to be spoken to as a group or individually; this was known as “the anxious seat.”[52] Finney was known to say at the end of a sermon, “There is the anxious seat; come out, and avow determination to be on the Lord’s side.”[53]

In contrast to catering to the modern “seeker”, Puritan evangelism was the consistent expression in message and method of their deep conviction that the conversion of a sinner is a gracious sovereign work of Divine power.[54]  The contrast between the two causes me to ask the question, what then is the need today to reinvent the way the church preaches in evangelism? In the past 150 years, evangelism and preaching have changed since the Reformation and the Puritan era. Bickel quotes J.I. Packer, “To recover the old, authentic, biblical gospel, and to bring our preaching and practice back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing need.”[55]

Chapter 2: The View of God

Bickel rightly says, “The basis of evangelism in Puritan preaching was a vigorous biblical theism.” In other words, knowing the God of the Bible, and having a sound theology in all aspects of Systematic Theology, was the basis for good preaching.[56] In my studies of Puritan theology, throughout all their sermons, the Puritans preached the doctrine of God constantly. In a chapter entitled “The Miseries of the Unconverted” found in Joseph Alleine’s “An Alarm to the Unconverted,” he expounds in vivid detail how every attribute of God is against the sinner in his impenitent state.[57] Thomas Lye said, “The grand reason why God is so little trusted is because He is so little known.”[58] However, the doctrine of God was simultaneously combined with an influence towards practical application. John Flavel asked and answered, “What is the first lesson to be learned from God’s infinity? A. That therefore men should tremble even in secret.”[59] Since the Puritans remain consistent in preaching “God”, it is inevitable that their preaching should also highlight the supreme sovereignty of God.[60] The puritans constantly pounded into the hard heart of men the truth that God alone controls the operations fulfilled in sovereign salvation through Christ. Only the holy God of the universe could effect the effectual calling of the sinner.[61] Thomas Goodwin said, “only that divine power that created the world (and) raised Christ from the dead,” can save an individual.[62] Jonathan Edwards is quoted in defining sovereignty as, “His absolute right of disposing of all creatures according to His own pleasure.”[63]

In contrast to the biblical view of evangelism in this manner, the tract, “The Four Spiritual Laws,” says, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Really? Tell that to Esau, Pharaoh, and Judas. Modern evangelism looks to gain heaven instead of Christ. D. James Kennedy’s awful but popular work “Evangelism Explosion” asks, “Question 1: Have you ever come to a place in your spiritual life where you can say you know for certain that if you were to die today you would go to heaven? Question 2: Suppose that you were to die today and stand before God and He were to say to you, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” what would you say?”[64] Though these questions might not be “bad” in and of themselves, they are centered in the theology of the idea in gaining entrance to heaven, rather than the Puritan method of evangelism which was to gain an interest in the majesty of God and an interest in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Chapter 3: The View of Man

The Puritans taught the Scriptural view of man as dead in sin,[65] not sick in sin. Thomas Manton gives a hearty look at the biblical picture of man when he says, “The scripture sets forth man’s condition thus: that he is born in sin; (Psalm 51:5) and things natural are not easily altered. Greedy of sin: “He drinketh in iniquity like water:” (Job 15:6) it noteth a vehement propension; as greedy to sin, as a thirsty man to drink. Thirst is the most implacable appetite; hunger is far better born. “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is” evil, “only evil,” and that “continually” (Gen. 6:5). By how many aggravating and increasing circumstances is man’s sin there set forth! There is in him a mint always at work: his mind coining evil thoughts, his heart, evil desires and carnal motions; and his memory is the closet and storehouse wherein they are kept.”[66] Bickel rightly says, “So unspeakably dreadful was the state of the unconverted in the mind of the Puritan pastor that many of their discourses centered on bringing the unregenerate to a sense of the misery of their state.”[67]

In contrast to the biblical view of man, Charles Finney denied that fallen man was totally unable to repent, believe or do anything spiritually good without grace, and affirmed instead that “all men have the plenary ability to turn to God at any time.”[68] In my opinion, Finney’s fundamental theological problem (aside from being unregenerate) was that he thought “ought to do something,” implies “can do something.” As a natural man in promoting the natural man’s religion of Pelagianism, he thought that because God “tells men” to repent, they have “the ability to repent.” He missed completely that God does not change the manner in which he commands or speaks his word in relation to his Law simply because Adam fell.

Chapter 4: The View of the Person and Work of Christ

At no time did any of the Puritans ever teach that salvation by Christ was only made possible. Rather, Christ ensured the salvation of his people in his incarnation, life, work, death, resurrection, ascension and present intercession. Christ is the sufficient Savior, who accomplishes full and complete salvation.[69] Thomas Brooks said, “First, Jesus Christ must be preached plainly, perspicuously, so as the meanest capacity may understand what they say concerning Christ. They must preach Christ for edification, and not for admiration, as too many do in these days. … He is not the best preacher that tickles the ear, or that works upon the fancy, etc., but he that breaks the heart and awakens the conscience.”[70] If then, conversion is a result of the sovereignty of God, and the work of Christ, Robert Traill is correct, “About the end, the winning of souls. This is to bring them to God. It is not to win them to us, or to engage them into a party, or to the espousal of some opinions and practices, supposing them to be never so right, and consonant to the word of God. But the winning of them is, to bring them out of nature into a state of grace, that they may be fitted for, and in due time admitted into everlasting glory.”[71] “In the Puritan mind, the work of reconciliation was the work of the gospel.”[72]

Chapter 5: The View of Repentance and Faith

The Puritans taught that conviction of sin produced by the preaching of the Law would precede faith, since no man was capable of coming to Christ to be saved in his or her own strength. This conviction in the heart and the mind of a sinner became known in Puritan theology as “preparation for faith” or “preparation for salvation.” It was also known in New England circles, propagated mainly by Solomon Stoddard and his grandson Jonathan Edwards, as “seeking salvation.”[73] Salvation is not possible otherwise. God, then, was viewed as the cause of this conviction, as part of his sovereign work in the drawing of sinners to himself. Bickel says, “The Puritans knew that apart from regeneration one’s thought patterns were radically perverted. Regeneration radically renewed a sinner’s mind; hence there was a radical change in one’s thinking and feeling. Regeneration became vocal in the mind of the sinner in the exercises of repentance and faith.”[74] Repentance surrounded turning from sin to God, and faith surrounded resting on Christ alone for salvation.[75] In contrast to this, Finney thought that men could repent and believe simply by a sound argument.[76] Rather, regeneration and the gift of faith is biblically taught as given by the Holy Spirit, as He “blows where he wills,” (cf. John 3:1-10).

Chapter 6: The View of Assurance

Though the Puritans believed that the doctrine of assurance in salvation was received gradually, they did believe that, “Every real Christian hath in some measure every sanctifying grace in him.”[77] However, this sanctifying assurance was given at the disposal of the Holy Spirit where and to whom he willed.[78] Anthony Burgess said, “The difficulty of assurance arises from:

Our proneness to walk negligently and carelessly. Our outward causes: a.) Satan—if he cannot hinder us in our duties, then he will hinder us in our comforts, b.) God—he makes assurance difficult that his favor may be more prized.”[79] God does not always give assurance to true Christians for a variety of reasons, some of which may be that we may taste and see how bitter sin is, or that Christians may more highly esteem it, and prize it more, taking greater heed not to lose it.[80] The Puritans were clear that there is a close relationship between assurance and obedience. Modern evangelical teaching gives assurance to those who are at home in the realm of sin, and may perpetuate a damning hoax on the naive or unknowing. By repeating a prayer, they are encouraged to never doubt their salvation.[81]

Chapter 7: Conclusion

Modern Evangelicals follow Charles Finney in their view of preaching Christ. They have an emphasis on instantaneous conversion at the time of praying a prayer, a system of invitation that includes the unconverted who wish to receive Christ being distinguished from those who don’t by inviting the former to come to the front of the church as the invitation is given, and the pronouncement of assurance of salvation immediately after “trusting Christ” based solely on scriptural promises.[82]

Bickel makes the contrast here between modern evangelism and Puritan preaching where Puritanism proclaimed a broad and vigorous Calvinism.[83] Bickel does not really define Calvinism here, but previously defined it as “centered on the doctrines of grace.”[84] This is, however, a mistake. It would have been better for him simply to say “the doctrines of grace” rather than falling into the pit of modern reinterpretation of Calvinism as “the doctrines of grace.” Instead, Calvinism embodied Calvin’s Institutes, and specifically referred to the manner in which Reformed Christians viewed worship, and the sacraments. Aside from that, Bickel says that Puritan preaching was experimental, and offered “a warm and contagious devotional kind of Christianity; evangelistically, it heralded a tender, aggressive, and impassioned message of substitutionary satisfaction.”[85] In my opinion, a work on preaching should have included information on what “experimental preaching” by the Puritans, was all about. This was not explained. Experiential Preaching, or experimental preaching, was the hallmark of Puritan preaching.

SIDE NOTE: Experimental preaching views where the preacher gets his information, the source of that knowledge (Scripture), how they understand it (doctrine) and how they rightly apply that knowledge, experimentally, in application. They applied the message to understand the text experimentally. When material from Scripture hits the point of making it experimental to the people, it seeks to explain the Bible as to how doctrine is perceived, and how they are applied and played out in the Christian life.[86] It addressed how a Christian mentally, emotionally and spiritually experiences the truth of Christian doctrine in his life.

Puritan preaching was expository, doctrinal and practical.[87] It housed a consistent biblical theism, and preaching never shied away from preaching the whole counsel of God, no matter how much some doctrinal point might be currently unpopular. One wonders how modern evangelicals can even preach anything from the bible in general today with their seeker sensitive notions. Modern evangelicals say men are sick in sin and just need to be persuaded to come to Christ to get some medicine that might make them feel better about themselves. The Puritans sought to convince man that he had a twofold problem: that of a bad record (a legal problem), and that of a bad heart (a moral problem), both of which made one unfit for the presence of God.

Bickel gives a number of conclusions about the Puritan manner of preaching. First, the puritans were scriptural; second, they were biblical theists; third, they were not afraid to use the law of God in preaching and evangelism; fourth, their preaching was marked by a discriminating application of truth; fifth, they used truthful application; sixth, they preached the whole Christ to the whole man; seventh, they had a clear call to repentance; and finally, they did not usurp the authority of the Holy Spirit in his work to change or sanctify souls.[88]

Bickel says, the Puritans would insist that preaching of this sort must be part of the ordinary public ministry of the Word. I would agree. Many today who take a contemporary road to preaching would not. I would challenge them to consider the best preachers in the best time of church history, among the greatest revivals and the best doctrinal standard ever produced, and find out what time period that might be, in order to mimic their methods. So, Bickel concludes with a few points of exhortation to ministers today. “Ministers must preach the biblical gospel; must make adequate room for the varied ministries of the Holy Spirit in preaching; must put before people the true evidences of saving faith; must preach the great duty of counting the cost; must instruct their people in the practical use of divine truth; and must guard and care for their own evangelical zeal.”[89]

[1] Page 1.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Page 2. It was a bit distracting to keep looking at his footnotes where he constantly quoted Peter Lewis in his work, “The Genius of Puritanism.” He should have just directed us to read Lewis, and then wrote his doctorate. He quotes Lewis, Turnball, Davies, Levy and Thomas 66 times. The dissertation is only 80 pages! A great portion of the work is really reading others’ work.

[4] Page 3.

[5] Page 5.

[6] Page 7.

[7] Pages 7-8.

[8] Page 9.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Page 10.

[11] Page 12.

[12] Page 13.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Robert Traill, “By What Means May Ministers Best Win Souls?” in Puritan Sermons: 1659-1689, translator James Nichols (Wheaton: Richard Owen Roberts, 1981), 111:207, hereafter referred to as Puritan Sermons. Quoted by Bickel on Page 14.

[15] Page 17.

[16] Page 18.

[17] Page 19.

[18] Page 21.

[19] Page 23.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Page 24.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Horton Davies, The Worship of the English Puritans (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1997), p. 191.

[24] Page 27.

[25] See his work “Preaching with Purpose” where Adams specifically states he does not think this preaching is for today’s congregation, and is “medieval.”

[26] Page 30.

[27] Pages 31 and 34.

[28] Page 32.

[29] Page 33.

[30] Pages 34-35.

[31] Page 39.

[32] Page 40.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Page 45.

[35] Page 48.

[36] Page 51.

[37] Page 55.

[38] Page 57.

[39] Page 58.

[40] Page 60.

[41] Page 65.

[42] Puritan Sermons: 1659-1689, 1:508-9.

[43] Page 69.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Even reformed preachers!

[46] Page 71.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Bickel includes Spurgeon as a Puritan born too late. I would disagree. Spurgeon was influenced by the puritans in his extensive reading, but his sermons constitute ideas far different in preaching than the Puritans in structure. If you were to ask me my thoughts on Spurgeon’s preaching, I’d describe him as less expositional and more flowery.

[49] Page 75.

[50] Page 83.

[51] Page 87.

[52] This was also known as the “seat of decision.”

[53] Page 89.

[54] Page 90.

[55] Page 92.

[56] Such is also the basis of being a good Christian, praying well and godly meditation.

[57] We have this work on our list to update and republish in modern print in 2017.

[58] Thomas Lye, “How Are We to Live by Faith on Divine Providence?”, in Puritan Sermons 1659-1689, translator James Nichols (Wheaton, IL: Richard Owen Roberts, 1981), 1:371. Quoted by Bickel, page 95.

[59] John Flavel, The Works of John Flavel (Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1982), VI: 147. Quoted by Bickel, page 96.

[60] Page 98.

[61] Page 100.

[62] Thomas Goodwin, The Complete Works of Thomas Goodwin (Harrisburg: James Nichols, 1863-65), IX:279. Quoted by Bickel, page 101.

[63] Jonathan Edwards, The Complete Works of Jonathan Edwards (rpt. Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1979), 13:849. Quoted by Bickel, page 102.

[64] D. James Kennedy, Evangelism Explosion (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1973), p. 22. Quoted by Bickel, page 104.

[65] Page 107.

[66] Thomas Manton, “Man’s Impotency To Help Himself Out of That Misery,” in Puritan Sermons 1659-1689. Quoted by Bickel, page 108.

[67] Page 111.

[68] Page 116.

[69] Page 121.

[70] Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks (1861, Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1980), 111:211-12. Quoted by Bickel, page 122.

[71] Robert Traill, The Works of Robert Traill, Vol. I (1810; rpt. Carlisle, PA.: Banner of Truth, 1975), 1:243-244. Quoted by Bickel, page 124.

[72] Page 128.

[73] Page 131.

[74] Page 135.

[75] Page 136.

[76] See Finney’s Systematic Theology and his chapter on regeneration. It is abominable.

[77] Thomas Brooks, The Works of Thomas Brooks (1861; rpt. Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1980), 111:255. Quoted by Bickel, Page 142.

[78] Page 144.

[79] Anthony Burgess, Spiritual Refining: A Treatise on Assurance (London: A. Miller, 1652), p. 121. Quoted by Bickel, page 147.

[80] Ibid. Page 148.

[81] “The Four Spiritual Laws” (San Bernardino, Calif., Campus Crusade for Christ, Int., 1965). Quoted by Bickel, page 151.

[82] Page 154.

[83] Page 155.

[84] Page 32.

[85] Page 155.

[86] See my article Reformed Experimental Preaching and Preparing to Preach – by C. Matthew McMahon at

[87] Page 156. I’ve reinterpreted Bickel’s three points to remain more consistent based on Puritan Sermons. Bickel says they were “scriptural, doctrinal, and symmetrical,” meaning it contained the whole counsel of God.

[88] Each of these are laid out in clear paragraphs in the conclusion.

[89] Pages 170-175.

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Reformed Theology at A Puritan's Mind