The Journal of Ecclesiastical History

Scripture, Style and Persuasion in Seventeenth-Century English Theories of Preaching 1



The distinction between a Puritan ‘plain’ and a Laudian ‘metaphysical’ preaching style rests on secular rhetorical theories of persuasion that are relatively unimportant to early Stuart homiletics but are central to later Latitudinarian polemics on preaching. Instead, the ‘English Reformed’ theory and method of sermon composition rests on the didactic function of preaching and the need for the Holy Spirit and hearers to co-operate with the preacher. Although Andrewes and some avant-garde conformists questioned this theory, they developed no alternative method of composition. Arguments made in the 1650s for direct inspiration by the Spirit contributed to the decline of both theory and method.


1 This article was delivered as a paper to the Tudor and Stuart History seminar in Cambridge: I would like to thank the participants for their comments. I would also like to thank Patrick Collinson, Arnold Hunt, Jeanne Shami and Alan Cromartie for their help and advice.