Puritan Preaching: The Pilgrim's Progress
February 2, 2016
An awesome action pic! As I begin a mini-series on "Puritan Preaching," I want to begin with the image of the Puritan preacher from John Bunyan’s, The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678). This will serve as an enticing introduction to an approach that remains so relevant in the church today.
But first, I have a confession to make. I once said that I would never get on Facebook. I quickly realized one of the reasons Facebook is so appealing to so many is, well, the “faces.” We love to look at pictures. I know that I enjoy seeing my friends, how the years have treated them, and how their children are growing. Hey, I like to see my new "friends" and become acquainted with them.
So what does this have to do with Puritan preaching? I wonder what kind of pic you would share with other of your pastor as a preacher? I do not mean a digital image. The picture of which I speak is not a physical but a spiritual image. Such is portrayed in Bunyan’s classic allegory as he opened up the following scene in the Interpreter’s House involving the main character, Christian:
Christian saw a Picture of a very grave Person hang up against the wall, and this was the fashion of it, It had eyes lift up to Heaven, the best of Books in its hand, the Law of Truth was written upon its lips, the World was behind its back; it stood as if it pleaded with Men, and a crown of Gold did hang over its head. Then said Christian, What means this?
The painting that the Interpreter as a spiritual guide showed Christian was a depiction of the pastor whose primary task was preaching. He stands before the face of God with his eyes fixed on Christ as he preaches the truth from the best (that’s no cheaply used superlative!) book there is—the Bible. The heart of the matter for him was that set forth by William Perkins in his Puritan manual on preaching, The Art of Prophesying (1592): “Preach one Christ, by Christ, to the praise of Christ.” He is the sum and substance of, energy behind, and goal for all preaching as revealed in the Word. This preacher focuses not on fads, strategies, demographics, and seeker sensitivity. This does not mean that he ignores his socio-historical context, but that his controlling aim is to preach the Word of God alone.
We also discover that this preacher is a heavenly man living in yet not of the world. He is looking for another abiding city to come. He is not loaded down by the cares of this life and tied up in the stuff he can get from it. He remains a man with a heavenly calling not a earthly job. Using the words of John Piper, this preacher is no “professional.” Knowing the terror of God, he cries out to men, pleading with them about unseen things of eternal importance, of life and death, of heaven and hell. He himself looks to another day and another eternal golden reward that will never fade, something this life and no paycheck can offer.
As you reflect of this image, does it characterize your pastor? If not, will you not take his image to the Lord for some genuine “photo-shopping”? How about you preacher? Do you have an awesome pic to upload? May the Lord in his grace provide it for you.