The Puritan Contribution

Bump To Birth

Natural Childbirth Options

Get Instant Access

The Puritans were Calvinists from England." They embraced a rigorous biblicism and sought to adhere tightly to the New Testament order of worship." The Puritans felt that Calvin's order of worship n Hughes Oliphant Old, The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship (Zurich: Theologischer Veriag, 1970), 141-155. Calvin also took the posta postolic fathers as his model for church government. Hence, he embraced a single pastorate (Mackinnon, Calvin and the Reformation, 81). Nichols, Corporate Worship, 14.

The church fathers were greatly influenced by their Greco-Roman culture. Many of them, in fact, were pagan philosophers and orators before they became Christians. As already stated, this is why their church services reflected a blending of pagan culture and Jewish synagogue forms. Further, recent scholarship has shown that the writings of the fathers on Christian worship were written later than assumed and have been reshaped by various layers of tradition (Bradshaw, Origins of Christian Worship, ch. 3). The church fathers were heavily influenced by paganism and Neoplatonism. Will Durant, Caesar and Christ, 610-619,650-651. See also Durant's Age of Faith, 63.74,521-524.

Since this study focuses on the unscriptural contributions of the Reformers, listing their positive contributions is beyond the scope of this book. Nevertheless, let it be known that the authors are well aware that Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, et al., contributed many positive practices and beliefs to the Christian faith. At the same time, they failed to bring us to a complete reformation. ^ The Protestant Reformation was mainly an intellectual movement (White, Protestant Worship, 37). While the theology was radical compared to that of Roman Catholicism, it hardly touched ecclesiastical practice. Those who went further in their reforms, letting it touch their practice of the church, are referred to as the "Radical Reformation." For a discussion on the Radical Reformers, see The Pilgrim Church by E. H. Broadbent (Grand Rapids: Gospel folio Press, 1999); The Reformers and Their Stepchitdren by Leonard Verduin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964); The Radical Reformation by George H. Williams (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962); The Torch of the Testimony by John Kennedy (Bombay: Gospel Literature Service, 1965). Old, Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship, 12. Senn, Christian Liturgy, 510. White, Protestant Worship, 118.

was not biblical enough. Consequently, when pastors sermonize about "doing everything by the Word of God," they are echoing Puritan sentiments. But the Puritan effort to restore the New Testament church meeting did not succeed.

The forsaking of clerical vestments, icons, and ornaments, as well as clergymen writing their own sermons (as opposed to reading homilies), were positive contributions that the Puritans gave us. However, because of their emphasis on "spontaneous" prayer, the Puritans also bequeathed to us the long pastoral prayer that precedes the sermon." This prayer in a Sunday morning Puritan service could easily last an hour or more!"

The sermon reached its zenith with the American Puritans. They felt it was almost supernatural, since they saw it as God's primary means of speaking to His people. And they punished church members who missed the Sunday morning sermon." New England residents who failed to attend Sunday worship were fined or put in stocks." (Next time your pastor threatens you with God's unbridled wrath for missing "church," be sure to thank the Puritans.)

It is worth noting that in some Puritan churches the laity was allowed to speak at the end of the service. Immediately after the sermon, the pastor would sit down and answer the congregation's questions. Congregants would also be allowed to give testimonies. But with the advent of Frontier-Revivalism in the eighteenth century, this practice faded away, never again to be adopted by mainstream Christianity."

All in all, the Puritan contribution in shaping the Protestant liturgy did little in releasing God's people to freely function under Christ's headship. Like the liturgical reforms that preceded them, the

White, Protestant Worship, 119, 125; Senn, Christian Liturgy, 512. The Puritans also allowed the congregation to question the pastor's handling of the biblical tort when he finished his sermon. White, Protestant Worship, 129.

Cassandra Niemcryk, "Did You Know? Little-Known Facts about the American Puritans," Christian History 13, no. 1 (1994): 2. One Puritan leader wrote that "the preaching of the Word is the Scepter of Christ's Kingdom, the glory of a nation, and the chariot upon which life and salvation comes riding." A Puritan might hear 15,000 hours of preaching in his lifetime. Niemczyk, "Did You Know?" 2; Allen C. Guelzo, "When the Sermon Reigned," Christian History 13, no. 1 (1994): 23. * White, Protestant Worship, 126, 130. Adams, Meeting House to Camp Meeting, 13, 14.

Puritan order of worship was highly predictable. It was written out in detail and followed uniformly in every church."

What follows is the Puritan liturgy." Compare it to the liturgies of Luther and Calvin and you will notice that the central features did not change.

Call to worship Opening prayer Reading of Scripture Singing of the Psalms Pre-sermon prayer Sermon

Post-sermon prayer

(When Communion is observed, the minister exhorts the congregation, blesses the bread and cup, and passes them to the people.)

In time, the Puritans spawned their own offshoot denominations." Some of them were part of the "Free Church" tradition." The Free Churches created what is called the "hymn-sandwich,"" and this order of service is quite similar to that used by most evangelical churches today. Here is what it looks like:

Three hymns Scripture reading Choir music Unison prayers Pastoral prayer Sermon

White, Protestant Worship, 120,127.

Senn, Christian Liturgy, 514-515. The Puritan's basic liturgy is contained in a work called A Directory of the Pubtic Worship of God written in 1644 (White. Protestant Worship, 127). This was a revision of the Anglican Book of Common Prayerwhich was first drafted in 1549. The Directory was used by English (not Scottish) Presbyterians and Congregationalists. The descendants of Puritanism are the Baptists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalism (White, Protestant Worship, 129). The so-called "Free Church" tradition includes Puritans, Separatists, Baptists, Quakers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Methodists in the late eighteenth century, and Disciples of Christ in the early nineteenth century (Adams, Meeting House to Camp Meeting, 10). White, Protestant Worship, 133.

Offering Benediction

Does this look familiar to you? Rest assured, you cannot find it in the New Testament.


Eighteenth-century Methodists brought to the Protestant order of worship an emotional dimension. People were invited to sing loudly with vigor and fervor. In this way, the Methodists were the forerunners of the Pentecostals.

Like the Puritans, the Methodists spiced up the pastor's Sunday morning pre-sermon prayer. The Methodist clerical prayer was long and universal in its scope. It swallowed up all other prayers, covering the waterfront of confession, intercession, and praise. But more importantly, it was always offered up in Elizabethan English (i.e., Thee, Thou, Thy, etc.)."

Even today, in the twenty-first century, the Elizabethan pastoral prayer lives and breathes." Many contemporary pastors still pray in this outdated language—even though it has been a dead dialect for four hundred years! Why? Because of the power of tradition.

The Methodists also popularized the Sunday evening worship service. The discovery of incandescent gas as a means of lighting enabled John Wesley (1703-1791) to make this innovation popular." Today, many Protestant churches have a Sunday evening service—even though it is typically poorly attended.

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought a new challenge to American Protestantism. It was the pressure to conform to the ever-popular American Frontier-Revivalist services. These services greatly influenced the order of worship for scores of churches. Even today, the

Ibid., 183. The "pastoral prayer before the sermon" was prescribed in detail in the Westminster Directory of Worship. s Horton Davies, Worship and Theology in England: 1690-1850 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), 108. Evening prayer services were common in the Catholic church since the fourth century. And Sunday vespers (evening services) were a stable part of cathedral and parish liturgical life for many centuries. However, the Methodists are noted for bringing into the Protestant faith the Sunday evening worship service.

changes they injected into the bloodstream of American Protestantism are evident."

First, the Frontier-Revivalists changed the goal of preaching. They preached exclusively with one aim: to convert lost souls. To the mind of a Frontier-Revivalist, nothing beyond salvation was involved in God's plan.'" Salvation was God's supreme purpose for church and all of life. This emphasis finds its seeds in the innovative preaching of George Whitefield (1714-1770)20 ■

Whitefield was the first modern-day evangelist to preach to outdoor crowds in the open air.'" He is the man that shifted the emphasis in preaching from God's plans for the church to God's plans for the individual. The popular notion that "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" was first introduced by Whitefield.103

Second, Frontier-Revivalist music spoke to the soul and sought to elicit an emotional response to the salvation message.1" All the great revivalists had a musician on their team for this purpose.'" Worship began to be viewed as primarily individualistic, subjective, and emotional.'" This shift in emphasis was picked up by the Methodists, and it began to penetrate many other Protestant subcultures. The main goal of the church shifted from experiencing and expressing the

I White, Protestant Worship, 91, 171; lain H. Murray, Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994).

American revivalism gave birth to the "missionary society" at the end of the eighteenth century. This included the Baptist Missionary Society (1792), the London Missionary Society (1795), the General Methodist Missionary Society (1796), and the Church Missionary Society (1799). Tan, Lost Heritage, 195. ■:t Whitefield is called "the father of American revivalism." Whitefield's central message was "the new birth" of the individual Christian. With this he led the First Great Awakening in New England, which reached its peak in the early 1740s. In 45 days, Whitefield preached 175 sermons. A superb orator, his voice could be heard by 30,000 people in one meeting. As many as 50,000 would come to hear him speak. Remarkably, it is said that Whitefield's voice could be heard at a range of one mile without amplification. And his oratorical powers were so great that he could make an audience weep with his pronunciation. Positively. Whitefield is credited for recovering the lost practice of itinerant ministry. He also shared credit with the Puritans for restoring extemporaneous prayer and preaching (Yngve Brilioth, A Brief History of Preaching (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1965). 165. See also Christian History 12, no. 2 (1993), which is devoted to George Whitefield; "The Great Awakening," Christian History 9, no. 4 (1990): 46: J. D. Douglas, Who's Who in Christian History (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1992), 716-717; Terry, Evangelism, 100, 110, 124-125.

Davies, Worship and Theology in England, 146; "The Great Awakening," Christian History 9, no. 4 (1990): 46; "George Whitefield," Christian History 8, no. 3 (1989):17. Ja[ Mark A. Noll, "Father of Modern Evangelicals?" Interview in Christian History 12, no. 2 (19931: 44; "The Second Vatican Council," Christian History 9, no. 4 (1990):47. The Great Awakening under Whitefield stamped American Protestantism with an individualistic-revivalistic character from which it has never recovered.

Senn, Christian Liturgy, 562-565; White, Protestant Worship and Church Architecture, 8, 19. 10 Finney used Thomas Hastings. Moody used Ira D. Sankey. Billy Graham continued the tradition by using Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea (Senn, Christian Liturgy, 600). Music was extremely instrumental in furthering the goals of revivalism. George Whitefield and John Wesley are credited with being the first to employ music to induce conviction and a readiness to hear the gospel (Terry, Evangelism, 110).

White, Protestant Worship and Church Architecture, 11.

Lord Jesus Christ corporately to the making of individual converts. In doing so, the church by and large lost sight of the fact that while Christ's atonement is absolutely essential to getting humanity back on track and restoring our relationship with God, it is not His sole purpose. God has an eternal purpose that goes beyond salvation. That purpose has to do with enlarging the eternal fellowship He has with His Son and making it visible on planet Earth. The theology of revivalism did not discuss God's eternal purpose and put little to no emphasis on the church.'"

Methodist choral music was designed to soften the hard hearts of sinners. Lyrics began to reflect the individual salvation experience as well as personal testimony.'" Charles Wesley (1707-1788) is credited for being the first to write invitational hymns.'"

Pastors who gear their Sunday morning sermons exclusively toward winning the lost still reflect the revivalist influence."' This influence has pervaded the majority of today's television and radio evangelism. Many Protestant churches (not just Pentecostal and charismatic) begin their services with rousing songs to prepare people for the emotionally targeted sermon. But few people know that this tradition began with the Frontier-Revivalists little more than a century ago.

Third, the Methodists and the Frontier-Revivalists gave birth to the "altar call." This practice began with the Methodists in the eighteenth century."' The practice of inviting people who want prayer to stand to their feet and walk to the front to receive prayer was given to us by a Methodist evangelist named Lorenzo Dow."2

Later, in 1807 in England, the Methodists created the "mourner's

For a full discussion on God's eternal purpose, see Viola, God's Ultimate Passion (Gainesville, FL Present Testimony Ministry, 2006). White, Protestant Worship, 164-165, 184-185.

R. Alan Streett, The Effective Invitation (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1984), 190. Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns. Charles was the first hymn writer to introduce a congregational style of singing that expressed the feelings and thoughts of the individual Christian.

:'u The Baptists are the most noted for making the winning of the lost the goal of the Sunday morning service. Revivalism's call to make "personal decisions" for Christ both reflected and appealed to the cultural ideology of American individualism just as the "new measures" under Charles Finney reflected and appealed to American pragmatism (Terry, Evangelism, 170-171). Murray, Revival and Revivalism, 185-190.

Streett, Effective Invitation, 94-95. Reverend James Taylor was among the first to call inquirers to the front of his church in 1785 in Tennessee. The first recorded use of the altar in connection with a public invitation occurred in 1799 at a Methodist camp meeting in Kentucky. See also White, Protestant Worship, 174.

bench."'" Anxious sinners now had a place to mourn for their sins when they were invited to walk down the sawdust trail. This method reached the United States a few years later and was given the name the "anxious bench" by Charles Finney (1792-187 5).1

The "anxious bench" was located in the front where preachers stood on an erected platform.' It was there that both sinners and needy saints were called forward to receive the minister's prayers.' Finney's method was to ask those who wished to be saved to stand up and come forward. Finney made this method so popular that "after 1835, it was an indispensable fixture of modern revivals."'""

Finney later abandoned the anxious seat and simply invited sinners to come forward into the aisles and kneel at the front of the platform to receive Christ.' Aside from popularizing the altar call, Finney is credited with inventing the practice of praying for persons by name, mobilizing groups of workers to visit homes, and displacing the routine services of the church with special services every night of the week.

In time, the "anxious bench" in the outdoor camp meeting was replaced by the "altar" in the church building. The "sawdust trail" was replaced by the church aisle. And so was born the famous "altar call." "9

Perhaps the most lasting element that Finney unwittingly contributed to contemporary Christianity was pragmatism. Pragmatism is the philosophy that teaches that if something works, it should be embraced regardless of ethical considerations. Finney believed that

Finney was an innovator in the business of winning souls and starting revivals. Employing his so-called new measures," he argued that there existed no normative forms of worship in the New Testament. But whatever was successful in leading sinners to Christ was approved (Senn, Christian Liturgy, 564; White, Protestant Worship, 176-177).

Streett, Effective Invitation, 95. Finney began using this method exclusively following his famous Rochester, New York, crusade of 1830. The first historically traceable use of the phrase "anxious seat" comes from Charles Wesley: "Oh, that blessed anxious seat" For a thorough critique on the anxious bench, see). W. Nevin's The Anxious Bench (Chambersburg, PA: Wipf & Stock, 1843). ■ White, Protestant Worship, 181; James E. Johnson, "Charles Grandison Finney: Father of American Revivalism," Christian History], no. 4 (1988):7; "Glossary of Terms," Christian History], no. 4 (1988):19.

"The Return of the Spirit: The Second Great Awakening," Christian History 8, no. 3 (1989): 30; Johnson, "Charles Grandison Finney," 7; Senn, Christian Liturgy, 566. 111 Murray, Revival and Revivalism, 226,241-243,277. Streett, Effective Invitation, 96.

Burgess and McGee, Dictionary of Pentecostals, 904. For further study, see Gordon L. Hall's The Sawdust Trail: The Story of American Evangelism (Philadelphia: Macrae Smith Company, 1964). The "sawdust trail" later became equated with the dust-covered aisle of the evangelist's tent. This usage ("hit the sawdust trail") was popularized by the ministry of Billy Sunday (1862-1935). See Terry, Evangelism, 161.

the New Testament did not teach any prescribed forms of worship."' He taught that the sole purpose of preaching was to win converts. Any devices that helped accomplish that goal were acceptable."' Under Finney, eighteenth-century revivalism was turned into a science and brought into mainstream churches.'"

Contemporary Christianity still reflects this ideology. Pragmatism is unspiritual, not just because it encourages ethical considerations to be secondary, but because it depends on techniques rather than on God to produce the desired effects. Genuine spirituality is marked by the realization that in spiritual things, we mortals are utterly and completely dependent on the Lord. Recall the Lord's word that "unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1, ESV) and "without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). Unfortunately, pragmatism ("if it works let's do it"), not biblicism or spirituality, governs the activities of many present-day churches. (Many "seeker sensitive" churches have excelled at following in Finney's footsteps.) Pragmatism is harmful because it teaches "the end justifies the means." If the end is considered "holy," just about any "means" are acceptable.

The philosophy of pragmatism opens the door for human manipulation and a complete reliance upon oneself rather than upon God. Note that there is a monumental difference between well-motivated humans working for God in their own strength, wisdom, and power versus God working through humans."

Because of his far-reaching impact, Charles Finney has been called "the most influential liturgical Reformer in American history."'" Finney believed that the revivalist methods that worked in his camp meetings could be imported into the Protestant churches

White, Protestant Worship, 177.

Pastor's Notes: A Companion Publication to Glimpses 4, no. 2 (Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1992), 6. White, Protestant Worship and Church Architecture, 7.

Two books that explain this difference well are Watchman Nee: The Normal Christian Life (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1977) and The Release of the Spirit (Indianapolis : Sure Foundation, 1965). For a further discussion on the non-Christian nature of pragmatism, see Ronald Rolheiser's The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering God's Presence in Everyday Life (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1994), 31-35.

White, Protestant Worship, 176; Pastor's Notes 4, no. 2: 6. lain Murray points out that the camp meetings under the Methodists were a precursor to Finney's systematic evangelistic techniques (Revival and Revivalism, 184-185).

to bring revival there. This notion was popularized and put into the Protestant mind-set via his 1835 book Lectures on Revival. To the contemporary Protestant mind, doctrine must be vigorously checked with Scripture before it is accepted. But when it comes to church practice, just about anything is acceptable as long as it works to win converts.

In all of these ways, American Frontier-Revivalism turned church into a preaching station. It reduced the experience of the ekklesia into an evangelistic mission.'" It normalized Finney's revivalist methods and created pulpit personalities as the dominating attraction for church. It also made the church an individualistic affair rather than a corporate one.

Put differently, the goal of the Frontier-Revivalists was to bring individual sinners to an individual decision for an individualistic faith.'" As a result, the goal of the early church—mutual edification and every-member functioning to corporately manifest Jesus Christ before principalities and powers—was altogether lost."' Ironically, John Wesley, an early revivalist, understood the dangers of the revivalist movement. He wrote, "Christianity is essentially a social religion . . . to turn it into a solitary religion is indeed to destroy it."'" With Albert Blake Dick's invention of stencil duplicating in 1884, the order of worship began to be printed and distributed.'" Thus was born the famous "Sunday morning bulletin."11

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

If Pregnancy Is Something That Frightens You, It's Time To Convert Your Fear Into Joy. Ready To Give Birth To A Child? Is The New Status Hitting Your State Of Mind? Are You Still Scared To Undergo All The Pain That Your Best Friend Underwent Just A Few Days Back? Not Convinced With The Answers Given By The Experts?

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment