For the Westminster Assembly, the right hearing of the Word preached was as important as the right preaching of the Word. The Westminster Larger Catechism asks in question 160, “What is required of those that hear the Word preached?”
The Westminster Assembly had a high view of preaching by those called to the office. When the Assembly wrote their confession and catechisms, preaching was on the heart of the assembly, as the preacher and his work appear over thirty times in the confession and catechisms. The hope was to reform the pulpit as much as they hoped to reform the church.
The English pulpit, in the years leading up to the assembly, was in shambles. Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn cites a published account that “publicly catalogued the failings of a hundred ministers ejected from their pulpits in London.” He says the English pulpit was so bad that there was “neglect of the pulpit, flirting from the pulpit, misogynist jokes from the pulpit, making a business ventures of out of burials, begging for money during Communion, and bad tempered behavior: throwing communion elements on the ground, name-calling from the pulpit and public cursing…”
The Westminster Assembly sought to reform the English pulpit and, by God’s grace, that occurred through seeing that only called men preached; through instruction in preaching; and a robust theology of what occurs in the pulpit. Some of the assembly’s work over a decade was spent in examining and licensing men for the ministry. Preaching that is according to the Scriptures was to be received as the Word of God.
By God’s grace, those who enter into a confessionally-minded Presbyterian church will be in contact with preaching that glorifies Christ, elevates the means of grace, pricks the heart and conscience, and comforts those in need of the Spirit’s consolation. Hopefully you have this type of preaching, or at least long to see it in your church’s pulpit.