Among the most prominent distinctions within Protestantism is the primacy of preaching. As such, it should come as no surprise that our history is replete with men who excelled in this discipline. One might think of such notable giants as James Montgomery Boice, John Stott, or D. Martyn Lloyd Jones. Of course no list of legendary pulpiteers would be complete without mentioning the Prince of Preachers himself, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, as well as two of the Great Awakening luminaries: Jonathon Edwards and the highly revered George Whitefield (a.k.a. George Whitfield).
However, despite his immense popularity amongst those in Reformed circles due to his Calvinistic soteriology, and at the risk of upsetting the new young Calvinists, it must be conceded that Whitfield’s ecclesiology left much to be desired.
As an itinerant preacher who employed methodologies akin to revivalism, he placed an inappropriate amount of credence in his events and their supposed results. For Whitfield, the emotionalism that most often accompanied such events was perceived to trump that of the otherwise normative methodologies of the church; namely the means of grace.
While I am not opposed to the possibility of genuine, God-ordained revival, I am opposed to revivalism (by revivalism I am referring to that which is driven by man-centered efforts to conjure emotion, which would then be interpreted as evidence of genuine conversion). However, assuming agreement amongst my readership, the primary focus of this article will not be to present biblical support for the means of grace in opposition to revivalism or its methodologies, but rather to simply delve into the means of grace themselves; considering both their purpose and application.