The Art of Prophesying
And the Calling of the Ministry
First published in 1592, this book on the importance of preaching is vivid testimony to how clearly understandable Puritan writings remain, even 400 years later! One of the most damaging flaws of modern churches is the decline in importance of what is said from their pulpits.
Today, a style and delivery which grabs the attention has replaced life-changing content in many churches, and the church becomes an image of excitement concealing a valley of dry bones. True preaching, seen as prophesying forth the Word of God, is needed to breathe fresh life into the people of God.
Few things are more evident in contemporary churches than the decline in the importance attached to what is said from their pulpits. The deeper tragedy is that in many places the church has become a valley of dry bones. Something is needed to waken the dead and to breathe new life into the people of God. William Perkins (1558-1602) provides basic guidance to help all Christians to read and use the Bible intelligently. He has a particularly powerful message for those who lead God’s people and especially those who preach.
The Art of Prophesying carries sparks capable of igniting a preacher. It should be beside every minister’s desk as a book to turn to again and again.
Part 1: The Art of Prophesying
- The Art of Prophecy
- The Word of God
- The Contents of Scripture
- The Interpretation of Scripture
- Principles for Expounding Scripture
- Rightly Handling the Word of God
- Use and Application
- Varieties of Application
- The Use of the Memory
- Preaching the Word
- Public Prayer
Part 2: The Calling of the Ministry
- Titles of True Ministers
- Scarcity of True Ministers
- The Office of True Ministers
- The Blessing of the Work of True Ministers
- Commission and Authority of True Ministers
- The Vision of God
- Divine Consolation
- Renewed and Recommissioned
A Review by Terry Delaney:
William Perkins (1558-1602) preached in Cambridge so powerfully that his impact was felt for decades after his death. His preaching style influenced a number of the great Puritans including John Cotton, Thomas Goodwin, and Richard Sibbes. This current book is actually two separate books under the one major title of The Art of Prophesying. The second book is entitled The Calling of the Ministry. We will look at both books together in this review.
The first book is a mere 82 pages and is divided into 11 chapters. It must be noted that “prophesying” is not a charismatic term or a term from the OT whereby the Christian foretells the future. Rather, prophesying here is nothing less than the proclamation of the gospel. That is, the plain preaching by a pastor or minister. Ultimately, Perkins argues for a plain preaching of the text.
The second book is a bit longer 108 pages. In this book, Perkins looks at the calling of the ministry. Not the person who is called, but the work itself in the “profession” we call pastoral ministry. This little work is divided into two parts with the first part looking at the various aspects of true ministers. Here, he shows how scarce a true minister really is today and also the gravity of the office of pastor that is to be felt by the one whom is called. The second part quite frankly looks at what the Lord has to say regarding His vision for the ministry (and consequently, the minister) here on earth.
There is much to love about this book. If you only read the first book, The Art of Prophesying, you would be ahead of the so-called power curve when it comes to learning what it means to preach. Throughout his book, Perkins calls the pastor to a life of holiness and confrontation. After all, as the leader of a local church, it is your duty to lead with holiness and to confront the sins of those in the congregation.
The second book must be read with great care and understanding. For if one were to read it without understanding, they may go away thinking they have god-like powers. I say this because Perkins states that “the minister of God is given authority to redeem the penitent individual from hell and from damnation” (p. 115). Again, he offers plenty of context of what he means by this statement. On the following page, he compares the role of a carpenter as a builder of houses, a physician as a healer of bodies and a minister as the one who delivers “from going down to the pit” (p. 116). Again, this must be read carefully so that the reader does not jump to conclusions.
That being said, for those readers who persevere, they will be treated to a wonderful and challenging exhortation to take the calling of pastoral ministry more serious than most do today. I believe that if a fraction of the pastors today would read only this second half of the book, there would be a revival across the world and many who fancy themselves as pastors would leave the ministry all together. Such is the power of the words of penned by William Perkins in the late 1500’s.
William Perkins’ words from over 400 years ago, must be heard again today. This book is a must read for any who desires to be in the ministry. While you may not agree with everything he wrote, the truth is, what he wrote needs to be wrestled with today by every single pastor who preaches the Bible. If you are not a pastor, but know one, you will want to purchase a copy for him and give it to him. After he reads it, he will (hopefully) thank you profusely for giving him such a powerful book for the most powerful “profession” in all the world.