Who May Preach?


Who May Preach

Thomas Hall
The Pulpit Guarded, pp. 1-7

The Thesis

That private persons (though they be gifted, yet) may not preach in a constituted Church without a Call.

Private Persons

First, by private persons, I mean such as the Apostle calls the flock, the people of God, hearers, such as must obey their teachers in the Lord, &c.

The Scripture is clear, that some in the Church are superiors, some inferiors; some are as eyes, some ears, some feet; and as in the body natural, some members are for more honourable employment, some less honourable, but all useful in their proper places. This is fully set forth, 1 Cor. 12. from vs. 4 to 30.

These private persons we call (only for distinction sake) Laymen, as being contra-distinct to Ministers and Preachers, who are men in office: and if we thus use the term, not as opposed to Clergy, (for all the godly are called God’s clergy, 1 Pet. 5:3. Not lording it over God’s heritage, or clergy) (God is their lot and portion, and the Church is his) but to Ministry, and to a man that is a Preacher in Office; so it cannot be offensive: for Laicus means only one of the people. Hence a learned man distinguishes thus: There is Clerus Ecclesia, & Clerus Ecclesiae.

  1. Clerus Ecclesia est sors Domini, quae omnes includit fideles, 1 Pet. 5:3 & Rev. 2:6; and 
  2. Clerus Ecclesiae sunt certae inter fideles personae segregatae & legitimè vocatae ad munus ministerii, Act. 13:2 & Titus 1:5.


Secondly, though gifted, (though excellently gifted, so that they excel many Ministers in praying, elocution, learning, etc and other abilities) yet without a call they may not preach, as will appear by the ensuing discourse: for if bare gifts were sufficient to make a Minister, how many women in this Kingdom (who are forbidden preaching, yet) would be Preachers!

Two things are required in every Minister:

  1. Gifts, abilities and endowments both of life and learning, fit for so high and so holy a calling; and
  2. Power and authority from the Church to exercise those gifts.

Gifts qualify; but the Church’s ordination gives authority for execution.

But though gifted persons may not preach without a call, yet they may and must use their gifts in their private families, and for the good of their brethren. I shall shew them how far they may go without offence.

1. They may and must read the Word to their families, because it is expressly commanded, Deut. 6:6-9, Gen. 18:19 & Col. 3:16.

2. Privately and occasionally they may reprove an offending brother. This likewise is commanded, Lev. 19:17. They must exhort, admonish, and comfort one another, Heb. 3:13, 2 Thess. 3:14-15 & Mal. 3:16. Thus the righteous feed many, Prov. 20:22. They must in all gentleness and meekness support the weak, and set him in joint again that falls through infirmity, Gal. 6:2 & Job 2:11 and instruct others, Acts 18:26.

3. They must pray one for another, Jam. 5:16 and may, as occasion requires, add private fasting in their families, Esth. 4:16, Neh. 1:4 and Acts 12:12.

4. They may meet together to confer one with another, Luke 24:14-15.

5. They may examine and try the doctrine which they hear, provided it be done soberly in humility, and orderly. The Bereans are commended for this, Act. 17:11.

6. Private persons must encourage each other to the public worship of God, Isa. 2:3.

7. They may catechise their families. David and Bathsheba instruct young Solomon, Prov. 4:4 & 31:1. Lois and Eunice teach Timothy betimes, 2 Tim. 1:5, and 3:15.

8. They must set up discipline in their family. So did David, Psalm 101. 2, Job 1:5 & Deut. 21:18-22.

9. They may sing Psalms in their houses, Col. 3:16.

10. Not only men, but women also may instruct their families, catechise children, yea, and perform other family-duties, in case the husband be absent, or not able, or not willing to discharge them, &c. And thus a Priscilla, in a private way, may communicate her knowledge to a learned Apollos.

11. A private godly man, endowed with the knowledge of the Languages, Arts, &c. may, for the benefit of his family, give the sense of a text, and interpret Scripture; yet may not take upon him the function of preaching without a call.

First Objection

If private men may exhort, admonish, &c. then they may preach likewise.


1. A non-sequitur; it doth not follow: for private exhortation is commanded to private persons, but preaching is forbidden them.

2. There’s a great difference between private exhortation and preaching, though materially they may be the same. e.g. The Pastor rebuketh drunkenness as an Officer and public Watchman, ex officio specialis delegationis, authoritatively, by the power of the Keys: but the private Christian rebuketh drunkenness ex communi officit charitatis, privately and occasionally, without any pastoral charge; not authoritatively, as one in Office. Thus the Watchman giveth warning, the common soldier doth the same; the School-master teacheth one lesson, the School fellow teacheth the same: the one, by virtue of his Office; the other, of common charity. But the Pastor doth rebuke sin, not only out of common charity, but by virtue of his Office; not only privately, but publicly, by a Pastoral obligation. Thus we see both use their gifts, but it is in their own sphere: the Pastor publicly, as an Officer; the private Christian in a private way of edification.

Second Objection

That many young scholars, and some private men of singular abilities, that intend the Ministry, do preach before Ordination. So did the sons of the prophets, say they, 1 Sam. 19:20. They likewise urge, 1 Kings 20:35 & 2 Kings 2:7. & 4:1.

This block must be removed before I can proceed.


I answer, that your argument is not ad idem: because the sons of the prophets, and such as are trained up for the Ministry, do preach, ergo, every gifted brother may preach; it will not follow. For:

1. These young men and sons of the prophets are educated, fitted, and set apart for the Ministry, and so are in the way to the Ministry, and not altogether out of Office; but may be said to be Ministers vertualiter inchoativè & dispositivè, licèt non actualiter & realiter; as the kernel is said to be a tree potentia, licèt non actu. But it is not thus with Artificers, Naylors, Taylors, &c. they never were educated, fitted, or set apart for the Ministry, as these are; therefore they may not do what these may do.

2. Their preaching is for preparation and trial, per modum probationis, as Probationers and Expectants; and that before Pastors and Elders, who can judge of their gifts, and must try before they trust laying hands upon no man suddenly, but as the Apostle commands, I Tim. 3:10. Let them first be proved, and then Minister: though we cannot expect perfection, yet there must be some fit proportion for so great work, which consists in three things. I. In Sanitate Doctrinae. 2. In Sanctitate vitae. 3. In Facultate docendi. His doctrine must be sound, his life holy, besides a natural dexterity for teaching. How can these be seen and known, but by preaching?

But the preaching of Artificers, &c. is not for trial; for then they should go preach before Ministers who can judge of their abilities; but as gifted brethren they preach without a Call to giftless persons.

Thus I have shewed how far private persons may go, and have not willingly or wittingly concealed one tittle of their right: it will be their wisdom so to use private duties, as that the public be not hindered or neglected, and the Ministry in no wise slighted, as the Apostle excellently commands both, I Thes. 5:11-13. They must edify one another and prize their Ministers.


Thirdly, the third term to be explained, is, Preaching. And here we must distinguish, before we can define. Preaching may be taken:

1. Largely, for any declaration of God’s wisdom, power, goodness; and thus every creature may be called a preacher: thus the Heavens preach. Psalm 19:1, Coeli praedicant gloriam Dei. Thus reading the Word may be called preaching. But the question is not whether reading in some sense may not be called preaching (taking preaching for any declaration of God’s truth:) but whether it be Ministerial preaching; whether when the Apostle saith, He must divide God’s word aright, he meaneth no more than to read: Whether when he saith, Who is sufficient for these things! he meaneth, who is able to read? When he saith, Give thy self to study, that thy profiting may appear to all men, he meaneth that all men may see thou readest better than thou didst.

But take it strictly and properly, and then preaching is thus defined:

It is an action of a Minister, soundly interpreting and opening the sense of Scripture by Scripture, in an authoritative way, applying it to the use of the hearers, by doctrine, exhortation, rebuke and comfort.

This is the duty and formal act of the Ministry; ’tis a Pastoral act, and is not common to every gifted brother of the flock.

Constituted Church

Fourthly, in a constituted church. The Church must be considered under a double notion.

1. There is Ecclesia constituta, a constituted, reformed, settled, planted church: and here none may preach but such as are proved and authorized by the Presbytery, 1 Tim. 3:10; 4:14; 5:22 & 2:2-3. Where the Rule is set (as in our Church) there men must not flee to extraordinaries, but walk according to the ordinary Rule which God hath appointed.

2. There is Ecclesia constituenda, a church to be planted, settled, constituted; as amongst Heathens, Turks, Infidels: and here, where no ordination can be had, gifted persons (in such extraordinary cases) may preach: That may be done in the infancy of a church, which may not be suffered when the church is grown to maturity: That may be suffered in the planting of a church, which may not be suffered when a church is planted, and the Rule set. A positive law may yield in a case of necessity, Matt. 12:3-4.  Where no Ministers can be had, there gifted men may preach: but in a settled Church, we must follow the ordinary way.

In a collapsed and corrupted state of the Church, when the ordinary Pastors are persecuted, banished, or slain, then God calls such as have gifts to supply that defect: but when the Church is settled and restored, then they must to the Rule. When there was no King in Israel every man did what seemed good in his own eyes; it doth not follow that therefore they might do so when they had a King. In a general disorder men respect not always the formalities of Order saith the Noble Mornay.

Without a Call

Fifthly, Without a Call. No man may take this Office upon him without a call, either Ordinary or Extraordinary, Mediate or Immediate.

Some were called extraordinarily and immediately by God himself; as the Prophets, Apostles, and Evangelists: Elisha is called from the plough, Amos from the stalls, the Apostles from their nets. And of these under the New-Testament, there are three sorts.

I. Apostles: These were called by Christ immediately and extraordinarily, and they shewed it by their extraordinary gifts and abilities with which Christ endowed them. They were universal Ministers, appointed by Christ to preach the Word through the world: they were twelve especially: their Office was temporary, being ordained for the propagation of the Gospel. These are now ceased.

II. Prophets: These had a gift of foretelling things to come; as Agabus foretells a famine, Acts 11:28. and the four daughters of Philip, Acts 21:9. In those times they had a singular gift and faculty in expounding and interpreting prophetical Scripture, in opening hard places, and fitly apply∣ing to their hearers for their edification. They were endowed with languages, because the Church was to be gathered out of all nations. These were temporary and to endure only for that time.

III. Evangelists, who were coadjutors and helpers of the Apostles in preaching the Gospel, and for the most part did attend on them, and watered what they had planted; they were of two sorts: 

1. Some were called immediately, as Philip, who was called by the instinct of the Spirit, Act. 8:39-40. 

2. Others were called by the Apostles; as Timothy, Titus, Mark, Tychicus, Sylvanus. These latter were most frequent, yet were but temporary.

Those Ministers which are ordinary and perpetual, are of two sorts;

I. Pastors, to see to the manners of the flock, to preach the Gospel, deliver the Sacraments, direct them in their practice. See their duty, Acts 20, 1 Tim. 3, 2 Pet. 5:2-3. 

II. Teachers and Doctors, whose Office is plainly and soundly to expound the Scriptures, that the people might have the right sense and understanding of them: and being indued with tongues, Arts, and Sciences, they are to clear the truth from corruptions of Heretics. 

That these are two distinct Officers, is clear from Romans 12:4,8. He that teacheth, let him wait on teaching; and he that exhorteth, on exhortation; which argueth a difference of their functions, by the distinctions of their proper actions.

These Officers are called by ordinary means, and endowed with ordinary gifts, and must endure in the Church to the end of the world, Mat. 28:20 & Eph. 4:13. Til the house be built and finished, the workmen are not dismissed; til all the Saints be gathered, the Ministry cannot cease. Many are afraid the Ministry will be rooted up: let Pastors and people do their duty, and then their turning of things up side down shall be but as the potter’s clay.

Now if our gifted brethren are called, then it is either Ordinarily or Extraordinarily. If Extraordinarily, then they are either Apostles, Prophets, or Evangelists: but these were temporary and are ceased. If Ordinarily, then they are either Pastors or Teachers: if so, then they are men in Office; but that themselves deny: for they say they preach not as Officers, but as gifted brethren, &c. This is such a Preacher as we never read of in all the Book of God, as I shall (God willing) make clear by the ensuing Arguments, the sum of them all is thus much:

That a man out of Office, though endowed with gifts, yet cannot authoritatively expound the Scripture, and apply it to the people, in a settled, constituted Church, without an external call of the Church, authorizing and enabling him thereunto.


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