The Puritan use of the lectio continua in sermon invention (1640-1700)

David Hatten Jussely


This dissertation extends and refines research on Puritan homiletic theory by examining the Puritan use of lectio continua sermons from 1640 to 1700. Primary and secondary sources have been examined for sermons, lectures, expositions, and commentaries which follow a rhetorical strategy of homiletic invention called the lectio continua, a procedure by which preachers develop consecutive, continuous expository sermons through various books, chapters, or sections of the Bible. Results indicate that Puritans preachers living between 1640 to 1700 manifested a strong commitment to this method of locating texts in preaching in their normal pastoral contexts. However, due to the unusual circumstances of that era, historical descriptions of the normal preaching strategy of Puritan pastors have been skewed, resulting in little descriptive analysis of lectio continua sermons. Chapter I reviews the relevant literature on lectio continua and Puritan preaching. Chapter II describes the historical critical method in speech communication upon which this study is based, especially the retrieval and examination of primary texts. Chapter III and Chapter IV explore the writings of individual preachers who utilized this strategy of homiletic invention in preaching from 1550 to 1700, especially the works of members of the Westminster Assembly and their contemporaries. Chapter V examines causes for what has been assumed to be a shift toward lectio selecta preaching, but concludes Puritan ministers preached lectio continua in their own parishes. Chapter VI evaluates the findings, elaborates the theoretical and contemporary implications of this study, and suggests several directions for future study.