A History of Preaching In Britain and America

F. R. Webber

Including the Biographies of Many Princes of the Pulpit
and the Men Who Influenced Them

George Whitefield Preaching

Why Study the History of Preaching?


Introductions to the Periods

Individual Preachers

Jesus commissioned his disciples after his resurrection and just before his ascension to heaven. Matthew describes this commission in terms of the verb μαθητευω, which means to make disciples (28:18-20). However, Luke describes it in terms of the verb κηρυσσω, which means to proclaim or to preach:

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Therefore, the gospel was to be taken “to all the nations” by means of preaching. Paul makes the same point using the same Greek verb:

[The Lord is] abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?

Christians have been sent, and by Jesus Christ himself! They have been sent to preach.

The three-volume set, A History of Preaching in Britain and America, by F. R. Webber follows the spread of the gospel through preaching to England and subsequently to America. Major revivals take place, the greatest of these being the Protestant Reformation. If you would like to read how all this took place and who these preachers were, this is the set of books for you. Our presentation here is hardly complete. We have simply selected a number of preachers to highlight the major steps as the gospel spread throughout England and America.

Webber’s work was published in 1952. He concludes his preface with the following statement:

…America remains [in 1952] essentially Protestant, Calvinistic and mildly Puritanical, insofar as the majority of her preaching is concerned.

The current situation in America, and in England and the rest of Europe as well, could not be more diametrically opposite. Today, the preaching and preachers in the liberal mainline denominations “celebrate” sin. What we need today is another “Great Awakening” as in the 18th and 19th centuries.

These excerpts were compiled by Carol Morgan and consist of selections from the three-volume set, A History of Preaching in Britain and America, by F. R. Webber (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1952).

Except for abridgment, the original text of the author is reproduced here with no changes. The selected excerpts in this table are in historical order and are limited to volume one.

The Period of the Celtic Church

St. Ninian

St. Columba

St. Columbanus

The Coming of the Latin Church

St. Augustine


St. Boniface

The Pre-Reformation Period

Stephen Langton


John Wyclif

The English Reformation

Hugh Latimer

Thomas Bilney

John Bradford

The Puritan Age

Edmund Grindal

William Perkins

Richard Baxter

John Howe

The Period of Apathy

William Beveridge

Matthew Henry

John Gill

Richard Pearsall

The Evangelical Awakening

John Wesley

George Whitefield

The Evangelical Group

William Grimshaw

Henry Venn

John Newton

George Horne

William Jay

Legh Richmond

Alexander Fletcher

James Parsons