As part of the IJBS Blog Series, Professor Alan Marshall (@johnalan57) examines the dramatic pulpit techniques deployed by the influential Parliamentarian preacher and polemicist, Hugh Peter.
Hugh Peter was a key Parliamentary figure of the 1640s and 1650s, and someone who was often dismissed as: “the grande Canale or common shore of all Phanatical principles.”1 Yet while his career was full of publicity and noise (not always, it must be said, to his actual regret), in the pulpit Peter had an impressive verbal and visual technique, as well as a singular ability to hold an audience.2 This fact raises two questions: what was Peter’s style of pulpit delivery and why did he use humour to make his points?
Peter’s use of his pulpit techniques began with an already well-developed neo-apocalyptic style at St Sepulchre in Holborn in the 1620s. Whatever his other character faults he proved a capable, successful, energetic and popular preacher thereafter. Of course, his expressed opinions on many contemporary political and religious matters also drew upon him the wrong sort of attention.
Peter’s skills as a preacher were learned at Cambridge University, with training in the scholastic and Ramist methodology in logic that was mostly commonly to be found in his sermons, in his analysis of scripture, and in his published works. He further developed these skills whilst living in the Low Countries and New England. His Royalist critics would later deride Peter as intellectually limited, and subject to base emotional urges, yet he was far from being the ignorant buffoon they sought to portray.3