When James Nicol included the sermons of the Suffolk Puritan Samuel Ward among the first of his Puritan reprints, he was virtually introducing an unknown man to the Christian world of the 1860s. Nicol was therefore wise to secure the enthusiastic support of a contemporary Suffolk ‘Puritan’, J.C. Ryle of Stradbroke, whose words remain equally relevant for the present reprint:
‘The doctrine of Ward’s sermons is always thoroughly evangelical. He is always to the point, always about the main things in divinity, and generally sticks to his text. To exalt the Lord Jesus Christ as high as possible, to cast down man’s pride, to expose the sinfulness of sin, to spread out broadly and fully the remedy of the gospel, to awaken the unconverted sinner and to alarm him, to build up the true Christian and to comfort him- these seem to have been objects which Ward proposed in every sermon.
‘Ward’s style is always eminently simple. Singularly rich in illustration, bringing everyday life to bear continually on his subject, pressing into his Master’s service the whole circle of human learning, not afraid to use familiar language such as all could understand, bold, direct, fiery, dramatic, and speaking as if he feared none but God, he was just the man to arrest the attention, and to keep it arrested, to set men thinking, and to make them anxious to hear them again. The peroration of the sermon on Conscience, in particular, appears to me one of the most powerful and effective conclusions to a sermon which I have ever read in the English language. Faulty in taste he is no doubt. But there never was a popular preacher against whom the same charge was not laid. His faults were as nothing to his excellencies.
‘Well would it be for the churches if we had more preachers like him! The man who preaches in the style of Ward will never lack hearers. The republication of our best Puritans I regard as a positive boon to the church and the world. I hope that men like him may be read and circulated throughout the land.’