The time frame of this study, 1833-1876, situates Horace Bushnell in the significant period in American preaching in which Romanticism became an increasingly strong influence. The content of this study observes the main people, movements and circumstances that inspired Bushnell to reject the scientific theological method of New England Theology and develop an experiential theological method drawing from Romanticism. Bushnell's claim that theology is formulated Christian experience becomes definitive in his theological and homiletical method; it asserts the centrality of Christian experience for genuine faith and sees faith as the beginning of theology.
I argue that Bushnell's homiletical work ought to be viewed in light of the Romantic sensibility. Just as Bushnell perceives faith not as a static state but rather as an ongoing process, his own spiritual and pastoral journey accordingly reflects a four-stage religious development toward a Christocentric experience. I therefore propose a more contextually sensitive approach to Bushnell's Christological preaching by looking at it within the frame of the four stages of religious development that Bushnell himself described: 1802-1830, 1831-1847, 1848-1860, and 1861-1876. By examining Bushnell's homiletical work in this way, this study sheds light on both how Bushnell's religious experience influenced his preaching and theology, and how that experience promoted Bushnell's gradual development in evangelistic preaching--something that scholars have overlooked completely.
Bushnell's appreciation of Christian experience in theology and preaching and the work he subsequently carried out have left a significant mark on the development of Romantic preaching in America. Both the time-frame and the content of Bushnell's homiletical work confirm the pioneering role that he had in the line of American Romantic preachers and thereby in renewing American preaching in the nineteen century more generally--something which has not been sufficiently appreciated among homileticians today. This study therefore helps contemporary homileticians recover Bushnell's homiletical legacy more accurately and thus inspires a reevaluation of Bushnell's place in the history of American preaching.