William Gouge on Saying ‘Amen’




The Sabbath’s Sanctification, 1641, pp. 3-4.   HT: Andrew Myers

Question 11. What duties are done by the people?

(4.) Saying “amen” audibly to the blessing.

As for an audible pronouncing of “amen,” if the minds of them that pronounce it have been upon that which the minister uttered, and their hearts have given consent thereto, it comprises altogether as much as the minister has uttered.  This is the only warrantable means for people to utter their minds in a congregation.  It must, therefore, be uttered by everyone, altogether, so loud, as the minister may hear their consent, as well as they hear what he has uttered in their name.  For the one is as requisite as the other.



A Guide to go to God, 1626, reprinted by Reformation Heritage Books, 2011.  See the whole of the larger section, pp. 330-340.  This work is public domain.

242. Of the use of Amen being added to a Speech

How is Amen added to a speech?

1. By him that utters a speech
2. By him, or them that hear it.

It was usual with the apostles when they made a prayer, or gave thanks, or pronounced a blessing, themselves to add thereunto Amen (Rom. 16:24,27; 1 Cor. 16:24; 2 Cor. 13:13; 1 Pet. 5:14; 1 John 5:21; Jude 25):  And as usual it was with the people of God that heard like speeches uttered by others, to say Amen: whether it were only one (1 Kings 1:36), or many together (Neh. 5:13).

Many are the kinds and forms of speeches whereunto Amen is in Scripture noted to be added, as

1. Petitions. (Rom. 15:33)
2. Benedictions and Praises. (Neh. 8:6)
3. Imprecations and Curses. (Neh. 5:13)
4. Exhortations to Duties. (1 John 5:21)
5. Declarations and Promises. (Rev. 22:20)
6. Denunciations of Judgments. (Rev. 1:17)

Three especial things does Amen import when it is pronounced after any of the fore-named speeches.

1. True assent. (1 Cor. 14:16) This the apostle implies, where he directs the Church to pray, read and preach in a known tongue, for this end, that even the unlearned hearer may say Amen, that is, understanding what he hears give assent thereto.

2. Earnest desire. When the prophet Jeremiah heard the prophesy of Hananiah concerning the return of the King of Judah to his kingdom, and the other captives to their land, and of the vessels that were taken away, to the Temple, though he knew that to be a false prophesy, yet to show how earnestly he desired that it might be so (Jer. 28:6), he says thereto, Amen: and fully to declare what he meant thereby, he adds, ‘The Lord do so: the Lord perform thy words, etc.’

3. Stedfast faith. (Rev. 22:20) Where Christ makes a promise of his second coming, saying, ‘Surely I come quickly’: the Church, to show her stedfast faith in that promise, says, Amen, which imports thus much, ‘Lord, I believe what You have said: Even so, some Lord Jesus.’

These being the proper ends [designs] of saying Amen, to manifest assent, desire and faith, it is without contradiction true, that whosoever says Amen, must understand that whereunto he says Amen.  In this case two things are necessarily to be understood.

1. The words that are uttered.
2. The meaning of those words. (1 Cor. 14:9)

If the words spoken be not understood, they are as spoken into the air, altogether in vain: and the speaker and hearer are as Barbarians one to another.  No more benefit can be received by the words of a man not understood, than by the indistinct voice of an unreasonable creature.  But suppose the words be such as in themselves are intelligible, being English words to an English man, yet if the sense and meaning of them be not conceived, they are to no better purpose than words of a strange and unknown language.  Words have sometimes a figurative sense and meaning, which if it be not understood, the proper and true use and benefit of them is lost.  If Christ had not made his disciples to understand the sense and meaning of this direction, ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees’, they had got no good at all thereby.  It is therefore necessary that as the words themselves, so the proper sense of them be well understood.

Objection: Amen is a Hebrew word: that language is understood  of very few: why then is it used of all nations, of all people in all nations, learned and unlearned?


1. The apostles, though they spoke, and wrote not in Hebrew, but in Greek, yet they used this Hebrew word (Rom. 1:15): so as we have an express warrant for retaining this word in another language.  

2. Continual use has made it familiar to all persons, of all languages, in all nations. So as it is everywhere as a proper vulgar, mother word. Thus these two titles Jesus Christ, though the one be Hebrew, and the other Greek, are made so familiar, as in all languages they are retained.

3. No other one word so fit for the purpose, can in any other language be invented, as Amen is. Not without reason therefore, and just cause is it, that it has been made a word of all languages. It comprises under it whatsoever is expressed or understood in and by the speech whereunto it is added.  These words (‘Cursed be he that confirms not all the words of this Law to do them’) had a large extent: yet the Amen, which the people were to say thereto, extended itself as far.

243.  Of the duties which Amen added to a speech implies.

What duties are implied by the use of Amen after a speech [is] ended?

1. Such as concern the Speaker.
2. Such as concern the Hearer.
3. Such as concern both Speaker and Hearer.

1. Three duties especially are required of him that utters the speech whereunto Amen is added.

1. To speak intelligibly in a known tongue. This is a point much pressed, 1 Cor. 14:2, etc. See more hereof in The Whole Armor of God on Eph. 6:18, paragraphs 87,88.

2. To speak audibly, so as they which are to say Amen, may hear what is said. The Levites under the Law were expressly enjoined to speak to the people with a loud voice. Accordingly the Levites that were the mouth of the people to God, and prayed in their presence, cried with a loud voice unto the Lord their God.  Be a prayer made as intelligibly as may be, if it be not heard of them that are present, they cannot with assent, desire, and say Amen.

3. To speak distinctly: that is, so treatably as hearers may observe every petition, and every particular point for which thanks is given. It is expressly noted of such as instructed the people of God that they did it distinctly: whereby the hearers better understood what was delivered. If Prayer or Thanksgiving be uttered by a voluble, swift tongue, too fast, hearers cannot advisedly observe the several branches thereof: so as if they say Amen, at the best, it cannot be but to some parts: it cannot be to all the prayer, or praise that is uttered.

2. Three duties also are required of them who say Amen to a speech uttered by others.

1. To attend diligently to that which is uttered. The people that said Amen to Ezra’s blessing are said to stand up, while he spoke. That gesture implies a diligent attention.  If our minds be wandering, and not attentive to that which is uttered, what assent, what desire, what faith can there be?  And if there be none of these, to what end is Amen said?  Surely it is a plain mockage of God.

2. To give assent thereto. If with the mouth Amen be uttered and no assent given with the heart, heart and tongue are repugnant, and no better censure can be given of such an Amen, than that it is the Amen of a hypocrite, which is odious and detestable to God? The apostle under this phrase (‘How shall we say Amen?’ 1 Cor. 14:16) implies assent: for a man may utter this word Amen to that which he understands not: but with assent of mind and heart he cannot say Amen.

3. To manifest that assent. The phrase of saying Amen, oft used in Scripture does import a manifestation of assent. For that which is said and uttered, is manifested.  This manifestation of assent on the hearer’s part, must be, as the uttering of the prayer on the Speaker’s part, audibly.  Every hearer in an assembly must utter Amen, as loud as the Minister utters the prayer.  In may places it is put off only to the Clerk.  But herein all should be Clerks.  There is mention made of a celestial sound, which was ‘as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thundering, saying, Hallelu-iah.’  I full assemblies in our Churches did all of them audibly after a prayer say Amen, so audibly as the sound of everyone’s voice there present might come at least to the minister’s ears, it would be such a sound as is there mentioned, an heavenly sound: A sound well becoming a Church.  No echo like to the echo which makes the walls of a Church to ring again with Amen.  Such a sound would quicken [enliven] a minister’s spirits, and put a kind of heavenly life into the people themselves.

3. The duties which are required both of speaker and hearers by virtue of Amen to be added are these that follow.

1. To know the ground of all that is uttered, that that which is mentioned, whereunto Amen is to be added, is grounded on God’s Word, and agreeable to his will. For ‘this is the confidence which we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to his will, He hears us.

2. To have the mind fixed thereon. The mind of the speaker, as well as the Hearer may be roving and wandering: especially when a set, prescribed, usual form of prayer is uttered: or when a prayer is read. Now because the utterer of  prayer must say Amen to his own prayer, as well as the hearers, he, as well as they, and they, as well as he, even all of them must hold their mind steady thereon; else ‘will their heart be removed from God, while they draw near to Him with their mouth’ (Isa. 29:13): which is an abomination to Him..

3. To retain, as well as they can, in memory all that is uttered. For Amen must be applied to the whole speech, and to every part thereof. matters well retained in memory make Amen to come from the heart and to be uttered with a goodwill.  ‘When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me,’ says the psalmist (Ps. 42:4).  That which is forgotten, is as not heard, or not understood, or not attended unto.

4. To be affected with the prayer. This will make men double their Amen, as the Jews did when Ezra ‘blessed the Lord. All the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands.’ (Neh. 8:6)  Did not their speech and gesture both declare much affection of heart?  Without this inward affection Amen will be but coldly uttered.

5. To believe God’s gracious acceptation of the prayer. It has been before proved that Amen is a ratification of all that which is uttered before it. But with what heart can that which is not before believed, be after ratified.  Expressly therefore says Christ, ‘What thing soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive it,’ (Matt 11:24)  And his apostle puts this in, as a necessary proviso, to prayer, ‘Let him ask in faith.’ (Jam. 1:6)





Related Pages

Saying ‘Amen’ After Prayers


The Regulative Principle of Worship

Responsive Readings