Books of Homilies

Authorized sermons issued in two books by the Church of England in the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I. They were to provide for Protestantism sermonic models for the new simplified style of topical preaching as well as a proper theological base. Thomas Cranmer broached the idea as early as 1539, it was authorized by Convocation in 1542, and within a year the twelve homilies of the first book were collected and edited by Cranmer, who also wrote at least five of them. They were not published, however, until 1547. The first six homilies present distinctive Protestant theology, namely the perspicuity and sufficiency of Scripture, the radical sinfulness of man, justification by faith alone (entitled “Of the Salvation of all Mankind”), evangelical faith, and sanctification. The homilies were revoked by Mary, but reinstituted by Elizabeth. In 1562-63 the second book was issued, though only published with the full twenty-one homilies in 1571. Bishop John Jewel wrote all but two of these; they are more practical and liturgical in content than the first book. The two books were united into one volume in 1632.

G.E. Corrie (ed.), Certain Sermons Appointed by the Queen's Majesty... (1850); J.T. Tomlinson, The Prayer Book Articles and Homilies (1887); M. Donovan and A.R. Vidler, “The Homilies,” Theology (1941), pp. 284-95; H. Davies, Worship and Theology in England From Cranmer to Hooker (1970).