The Elizabethan Homilies. The Homilies were produced at the time of the Reformation in England in order to be read in churches to aid the clergy to teach sound doctrine. They are valuable today in that they teach essential aspects of the Christian faith both doctrinally and practically. They also have a further value as a commentary on Anglican doctrine clarifying the teaching of the 39 Articles and Prayer Book.
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“The Homilies were first published in two parts, the first book appeared in 1547 during the reign of King Edward VI, and the second book in 1563 during the reign of Elizabeth I. Archbishop Cranmer is credited with writing the major part of the first book and Bishop Jewel that of the second. It was a time when the English Language was at its best pure, simple and compelling, and this is specially evident in the sermons of Cranmer with which the book opens, on the Use of Holy Scripture, of Salvation, Faith and Good Works. It was also a time when the theology of the English Church was at its best, faithful to Scripture, powerful and coherent. The light of the truth had broken in upon the minds of the Reformers and shone forth brightly with the glow of a new dawn. When Bucer, the Continental Reformer, received from Cranmer the first Homilies, he was, Strype tells us, filled with admiration for their clarity and soundness. The purpose of these sermons in the first book is to show plainly the way of salvation through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the kind of life that flows from such regeneration.
The Homilies are the official sermons of the Church of England and are therefore of importance in determining its doctrine. Article 35 makes this connection clear, as does article 11 which states that the doctrine of justification by faith only is ‘more largely expressed’ in the Homily on that subject. One of the purposes of the Homilies was to put flesh and bones on the doctrinal statements of the 39 Articles.… Ridley, bishop, reformer and martyr, described them, together with the 39 Articles and Book of Common Prayer, as the ‘holy treasure’ of the Church of England and was fearful that it should be robbed of that treasure. Are we conscious of what a rich heritage of faith we have? .... I hope that the publication of this book will make us more conscious of the special blessings we have enjoyed in the English Church and open the way to the repossession of that holy treasure.”
Extracts from the forward by Bishop David Samuel
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