In the 39 articles of faith, article 35 says the following:

XXXV. Of the Homilies. The Second Book of Homilies, the several titles whereof we have joined under this Article, doth contain a godly and wholesome Doctrine, and necessary for these times, as doth the former Book of Homilies, which were set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth; and therefore we judge them to be read in Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people. (Articles of Religion)

It then goes on to list the name of the homilies.

What is "The Second Book of Homilies" that it is referring to?


2 Answers 2


While the actual Book of Homilies itself went out of print in 2003, copies of the Books of Homilies can be found here.

The basic idea of a Book of homilies was simple. You needed qualified ministers to preach, but often a lack of training conspired to restrict the number of qualified applicants to a supply less than the demand warranted. This link in particular has an excellent summary, both of the history and the character of the books. From that source, we read:

In the Church of England in the sixteenth century sermons could not be preached by every incumbent (rector/vicar of a parish). A licence was needed, for which an M.A. degree (usually from Oxford or Cambridge) was a usual qualification. In The Book of Common Prayer no sermon is scheduled or required in the rubrics at either Morning or Evening Prayer, or with the Litany, but one is required in the Order for the Holy Communion.

When a sermon was not to be preached at Holy Communion, according to the Book of Common Prayer of 1552, "After the Crede, if there be no sermon, shal follow one of the homelies already set forth, or hereafter to be set forth by commune auchthoritie." The rubric remains substantially unchanged to the present day in the BCP of the Church of England. It was widely obeyed during the reigns of King Edward VI & Queen Elizabeth I (1559-1604). In fact in the parish churches of Shakespeare's England sermons were heard less frequently than the homilies. They were strongly defended against Puritan attacks in Elizabeth's reign. (The Puritans objected to a minister reading a sermon written by another person.)

The author goes on to characterize the nature of these books, saying:

The topics of the first book of homilies are: sin, salvation, justification, faith, good works and the Christian life of faithfulness and obedience. The topics of the second book of homilies include: Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, Rogationtide, Marriage, Common Prayer, the Sacraments, Idolatry and godly living.

Often a homily was divided into two or three parts and read on consecutive Sundays.

It is surprising that the Homilies have not enriched the language with proverbial phrases as have the Bible and the Prayer Book. This may be partly because most of the homilies are in any case solidly biblical, and secondly perhaps because now that they are so little known we do not recognize every phrase they put into circulation.

Specifically, the following topics are addressed:

  1. Faithful exhortation to the reading of Holy Scripture
  2. Of the misery of all mankind
  3. Of salvation by only Christ
  4. Of the true and lively faith
  5. Of good works
  6. Of Christian love and charity
  7. Against swearing and perjury
  8. Of the declining from God
  9. Exhortation against the fear of death
  10. Exhortation to obedience
  11. Against whoredome and adultery
  12. Against strife and contention

Book 2 addresses:

  1. Of the right use of the Church
  2. Against the peril of idolatry:
  3. Repairing and keeping clean the church
  4. Of good works. And first of fasting
  5. Against gluttony and drunkeness
  6. Against excess of apparel
  7. Homily of prayer
  8. Of the place and time of prayer
  9. Of common prayer and sacraments in common tongue
  10. An information of them which take offense at certain places of Holy Scripture
  11. Of alms
  12. Of the nativity (i.e. Christmas)
  13. Of the passion for Good Friday
  14. Of the resurrection for Easter Day
  15. Of the worthy receiving of the Sacrament
  16. An homily concerning the coming down of the Holy Ghost for Whitsunday
  17. An homily for Rogation week
  18. Of the state of matrimony
  19. Against idleness
  20. Of repentance and true reconciliation to God
  21. An homily against disobedience and willful rebellion

As per Wkipedia, the Second Book of Homilies is a book of twenty-one sermons written mainly by Bishop John Jewel and published in 1571.

Thomas Cranmer and other English reformers saw the need for local congregations to be taught Christian theology and practice. Before the English Reformation, the liturgy was conducted entirely in Latin, to which the common people listened passively [...]. Since parsons, vicars and curates often lacked the education and experience needed to write sermons and were often unfamiliar with Reformed doctrine, scholars and bishops wrote out a collection of sermons for them, which were appointed to be read each Sunday and holy day.

In short they were an exposition of Anglican doctrine intended for the general congregation. They are no longer read out, largely because Anglican clergy no longer "lack the education and experience needed to write sermons" and are not "often unfamiliar with [Anglican] doctrine".


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