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 Issues | Doctrine | The Homilies

The Elizabethan Homilies

A printed copy of The Homilies can be bought online from Church Society.


Although preaching was one of the direct and immediate results of the Reformation it was difficult to obtain satisfactory preachers, owing to the incapacity of some, and the attachment of others to the medieval religion. It was for this reason that sermons were provided which might be read to congregations, and these were called "Homilies". It would seem from an address of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer to Convocation in 1541 that even then there was an intention to provide Homilies for the purpose of instruction and to safeguard against error, but it is generally thought that if the book was prepared it was suppressed until after the death of Henry VIII.

"The First Book was dated 31st July 1547, and was ordered to be read by clergymen to the people until further notice from the King. In connection with the Prayer Book of 1549 it was resolved to divide each of the Homilies into two parts, and to read one at a time, and a Rubric was accordingly placed in the Service. They were twelve in number: five doctrinal and seven practical, and were probably in the main by Cranmer, and perhaps Ridley, though others have been suggested, including Bonner and Bacon."
W.H. Griffith Thomas : Principles of Theology p448


Articles relevant to this issue

Preaching, Homilies and Prophesyings in Sixteenth Century England. Churchman article by Philip E. Hughes.


Book 1:

The Book begins with a preface published in 1562.

1 A fruitful Exhortation to the Reading of Holy Scripture
2 Of the Misery of all Mankind
3 Of the Salvation of all Mankind
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 PART1 : PART2
9 An Exhortation against the Fear of Death
10 An Exhortation to Obedience
11 Against Whoredome and Adultery
12 Against Strife and Contention

This first book is referred to in Article 35 of the Thirty-Nine Articles but no list of the Homilies is given.

Book 2:

"The Second Book of Homilies was published in 1562, having been referred to in the Injunction of 1559. This was probably by Jewel, though the authorship is uncertain. The last Homily was due to a rebellion in the North of England in 1569, and was incorporated into the Second Book in 1571.
The First Book of Homilies was reprinted from time to time in separate form, and it was not until 1623 that the two books were incorporated in one volume.
Certain changes were made in the Homilies by Queen Elizabeth I."
W.H. Griffith Thomas : Principles of Theology p448

The names of the Homilies and the numbers by which they are normally referred to are shown below together with the list given of the Second Book in Article 35.  Presumably by the time the Articles were produced the First Book was well known but the list was intended to clarify the content of the Second Book.

The Book begins with:

An Admonition to all Ministers Ecclesiastical

Title of Homily List given in Article 35
13 Of the Right Use of the Church 1 Of the right use of the Church

Against Peril of Idolatry


2 Against peril of Idolatry
15 For repairing and keeping clean the Church 3 Of repairing and keeping clean of churches
16 Of Good works; and first, of Fasting 4 Of good Works: first of fasting
17 Against Gluttony and Drunkenness 5 Against Gluttony and Drunkenness
18 Against Excess of Apparel 6 Against Excess of Apparel
19 An Homily of Prayer 7 Of Prayer
20 Of the Place and Time of Prayer 8 Of the Place and Time of Prayer
21 Of Common Prayer and Sacraments 9 That Common Prayers and Sacraments ought to be ministered in a known tongue

An Information of them which take Offence at certain Places of Holy Scripture

PART 1  :  PART 2

10 Of the reverend estimation of God’s Word
23 Of Alms-deeds 11 Of Alms-doing
24 Of the Nativity 12 Of the Nativity of Christ

Of the Passion : for Good-Friday

PART 1  :  PART 2

13 Of the Passion of Christ

Of the Resurrection : for Easter-day

14 Of the Resurrection of Christ
27 Of the worthy Receiving of the Sacrament 15 Of the worthy receiving of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ

Concerning the coming down of the Holy Ghost : for Whitsunday

PART 1  :  PART 2

16 Of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost
29 A Homily for Rogation-Week 17 For the Rogation-days
30 Of the State of Matrimony 18 Of the State of Matrimony
31 Against Idleness 20 Against Idleness
32 Of Repentance and true Reconciliation unto God 19 Of Repentance
33 An Homily against Disobedience and wilful Rebellion 21 Against Rebellion


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Related Links
The Homilies
BulletIntroduction and list

BulletHomily 1
BulletHomily 2
BulletHomily 3
BulletHomily 4
BulletHomily 5
BulletHomily 6
BulletHomily 7
BulletHomily 8 (Part 1)
BulletHomily 8 (Part 2)
BulletHomily 14 (part 1)
BulletHomily 14 (part 2)
BulletHomily 14 (part 3)
BulletHomily 14 (conclusion)
BulletHomiiy 22 (part 1)
BulletHomily 22 (part 2)
BulletHomily 24
BulletHomily 25 (part 1)
BulletHomily 25 (part 2)
BulletHomily 26
BulletHomily 28 (part 1)
BulletHomily 28 (part 2)
BulletHomily 31


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