I must confess that I have never really known what to do with the Homilies, beyond that they were a Good Thing. If you are like me in this, then you will, as I have done, benefit enormously from Gerald Bray’s book on them.
Bray sets the Homilies in their historical context, and notes their place in Anglican theology, before exploring each one, providing a summary of the contents. These summaries are clear and readable, and Bray provides quotes from the Homilies, giving a real sense of what the original authors were saying. Because of the length of the summaries, mostly around three pages, it is also possible to appreciate each book of Homilies as a whole.
Around 450 years after they were written, not all the Homilies have the same importance now as they did in the sixteenth century. However, the window which Bray provides into the concerns of the early reformation in England remind us of the importance of justification by faith alone, of the centrality of the scriptures, but also of the reformers pastoral concern that people should seek to live as God’s people. There is much practical wisdom here, and I suspect more that would speak at our age than we might think.
The highest praise I think I can give this book is to say that it has given me a way into reading the Homilies. I trust it will do the same for you.
A Fruitful Exhortation - A Guide to the Homilies is available on our website.
James Hughes is Vicar of St Alkmund's Church, Duffield, and a Trustee and Council Member of the Latimer Trust