Certain Sermons or Homilies Appointed to be Read in Churches (1547–71) comprises two volumes of religious sermons or homilies published during the reign of Elizabeth I. The homilies are in English and were intended to ensure that lay people understood their religion better. Before the English Reformation, mass was conducted in Latin, which the majority of the congregation couldn’t understand.
Sermon 6. ‘Agaynst excesse of apparrell’
This homily preaches against overindulgence, vanity and display in one’s clothing, which is presented as a threat to morality and social order. It refers to laws of the time trying to control what people could wear. The homily criticises lewdness in dress (particularly in women) and condemns those who cultivate worldly luxuries rather than a spiritual and moral character. It also expresses concerns about ‘self-fashioning’, criticising the way that people who dress above their station can use clothing to make themselves socially mobile.
Sermon 21. ‘An homilee agaynst disobedience and wylfull rebellion’
This homily, explicitly commissioned by Elizabeth I, is a polemical text arguing for the Divine Right of Kings, which is the idea that a monarch has complete authority to rule because he or she is appointed by God. Those who rebel against the monarch, rebel against God. Rebellion is presented as breeding disorder, moral corruption and sin among the populace, and misfortunes (such as poverty, sickness and death) are seen as the result of disobedience. The homily suggests that rebellion against a monarch is as ‘unnatural’ as a son rising up against a father or a father disinheriting innocent children. Again there is a great fear of disruption to social order.
The homilies develop the reformist doctrine expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion that were developed between 1536 and 1571 and which defined the Church of England. The first volume, published in 1547, was mostly written by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, with its 12 sermons focused on God and Justification by Faith. The second volume (from which these excerpts are taken) was published with 21 sermons in 1571, and was mostly written by John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury. Its contents focused on living as a Christian. The homilies in both volumes are still mandated to be read in churches today.