The Full Wiki

Sermon: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Sermon

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Part of a series on

Jesus Christ is the central figure of Christianity.

Jesus Christ
Virgin birth · Crucifixion · Resurrection · Easter · Christian views of Jesus
Church · New Covenant · Apostles · Kingdom · Gospel · Timeline · Paul · Peter
Old Testament · New Testament ·
Books · Canon · Apocrypha
Salvation · Baptism · Trinity · Father · Son · Holy Spirit · History of theology · Christology · Mariology · Apologetics
History and traditions
Early · Constantine · Councils · Creeds · Missions · Chrysostom · East-West Schism · Crusades · Reformation · Counter-Reformation
General topics
Preaching · Prayer · Ecumenism · Relation to other religions · Christian movements · Music · Liturgy · Calendar · Symbols · Art · Criticism
P christianity.svg Christianity Portal

A sermon is an oration by a prophet or member of the clergy. Sermons address a Biblical, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law or behavior within both past and present contexts. Elements of preaching include exposition, exhortation and practical application.



In Christianity, a sermon (also known as a homily within some churches) is often delivered in a place of worship, most of which have a pulpit or ambo, an elevated architectural feature. The word "sermon" comes from a Middle English word which was derived from an Old French term, which in turn came from the Latin word sermō; ("discourse"). The word can mean "conversation", which could mean that early sermons were delivered in the form of question and answer, and that only later did it come to mean a monologue. In contrast to this, is the examples from the Bible, where sermons are speeches without interlocution: Moses' sermon in Deuteronomy 1-33[1]; Jesus' sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7[2]; Peter's sermon after Pentecost in Acts 2:14-40[3].

In modern language, the word "sermon" can also be used pejoratively in secular terms to describe a lengthy or tedious speech delivered with great passion, by any person, to an uninterested audience. A sermonette is a short sermon (usually associated with television broadcasting, as stations would present a sermonette before signing off for the night).

Sermons in the Christian tradition

In Christianity, the most famous sermon is the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus of Nazareth. This sermon was probably preached around 30 A.D. and is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew (5:1–7:29, including introductory and concluding material) as being delivered on a mount on the north end of the Sea of Galilee, near Capernaum. The Sermon on the Mount lays out many of the core principles of Christianity. Another rendition of much of the same material may be found in the "Sermon on the Plain" in the Gospel of Luke (6:17–49, including introductory material).

During the later history of Christianity, several figures became known for their sermons or a particularly significant sermon. Preachers of the early church include Peter (see especially Acts 2:14b–36), Stephen (see Acts 7:1b–53), Tertullian, John Chrysostom, Gregory Nazianzus. Sermons in this era were used to spread Christianity across Europe and Asia Minor. During the Middle Ages, sermons inspired the beginnings of new religious orders (eg, Saint Dominic and Francis of Assisi). Pope Urban II began the First Crusade in November 1095 at the Council of Clermont, France, when he exhorted French knights to retake the Holy Land in Palestine.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, the art of preaching has developed through the theological field of homiletics.

Many sermons have been written down, collected and published. Such sermons include John Wesley's 53 Standard Sermons, John Chrysostom's Homily on the Resurrection (preached every Easter in Orthodox churches) and Gregory Nazianzus' homily "On the Theophany, or Birthday of Christ" (preached every Christmas in Orthodox churches). Martin Luther began a tradition of publishing sermons (Hauspostille) on the Sunday lessons for the edification of readers. This tradition was continued by Chemnitz and Arndt and others into the following centuries — for example CH Spurgeon's stenographed sermons, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit[1].

Role in Protestantism

"The certain mark by which a Christian community can be recognized is the preaching of the gospel in its purity."—Luther[2]

The Reformation led to Protestant sermons, many of which defended the schism with the Roman Catholic Church and explained beliefs about scripture, theology and devotion. The distinctive doctrines of Protestantism held that salvation was by faith alone, and convincing people to believe the Gospel and place trust in God for their salvation through Jesus Christ was the decisive step in salvation. In many Protestant churches, the sermon came to replace the Eucharist as the central act of Christian worship. The goal of Protestant worship, as conditioned by these beliefs, was to rouse the congregation to a deeper faith, rather than have them just partake in rituals.

In the 1700s and 1800s during the Great Awakening, major sermons were made at revivals, which were especially popular in the United States. These sermons were noted for their "fire-and-brimstone" message, typified by Jonathan Edwards's famous "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" speech. In these sermons the wrath of God was clearly one to be afraid of, although fear was not the message Edwards was trying to convey in his sermons, he was simply trying to tell the people that they could be forgiven for their sins.


There are a number of different types of sermons, that differ both in their subject matter and by their intended audience, and accordingly not every preacher is equally well-versed in every type. The types of sermons are:

  • Topical sermons - concerned with a particular subject of current concern;
  • Liturgical sermons - sermons that explain the liturgy, why certain things are done during a service, such as why communion is offered and what it means.[3]
  • Biographical sermons - tracing the story of a particular biblical character through a number of parts of the Bible.
  • Historical sermons - which seek to portray a biblical story within its historical perspective.[4]
  • Evangelistic sermons - seeking to convert the congregation or bring them back to their previous faith through a recounting of the Good News.
  • Expository preaching - exegesis, that is sermons that expound and explain a text to the congregation.
  • Redemptive-Historical Preaching - sermons that takes into consideration the context of any given text within the broader history of salvation as recorded in the canon of the bible.
  • Narrative sermons - which tell a story, often a parable, or a series of stories, to make a moral point.
  • Illuminative sermons, also known as proems (petihta) - which connect an apparently unrelated biblical verse or religious question with the current calendrical event or festival.[5]

It is worth noting that sermons can be both written and spoken out loud.

Delivery methods

Sermons also differ on the amount of time and effort used to prepare them.

  • Scripted preaching — preaching with a previous preparation, it can be with help of notes or a script, or rely on the memory of the preacher.
  • Extemporaneous preaching — preaching without overly detailed notes and sometimes without preparation. Usually a basic outline and scriptural references are listed as notes.
  • Impromptu preaching — preaching without previous preparation.

With the advent of reception theory, researchers also became aware that how how sermons are listened to affects their meaning as much as how they are delivered. The expectations of the congregation, their prior experience of listening to oral texts, their level of scriptural education, and the relative social positions — often reflected in the physical arrangement — of sermon-goers vis-a-vis the preacher are part of the meaning of the sermon.

See also


  1. ^ Spurgeon, C.H., Spurgeon's Sermons, Baker 2003, ISBN 0801011132
  2. ^ Tappert, T.G., Selected Writings of Martin Luther, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007, p.325
  3. ^ Schüch, Ignaz (1894) A manual of homiletics and catechetics: the priest in the pulpit (Boniface Luebbermann editor and translator)‎ Benziger, New York, page 170, OCLC 15157571
  4. ^ Schüch, Ignaz (1894) A manual of homiletics and catechetics: the priest in the pulpit (Boniface Luebbermann editor and translator)‎ Benziger, New York, page 169, OCLC 15157571
  5. ^ Holtz, Barry W. (1984) Back to the Sources: Reading the classic Jewish texts Summit Books, New York, page 198, ISBN 0-671-45467-6


  • American Sermons: The Pilgrims to Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Warner, ed. (New York: The Library of America, 1999) ISBN 1-883011-65-5
  • Edwards, O. C., Jr. A History of Preaching. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004. ISBN 0-687-03864-2
  • Sullivan, Ceri, 'The Art of Listening in the Seventeenth Century', Modern Philology 104.1 (2006), pp. 34-71
  • Willimon, William H. and Richard Lischer, eds. Concise Encyclopedia of Preaching. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995. ISBN 0-664-21942-X

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SERMON (Lat. sermo, a discourse), an oration delivered from a pulpit with fullness and rhetorical effect. Pascal, than whom ' Usually a bow, sword, dagger or other small thing belonging to war.

no greater authority can be desired, defines a sermon as a religious address, in which the word of God is stated and explained, and in which an audience is excited to the practice of virtue. This may be so extended as to include a discourse in favour of pure morality, though, even in that case, the morals are founded on Christian doctrine, and even the sermon which the fox preaches in La Fontaine's Fables is a parody of a Christian discourse. The Latin sermons of St Augustine, of which 384 are extant, have been taken as their models by all sensible subsequent divines, for it was he who rejected the formal arrangement of the divisions of his theme, and insisted that simplicity and familiarity of style were not incompatible with dignity and religion. His object was not to dazzle by a conformity with the artificial rules of oratory, but to move the soul of the listener by a direct appeal to his conscience. His adage was Qui sophistice loquitur odibilis est, and his influence has been exercised ever since in warning the Christian orator against artificiality and in urging upon him the necessity of awakening the heart. Nevertheless, on many occasions, fashion has led the preachers of a particular epoch to develop rules for the composition of sermons, the value of which is more than doubtful. Cardinal Siffrein, who is known as the Abbe Maury (1746-1817), resumed all the known artifices of sermon-style in a volume which has a permanent historical value, the well-known Essai sur l'eloquence de la chaire (1810); he was himself rather a fiery politician than a persuasive divine. Maury describes all the divisions of which a good sermon should consist - an exordium, a proposition, a section, a confirmation in two or more points, a peroration; and he holds that a sermon on morals should have but two points, while one on the Passion must have three. These are effects of pedantry, and seem rather to be founded on a cold-blooded analysis of celebrated sermons than on any instinctive sense of the duty of the preacher. We may wish to see in a good sermon, what Bossuet recommended, not the result of slow and tedious study, but the flush of a celestial fervour. Voltaire makes an interesting observation on the technical difference between an English and a French sermon in the 18th century; the former, he says, is a solid and somewhat dry dissertation which the preacher reads to the congregation without a gesture and without any inflection of his voice; the latter is a long declamation, scrupulously divided into three points, and recited by heart with enthusiasm.

Among the earliest examples of pulpit oratory which have been preserved in English literature, the discourses of Wycliffe and his disciples may be passed by, to arrive at the English sermons of John Fisher (1469?-1535), which have a distinct literary value. But Hugh Latimer (1485?-1555) is the first great English preacher, and the wit and power of his sermons (1549) give them prominence in our literature. One of the expository discourses of John Knox (1505-1572), we are told, was of more power to awaken his hearers than a blast from "five hundred trumpets." When we come to Elizabethan times, we possess a few examples of the sermons of the "judicious" Hooker (1 554 - a 600); Henry Smith (1550-1591) was styled "the prime preacher of the nation"; and Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), whose sermons were posthumously printed at the command of James in 1628, dazzled his contemporaries by the brilliancy of his euphemism; Andrewes was called "the star of preachers." At a slightly later date John Donne (1573-1621) and Joseph Hall (1574-1656) divided the suffrages of the pious. In the middle of the 17th century the sermon became one of the most highly-cultivated forms of intellectual entertainment in Great Britain, and when the theatres were closed at the Commonwealth it grew to be the only public form of eloquence. It is impossible to name all the eminent preachers of this time, but a few must be mentioned. John Hales (1584-1656); Edmund Calamy (1600-1666); the Cambridge Platonist, Benjamin Whichcote (1609-1685); Richard Baxter (1615-1691); the puritan John Owen (1616-1683); the philosophical Ralph Cudworth (1617-1688); Archbishop Leighton (1611-1684) - each of these holds an eminent position in the records of pulpit eloquence, but all were outshone by the gorgeous oratory and art of Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667), who is the most illustrious writer of sermons whom the British race has produced. His matchless collection of discourses delivered at Golden Grove, The Eniautos, was published in 1653-1655. The fault of the 1 7th-century sermon was a tendency, less prominent in Jeremy Taylor than in any other writer, to dazzle the audience by a display of false learning and by a violence in imagery; the great merit of its literary form was the fullness of its vocabulary and the richness and melody of style which adorned it at its best. Some of the most remarkable divines of this great period, however, are scarcely to be mentioned as successful writers of sermons. At the Restoration, pulpit oratory in England became drier, less picturesque and more sententious. The great names at this period were those of Isaac Barrow (1630-1677); Robert South (1634-1716), celebrated for his wit in the pulpit; John Tillotson (1630-1694), the copyright of whose sermons fetched the enormous sum of 2500 guineas after his death, and of whom it was said that he was "not only the best preacher of the age, but seemed to have brought preaching to perfection"; and Edward Stillingfleet (1635-1699), styled, for his appearance in the pulpit, "the beauty of holiness." These preachers of the Restoration were controversialists, keen, moderate and unenthusiastic. These qualities were accentuated in the 18th century, when for a while religious oratory ceased to have any literary value. The sermons of Benjamin Hoadly (1676-1761) have a place in history, and those of Joseph Butler (1692-1752), the Rolls Sermons of 1726, have great philosophical importance. Thomas Boston's (1676-1732) memory has been revived by the praise of Stevenson, but his zeal was far exceeded by that of John Wesley (1703-1791), who preached 40,000 sermons, and by that of George Whitefield (1714-1770).

Of all countries, however, France is the one which has shown most brightly in the cultivation of the sermon. In the 14th century Gerson (1363-1429) seems to have been the earliest divine who composed and preached in French, but his example was not followed by any man of equal genius. It was the popular movement of the Reformation, which made the sermon a piece of literature, on the lips of Jean Calvin (1509-1564), Pierre Viret (1511-1571) and Theodore de Beze (1519-1605). With these stern Protestant discourses may be contrasted the beautiful, but somewhat euphuistical sermons of St Francois de Sales (1605-1622), full of mystical imagery. Father Claude de Lingendes (1591-1660) has been looked upon as the father of the classic French sermon, although his own conciones were invariably written in Latin, but his methods were adopted in French, by the school of Bourdaloue and Bossuet. In the great body of noble religious eloquence delivered from French pulpits during the 17th century, the first place is certainly held by the sermons of J. B. Bossuet (1627-1704), who remains perhaps the greatest preacher whom the world has ever seen. His six Oraisons Funebres, the latest of which was delivered in 1687, form the most majestic existing type of this species of literature. Around that of Bossuet were collected other noble names: Louis Bourdaloue (1632-1704), whom his contemporaries preferred to Bossuet himself; Esprit Flechier (1632-1710), the politest preacher who ever occupied a Parisian pulpit; and Jules Mascaron (1634-1703), in whom all forms of eloquence were united. A generation later appeared Baptiste Massillon (1663-1742), who was to Bossuet as Racine to Corneille; and Jacques Saurin (1677-1730), whose evangelical sermons were delivered at the Hague. These are the great classic preachers whose discourses continue to be read, and to form an inherent pare of the body of French literature. There was some revival of the art of the sermon at Versailles a century later, where the Abbe Maury, whose critical work has been mentioned above, preached with vivid eloquence between 1770 and 1785; the Pere Elisee (1726-1783), whom Diderot and Mme Roland greatly admired, held a similar place, at the same time, in Paris. Since the end of the 18th century, although a great number of volumes of sermons have been and continue to be published, and although the pulpit holds its own in Protestant and Catholic countries alike, for purposes of exhortation and encouragement, it cannot be said that the sermon has in any way extended its influence as a form of pure literature. It has, in general, been greatly shortened, and the ordinary sermon of to-day is no longer an elaborate piece of carefully balanced and ornamental literary architecture, but a very simple and brief homily, not occupying the listener for more than some ten minutes in the course of an elaborate service.

In Germany, the great preachers of the middle ages were Franciscans, such as Brother Bertold of Regensburg (1220-1272), or Dominicans, such as Johann Tauler (1290-1361), who preached in Latin. The great period of vernacular preaching lasted from the beginning of the 16th to the end of the 17th century. Martin Luther was the most ancient type of early Reformation preacher, and he was succeeded by the mystic Johann Arndt (1555-1621); the Catholic church produced in Vienna the eccentric and almost burlesque oratory of Abraham a Santa Clara (1642-1709). The last of the great German preachers of this school was P. J. Spener, the founder of the Pietists (1635-1705).

Among the best authorities on the history of the sermon are Abbe Maury: Essai sur l'eloquence de la chaire (2 vols., Paris, 1810); Rothe, Geschichte der Predigt (Bremen, 1881). (E. G.)

<< Serjeanty

Jean Baptiste Louis George Seroux d'Agincourt >>

Simple English

A sermon is a speech that a priest or other speaker gives during a religious service. The purpose of a sermon is to give hope to the people who hear it, or to encourage them to do right things in their lives. The speaker may also talk about the current problems of the community, and offer ways to solve them.

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address