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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

II. Reformation Literature in England

§ 10. His sermons

The power of a preacher is hard to estimate, for much of it vanishes with the day itself. But the characteristics that draw us, even yet, to Latimer’s sermons had their attraction then also. The homely anecdotes, the touches illustrative of social manners and habits, are valuable for us historically: at the time of their delivery they gave the sermons vividness and special force. Honesty and fearlessness, directness of appeal and allusions to matters of the day, showed the preacher’s contact with life. They showed, moreover, how far he had departed from the previous conventionalities of the pulpit; almost the only trace of them is the frequent use (seen, also, in Longland’s sermons) of Latin words that, to us, in no way deepen the impression. It was the nature of the man that spoke through all these things, and, because he was natural above all else, because he revealed himself to hearers whose natures he laid hold of by instinct, he gained great power. But minor points were not neglected: repetition, intolerable in writings, but declared, by masters of preaching, to be necessary in sermons meant for instruction, was a frequent feature. He grasped the attention, sometimes by what have been called “antics,” and then he searched the conscience and touched the heart. It was an age that sought instruction, and he compelled it to listen. It would be hard to find sermons anywhere that show so plainly as do his the true relation between preacher and congregation. There was nothing in them of art, but there was the sense of a message driven home with sympathy and love. He preached because he must: the sermon was his natural expression. There had been nothing of the kind in English before; and not many years had passed before the technical scholastics of puritanism, the search after conceits of imagination and expression, made sermons such as his impossible.

A commission to investigate heretical books, upon which Latimer served, had been appointed (1530). Some restrictions were considered needful, but evasions of authoritative regulations were common: church and state had a common interest in checking the heresy and sedition which, often expressed with scurrility, was their common enemy. The control or licensing of books was, as a rule, assigned to the bishops; but the universities, not only in England but, also, on the continent, had been often appealed to. Henry (6 May, 1530) summoned representatives of both universities to meet and examine suspected books. Their labours ended (24 May) in the condemnation of many works; some old, such as the writings of Wyclif and Hus, some new, such as those of Luther, Zwingli, Fish, Joye and Tindale. The Parable of the Wicked Mammon, The Obedience of a Christian Man, The Revelation of Anti-Christ and The Sum of Scripture were writings of Tindale and his school which produced great effect.