Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 May 2009
Few preachers in the history of the Church, and even fewer from the nineteenth century have enjoyed as far-reaching and long-lasting a reputation as John Henry Newman. First as an Anglican pastor and then as a Roman Catholic priest, Newman's sermons provided and continue to provide spiritual and enlightening reading more than 100 years after his death. Much of this is undoubtedly due to Newman's great facility with language. Equally, however, this fame must be attributed to Newman's unique method, the particularities of which are only becoming apparent in our time, in light of contemporary homiletic theory. Like many of his contemporaries, Newman published his sermons. The first volume of Parochial and Plain Sermons appeared in 1834. Additional volumes continued to be published and remained in print throughout Newman's life. Newman also published other volumes of sermons and hundreds of his sermons remain unpublished in manuscript form in the archives of the Birmingham Oratory. Newman was a popular preacher, attracting great crowds to his Sunday sermons in St Mary's University church in Oxford and later at Littlemore, and still later at the Oratory in Birmingham. Newman's preaching struck a chord with his age, and any appreciation of his preaching must be seen in light of its original, nineteenth-century, British context. This chapter will explore the preaching of Newman in three steps. First, we will provide a brief examination of the context of Newman's preaching. Second, we will examine Newman's preaching method. Finally, the meaning of Newman's preaching will be considered in light of its ultimate purpose, the realization of the first principle of Christianity, the Incarnation of the Word of God.