Cover image for American sermons : the pilgrims to Martin Luther King, Jr.
American sermons : the pilgrims to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Publication Information:
New York : Library of America : Distributed to the trade in the U.S. by Penguin Putnam, [1999]

Physical Description:
xv, 939 pages ; 21 cm.
Sermons and selections by : Robert Cushman -- John Winthrop -- John Cotton -- Thomas Hooker -- Thomas Shepard -- Jonathan Mitchel -- Samuel Danforth -- Increase Mather -- Cotton Mather -- Solomon Stoddard -- Benjamin Colman -- Charles Chauncy -- Mather Byles -- Jonathan Edwards -- Samuel Johnson -- Jonathan Mayhew -- Samuel Davies -- Samuel Finley -- A sermon in praise of swearing / Anon. -- Samuel Cooke -- Nathanael Emmons -- Devereux Jarratt -- Lemuel Haynes -- Absalom Jones -- John Comly -- William Ellery Channing -- Ralph Waldo Emerson -- Joseph Smith -- Theodore Parker -- Lucretia Mott -- Brother Carper -- Henry Ward Beecher -- David Einhorn -- Dwight Lyman Moody -- Octavius Brooks Frothingham -- T. De Witt Talmage -- Sam P. Jones -- Phillips Brooks -- Francis J. Grimké -- J. Gresham Machen -- Aimee Semple McPherson -- Reuben Archer Torrey -- Harry Emerson Fosdick -- Billy Sunday -- Abba Hillel Silver -- C.C. Lovelace -- Paul Tillich -- Reinhold Niebuhr -- C.L. Franklin -- Fulton J. Sheen -- Martin Luther King, Jr. -- John Courtney Murray -- Abraham Joshua Heschel.
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BV4241 .A514 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The sermon is the first and most enduring genre of American literature. At the center of the Puritan experience, it continued in succeeding centuries to play a vital role--as public ritual, occasion for passion and reflection, and, not least, popular entertainment. The fifty-eight sermons collected in this volume display the form's eloquence, intellectual rigor, and spiritual fervor. Ranging from the first New England settlements to mass-media evangelism and the civil rights movement in the 1960s, these texts reclaim a neglected American tradition.

The Puritan sermons with which the volume opens are extraordinary in their richness of imagery, force of argument, and probing psychological insight. From John Winthrop's visionary injunction that "wee must consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a Hill," to Samuel Danforth's admonition not to deviate from the divine "errand into the wilderness," these seventeenth-century works first explored what it means to be an American.

Jonathan Edwards's remarkable "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," which stirred its eighteenth-century audiences to frenzy, shows the intensity to which the sermon could rise, while Jonathan Mayhew's "Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission" heralds the political thinking that led to the American Revolution.

The ferment of the nineteenth century--the Mexican War, the struggle against slavery, the Civil War--inevitably affected the sermon. Orthodoxies were challenged, and a new diversity emerged in the Unitarianism of William Ellery Channing, the Transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the new Church of Latter Day Saints, and the gathering strength of the African-American sermon tradition.

The twentieth-century sermons collected here continue to wrestle with fundamental spiritual and civic concerns. They range from a homily on charity by the popular evangelist Billy Sunday to a discourse on interfaith cooperation by Abraham Joshua Heschel, and from Harry Emerson Fosdick's controversial "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" to John Gresham Machen's uncompromising riposte. The achievement of the African-American sermon attains a new breadth of influence in the inspiring oratory of Martin Luther King Jr.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation's literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America's best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

Author Notes

Michael Warner is professor of English at Rutgers University. His most recent works include American Sermons: The Pilgrims to Martin Luther King , and his essays and journalism have appeared in the Village Voice , the Nation , and other magazines.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The contents of the latest Library of America anthology appear chronologically according to publication or, because they were composed to be spoken, delivery dates. The Puritans' lengthy sermons follow a four-part formula, tediously to modern tastes. From the mid^-eighteenth century on, the sermons become shorter and more spontaneous, and their subjects become more engaging. Still observing the old format, Jonathan Mayhew's 1750 sermon on the obligation to obey kings intriguingly anticipates the Declaration of Independence. In 1808 the first African American Episcopal priest preaches against slavery. As the Mexican War breaks out, Theodore Parker declaims against all war. In 1864 Rabbi David Einhorn eloquently decries declaring the U.S. a Christian nation. In the late 1870s, liberal Octavius Brooks Frothingham reasons against "The Dogma of Hell," and fundamentalist Dwight L. Moody extemporizes "On Being Born Again." There are fine later sermons from both liberal and fundamentalist camps and more dazzling outpourings from revivalists and the black church. Martin Luther King Jr.'s last sermon concludes the exceptionally rich collection. --Ray Olson

Library Journal Review

A brief review cannot hope to do justice to the scope and breadth of this newest volume from the heroic editors at the Library of America, which brings to light the neglected art of the sermon in its many American manifestations, from the long, learned disquisitions of the Pilgrim ministers to the rhythmic invocations of African American preachers. Its practitioners here include not only Jonathan Edwards but the likes of Quaker Lucretia Mott and popular Catholic revivalist Fulton J. Sheen. This brilliant collection should whet the appetite of most readers for the possibilities of the sermon. Highly recommended. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.