Tongues of Angels, Tongues of Men: A Book of Sermons

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9780385488921: Tongues of Angels, Tongues of Men: A Book of Sermons
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Tongues of Angels, Tongues of Men: A Book of Sermons is a one-volume collection of the world's great sermons from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Resonant with promise, here are the speeches that have echoed down the centuries. From the Sermon on the Mount to Savonarola's attack on Renaissance Florence's excesses, from the anti-Nazi preaching of Bonhoeffer to Merton's awareness of the everyday in spiritual life, there is no issue or dilemma the pulpit has not addressed.

This engaging collection combines a myriad of topics, individuals, eras, and controversies to achieve a balance of the human, the moral, and the theological. Jewish readers will be moved by the Hasidic exhortation to faith and joy, and Christian readers will appreciate the pulpits use as a forum for debate.

Edited, annotated, and abridged by two experts, here are nearly one hundred famed sermons from preachers as diverse as Paul, Augustine, Benedict, Curé d'Ars, John Donne, Hildegard of Bingen, Girolamo Savonarola, Martin Luther, Meister Eckhart, John Henry Newman, Cotton Mather, Thomas Crammer, Henry Ward Beecher, Desmond Tutu, Martin Niemöller, John Calvin, Rabbi Akiba, John Wesley, Billy Sunday, Bernard of Clairvaux, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many, many more. A full thematic index, an alphabetical list of preachers, and a comprehensive index complete this book filled with timeless riches.

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Phillips Brooks, the Episcopal bishop of Boston near the end of the 19th century, defined preaching as "the communication of truth by man to men. It has two essential elements, truth and personality ... preaching is the bringing of truth through personality." This definition, cited by John F. Thorton in the introduction to Tongues of Angels, Tongues of Men: A Book of Sermons, gives a clear sense of what this book delivers.

Tongues of Angels, Tongues of Men gathers many of the most vibrant public expressions of Christian and Jewish truths ever made by some of the most compelling personalities in the history of these religions. From Jesus' Sermon on the Mount to John Donne's "Death's Duel" to Martin Luther King's "The Dimensions of a Complete Life," Tongues of Angels, Tongues of Men dazzles readers with timeless wisdom, shaped by its speakers' distinct voices. More than 80 sermons by Christians and Jews, each preceded by a brief biographical sketch of the preacher, are gathered in an elegant volume that will serve as a devotional for laypeople, an inspirational resource for pastors, and a historical reference for any reader interested in the development of Jewish and Christian communication since the time of Jesus. A useful (if somewhat humid) introduction gives a basic sense of the development of the sermon genre from the early church through the Middle Ages, the Reformation, and beyond. Most readers will skip straight to the sermons themselves, however, because life is short, and this book is a reminder to concentrate only on the most excellent things. --Michael Joseph Gross

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

"Are Not My Words as a Fire? Saith the Lord, and as a Hammer That Breaketh the Rock in Pieces?"

The Apostolic Era

Jesus of Nazareth 4 b.c.-ca. a.d. 32

As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins would put it eighteen centuries later, "Nowhere in literature is there anything to match the Sermon on the Mount: if there is let men bring it forward." Its grandeur and its epitomization of an entire faith are astonishing, yet this Sermon is in some ways an anomalous inspiration for the very sermon form.

In Matthew's version (there is another to be found in Luke 6:17-49) Jesus speaks outdoors, apparently to his disciples, even though multitudes surround them; he is not speaking while conducting any religious ceremony but is rather teaching these twelve men who have given up their former lives and have now become his followers.

That this teaching will lead to the cross is hinted at when he speaks to them directly in the last of the eight Beatitudes: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." (5:11.)

Of the new ways in which they were being taught to stand in relation to God, perhaps none is so startling as the command to "love your enemies," meaning we are no longer to have enemies and indeed are to give love in return for any hatred we may receive. The reaction of his listeners to this radical injunction-and to the rest of his teaching-was astonishment. But it was the astonishment of those whose minds had been opened to a new reality by the uncanny authority (see 7:29) with which he taught.

This sermon of sermons, never after surpassed, remains for men and women of faith a standard by which all religious speech may be measured.

The Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5-8:1 (King James Version)

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca [Fool], shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: but I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

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