The first sermon that is worthy of note is traditionally called The Second Epistle of Clement. The title is ironic because early on it was recognized that it was not an epistle, but a sermon; and it was also recognized as anonymously written, not by (as the title would suggest) Clement of Rome. No matter…the title stuck. (I went ahead and put his picture to the right anyway).
2 Clement is significant mostly because it is the first fully extant post-Biblical sermon. The homily says that it was to be read after the reading of scripture in the worship service, thus signifying it as a sermon (homily).
Edwin Dargan describes the sermon this way homiletically:
The doctrine is not elaborate, the homily being hortatory in character, but the main great teachings of the Christian faith are implied, and for all that appears to the contrary the treatment is orthodox. The morality urged is sound and elevated. The style is natural, simple and appropriate; but is not marked by special oratorical excellence, is somewhat feeble, and is marred by much repetition. The use of Scripture is reverent. There is no text, but the quotations and allusions are frequent, and derived from both the Old and the New Testament. This is significant for the early recognition of the New Testament writings as authoritative in pulpit use. The interpretation and application are fairly good. There is no wild allegorizing or forcing of Scripture. The tone and spirit are admirable faith, hope, and love, with humility and sincerity, are apparent throughout. Particularly worthy of note is a passage near the end, where the preacher modestly declares that though conscious of imperfection he tries to do what he urges upon others, and begs his hearers to think on these things after they leave the house of worship and go about their affairs. He earnestly exhorts them in view of the future life, and tenderly consoles them in the midst of present trials, concluding with a doxology.” (p. 44-45)
The sermon does not have natural large outline points. It has traditionally been broken down into twenty “chapters” and it is best to simply see them as an elucidation of two themes that are necessary for the Christian life: confession of Christ, and repentance.
The outline (such as it is) is this:
- We Ought to Think Highly of Christ.
- The Church, Formerly Barren, is Now Fruitful.
- The Duty of Confessing Christ (How do we confess him? By doing what he says.)
- True Confession of Christ (confession by words will not save us; we must confess him by our deeds)
- This World Should Be Despised.
- The Present and Future Worlds are Enemies to Each Other.
- We Must Strive In Order to Be Crowned
- The Necessity of Repentance While We are on Earth.
- We Shall Be Judged in the Flesh
- Vice is to be forsaken and Virtue Followed
- We Ought to Serve God, Trusting in His Promises.
- We are Constantly to Look for the Kingdom of God
- Disobedience Causes God’s Name to Be Blasphemed.
- The Living Church is the Body of Christ
- Faith and Love the Proper Return to God.
- The Excellence of Almsgiving
- The Danger of Impenitence.
- The Preacher Confesses His Own Sinfulness.
- He Justifies His Exhortation
- Concluding Word of Consolation. Doxology.
You can find a good online translation of Second Clement here.
Just a couple of thoughts:
For those preachers who “poo-poo” non-exegetical preaching, I would warn that they do not necessarily have history on their side. Most of the preaching –even great preaching–in scripture and throughout history is non-exegetical.
Second, there is a great emphasis on what Christians are TO DO. Action, implementation, application are key to this sermon.
So, that is #1 in my list of the Top 100 Preachers or Sermons in Church History!