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Plain Sermons by Contributors to 'Tracts for the Times'
Volume Three--Edward Bouverie Pusey

London: J. G. F. & J. Rivington, 1841.

Introduction and Textual Note [RJM]

In 1839, the first volume of Plain Sermons by Contributors to 'Tracts for the Times' appeared. It was issued, according to the "Advertisement" prefixed to the volume, to counteract an increasing extremism within the Tractarian party:

If, therefore, as time goes on, there shall be found persons, who, admiring the innate beauty and majesty of the fuller system of Primitive Christianity, and seeing the transcendent strength of its principles, shall become loud and voluble advocates in their behalf, speaking the more freely because they do not feel them deeply as founded in divine and eternal truth: of such persons it is our duty to declare plainly, that as we should contemplate their condition with much serious misgiving, so would they be the last persons from whom we should seek support.

But if, on the other hand, there shall be any, who, in the silent humility of their lives, and in their unaffected reverence for holy things, show that they in truth accept these principles as real and substantial, and by habitual purity of heart and serenity of temper give proof of their deep veneration for sacraments and sacramental ordinances, these persons, whether our professed adherents or not, best exemplify the kind of characters which the writers for the "Tracts for the Times" have wished to form.

To carry out this design more fully, it has been thought well to publish, from time to time, in connection with the "Tracts," a few "Plain Sermons," in order to show that the subjects treated of in the "Tracts" were not set forth as mere parts of ideal systems, or as themes for disputation, matters only of sentiment, or party, or idle speculation, but are rather urged as truths of immediate and essential importance, bearing more or less directly on our every day behaviour, means of continual resource and consolation in life, and of calm and sure hope in death.

"We have too much sail," wrote one conservative Tractarian more succinctly, "and we want ballast." Isaac Williams and William Copeland accordingly took on the editorship of what would become a ten-volume series, published from 1839-1848.

John Henry Newman contributed the entirety of the fifth volume, which was later published as volumes seven and eight of his "Parochial and Plain Sermons."

As a whole, the sermons represent the conservative, reserved tone of the "Fairford-Bisley" school of Tractarianism espoused by Churchmen who advanced mildly past the High Church tradition of men like Van Mildert and John Henry Hobart, but did not proceed as "far" in their churchmanship as, e.g., Alexander Penrose Forbes.


Falconer Madan--to my knowledge Pusey's only biographer--recorded in 1897 the following bibliographic information in an appendix to Liddon's Life of Pusey:

Pp. [4] + 320: London: 1841, 8°. Sermons 73-92, Series 13-18: probably their first publication. The same as 'Parochial Sermons, vol. 3'.

Parochial Sermons, Vol. III. Revised edition.
Pp. xii + 482: Oxford, 1873, 8°.

Parochial Sermons, Vol. III. Revised edition.
Pp. xii + 482: Oxford, 1878, 8°.

[posthumous] Parochial Sermons, Vol. III. Revised edition.
Pp. [?]: Oxford, 1883, 8°.

American printings of the Plain Sermons also appeared in New York, published by Sparks, Stanford and Swords, and the Protestant Episcopal Tract Society.

The text presented on Project Canterbury is from the first edition, published in 1841.


O[wain] W[illiam] Jones. Isaac Williams and His Circle. London: SPCK, 1971.

The Autobiography of Isaac Williams, B.D. Fellow and tutor of Trinity college, Oxford, author of several of the "Tracts for the times." Edited by Sir George Prevost. London: Longmans, 1892.

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