Introduction to the American Editions of the Tracts for the Times
(New-York: Charles Henry, Publishers. 1839-40).
AMONG the "Tracts for the Times," there are several pieces which perhaps, in the opinion of some, might as well have been left out in this republicationeither as relating exclusively to the condition of the Established Church of England, or as not possessing any special intrinsic importance. These pieces are, however, so few in comparison with the whole, that their admission will not affect the price of this edition; and it has been thought that the majority of readers would be better pleased to have a complete collection of writings which, taken in themselves and in the influence they are exerting, are certainly to be ranked among the most remarkable publications of the age. It has therefore been determined to make this edition an exact reprint of the whole series.
The present republication will also include the "Plain Sermons by Contributors to the Tracts for the Times," together with such other writings connected with the Oxford Theology as in the judgment of the Editor are of the greatest interest and value. The Editor wishes it to be distinctly understood that these latter works will consist of entire treatises precisely as they have been published by their respective authors. He is averse to extracts and selections generally; but in the present case he would especially shrink from the responsibility of doing anything which might be liable to the suspicion of presenting a partial or unfair exhibition of the principles and views of men whose writings have produced such a remarkable movement in the public mind, and who would ask for nothing so earnestly as to be accurately and thoroughly comprehended on both hands, but those who condemn and those who approve them.
This republication has been commenced from the conviction that these writings are even more important for this country than for that in which they first appeared. For while in the bosom of the Episcopal Church of this country, from influence derived from the non-juring period of English Church History, and from our Church have no connection with the State, it has resulted that some of the leading doctrines of the Oxford divines, relating to the constitution of the Church, and to the Ministry, have been better preserved than in the English Establishment,yet on the other hand, from a variety of causes, loose and vague views in regard to the value of antiquity, the authority of the Church, the doctrine of the Sacraments, etc., are widely prevalent, it is apprehended, even in the Episcopal body, and still more in the religious community at large; and for these evils the corrective influence of these writings is perhaps more needful than in England.
One observation more the editor thinks it important to make. An adequate judgment of the scope and character of the "Tracts for the Times" can scarcely be formed but from the whole seriesat least a very imperfect impression of their value and excellence, as a whole, will be given from the earlier numbers of the series. But the reader may be confidently assured that, as he proceeds he will find his interest in them continuously increasing,that questions of the highest moment that can possibly engage a rational being are treated in a spirit of deep and reverential piety, by men who have come to their work with minds stored with the best fruits of solid learning and profound meditation.
That the Divine blessing may be upon the present enterprise, is the devout prayer of the AMERICAN EDITOR.
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