Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times"
London: J. G. F. and J. Rivington, 1839.
THE principles, which it has been the object of "Tracts for the Times" to uphold, have obtained more extensive reception than their first advocates could have ventured to anticipate; and the opposition they have met with has been in proportion. But as the former circumstance can of itself afford very little substantial ground for satisfaction, so the latter need not necessarily excite feelings of uneasiness.
Nevertheless, while our persuasion of the inherent truth of these principles may justly authorize us to be thus indifferent to transient blame or praise, the very same thought cannot but make us anxious, lest any, who do admit the truth of them in theory, should be at no pains to realize them in their daily practice; an anxiety which must naturally be felt by every one who entertains any deep sense of the value of such principles, and has observed the extent to which they are being received.
For if these principles, developed and embodied, do in fact constitute that very Church system, which is the channel, as we suppose, of our highest privileges and blessings, it necessarily follows that any want of seriousness in the reception of them must be regarded as equivalent to a careless treatment of things sacred, and as such attended with proportionate danger. That subjects of high and awful character cannot be lightly approached with impunity, is a truth we learn not only from reason and experience, but also from the whole tone and tenour of GOD'S Holy Word.
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.
It is also intended, by thus publishing practical sermons in connection with treatises too generally considered as only controversial, to bring before all persons, whether friendly to us or opposed, that solemn admonition from our blessed LORD Himself, "If any one will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of GOD," an admonition which, amidst so much unhappy contention and dispute, we might, many of us, be too apt to forget.
In conclusion we have only to observe, that if in these "Sermons," or in the "Tracts for the Times" themselves, there should appear occasional discrepancies, it must be remembered that, when many persons contemplate one object, especially one so vast and comprehensive, there must be shades of difference in the light in which they separately view it. And if (which is a consideration of far greater importance), any thing should be found in them which appears inconsistent with the analogy of the faith, or in any other respect not tending to edification, we can only entreat all sincere Christians, who shall cast an eye on these publications, to gather from them what good they may contain; and, for the rest, to bear in mind, that if there should be anything erroneous, or unavoidably scandalous (which we humbly hope there is not), their duty is to make allowances for human infirmity, and to join with us in beseeching Almighty GOD to bless every endeavour, however feeble, in behalf of His afflicted Church.
The Feast of the Circumcision, 1839.
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