THE Sermons here republished were written and preached at various periods between the years 1825 and 1843.
The first six volumes are reprinted from the six volumes of “Parochial Sermons;” the seventh and eighth formed the fifth volume of “Plain Sermons, by Contributors to the Tracts for the Times,” which was the contribution of its Author to that Series.
All the Sermons are reprinted from the last Editions of the several volumes, published from time to time by the Messrs. Rivington.
They made, in their day, partly through their publication, but yet more, probably, through their living effect upon those who heard them, a deep and lasting impression for good on the Communion for whose especial benefit they were designed; they exercised an extensive influence very far beyond it; and their republication will awaken in many minds vivid and grateful recollections of their first appearance.
They met, at that time, very real and great moral, intellectual, and spiritual needs of man,—in giving depth and precision and largeness to his belief and apprehension of the mysteries of God, and seriousness and accuracy to his study and knowledge of himself, of his own nature, with its manifold powers, capacities, and responsibilities, and of his whole relation to the supernatural and unseen. They found a response in the hearts and minds and consciences of those to whom they were addressed, in marvellous proportion to the affectionate and stirring earnestness with which their Author appealed to the conscious or dormant sense of their needs, and his zealous and energetic endeavours, under God’s blessing, to show, in every variety of light, how the grand central Verities of the Christian Dispensation, entrusted as the good “Deposit,” to the Church, were revealed and adapted to supply them.
Many things, indeed, contained in these volumes have become, from the very readiness of their first acceptance, and from their gradual reception into the current of religious thought, so familiar, that it requires some retrospect of the time previous to their appearance to appreciate the original freshness with which they brought out the fundamental Articles of the Christian Faith, and their bearing on the formation of the Christian character; and to understand the degree in which they have acted, like leaven, on the mind and language and literature of the Church in this Country, and have marked an era in her History.
But, besides their relation to the past, it will be seen in their republication how the spirit which dictated them pierced here and there through the cloud which hung over the future, and how the Author warned us, with somewhat of prophetic forecast, of impending trials and conflicts, and of perplexities and dangers, then only dimly seen or unheeded, of which it has been reserved to the present generation to witness the nearer approach. It might seem to have been his calling at once to warn us of them, and to provide, as best he might, words of guidance and support, and consolation and encouragement under them—an anchor of the soul in the coming storm.
They are republished in the fervent hope and belief that like good to that which, by God’s blessing, they have done before, they may, by His mercy, if we be not unworthy of it, do yet again under other circumstances.
To many of this generation they will appear in much of their original freshness; and to all with the greater power and reality, from the saddening aspect of the times, and the appalling prospects before us; replete as they are with those “many secrets of religion which are not perceived till they be felt, and are not felt, but in the day of great calamity.”