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The Thirty-three Sermons printed in this volume, which are usually known as “the Homilies,” were written about the middle of the 16th century, collected into two books, and set forth by the highest authorities both in Church and State, for the use both of the Clergy and Laity. The twelve first Homilies, forming the first book, were set forth in 1547: the twenty which follow wère published in 1563, and with the Homily against Rebellion, which was added in 1572, form the second book.
It is impossible to determine with certainty who were the authors of most of these valuable discourses : Archbishop Cranmer is supposed to have written the first, the third, the fourth, and the fifth; the second is ascribed to Archdeacon Harpsfield; the 7th and 11th to Thos. Becon; and the 13th, 15th, 17th, and 18th to Bishop Pilkington; the 25th and 26th are from Taverner's Postils, which were printed in 1540; and the 14th appears to have been taken from a work of Bishop Ridley, with the addition of many passages from Bullinger.
The publication of the 80th Canon of 1603, which enjoined that a copy of the Homilies should be placed in every parish Church, which canon is still in force, sufficiently accounts for the large number of editions of this work which left the press at an early period. Subsequently, however, the prevalence of doctrinal views very opposite to those set forth in the Homilies, and the general decay of spiritual religion in the country, proved too strong for the prescriptive authority which the Homilies legally possessed ; and at the beginning of the present century they had fallen into comparative oblivion, and were unattainable by the mass of the people. To
supply this and similar wants the Prayer-book and Homily Society was instituted. Two editions of the Homilies were printed, one in folio, and the other (which is still on sale) in 4to., for the express purpose of enabling Churchwardens to comply with the canon just mentioned. In preparing these editions, and others in 8vo. and 12mo.,
eat pains were taken to correct various errors, some of them of considerable importance, which careless printing had suffered to creep in, and also to render the book suitable to the several classes who might be expected to make use of it. The Society's editors were the first who printed a collation of various principal editions, an example ably followed in the copies printed at the Oxford press, and more recently by the Rev. Professor Corrie in the Cambridge edition. It is satisfactory, however, to find, as an Oxford editor remarks, that “the variations in the different editions of the Homilies, numerous as they are, are almost universally verbal or grammatical:" so that
one of the principal uses of a collation of the various editions, is the conviction which it produces, that the Homilies have not been tampered with by any sect or party among us, for the purpose of making them express sentiments different from those of the original compilers.”.
To the Society's editors the public are also indebted for the first compilation of Indices to the Homilies. The value of this addition to those who are anxious to attain right views of the real principles of the United Church of England and Ireland can hardly be overrated. In the year 1842 the managers of the Society most readily acceded to a request which had been made to them, and permitted the introduction of these indices into an edition published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. The same indices were afterwards copied into the Oxford edition, and form the basis of those lately printed at Cambridge.
In preparing the present small and low-priced volume some pains have been taken to provide an accurate version of the original work. References to the works of the Fathers, which would only draw away the attention of those who have neither the means nor the desire to use them, have been omitted, excepting in the Fourteenth Homily, the third part of which is specially addressed to the Clergy and to persons “ of good understanding”: and, excepting in one or two instances, no allusion has been made to various readings. The text has been compared throughout with several of the best early editions, and, with the exceptions noted below, no reading has been designedly admitted unauthorized either by the edition of 1623, (probably the latest revised by authority, but very incorrectly printed,) or by some of those which preceded it. In the second book the readings of the edition of 1563 have usually been preferred.
The exceptions are as follows
1. The orthography has been modernized throughout; Scripture names are given as in the authorized version of the Bible; and antiquated forms of words have frequently been changed, as impossible, since, before, acknowledge, disprove, content, shamefacedness, admonish, 8c., for unpossible, sith that, afore, reknowledge, unprove, contentation, shamefastness, monish, fc.
2. The division into paragraphs, which varies in the old editions, has often been altered, when the sense seemed to be made clearer by such a change.
3. In a few cases, what would now be called an ungrammatical construction has been altered : thus, when double negatives occur, one of them has been omitted; e.g.," and no man can come” for “nor no man can come
p. 13. : a redundant preposition is occasionally omitted; and a verb changed from the singular to the plural when joined with a plural noun. Also in quoting from Psal. i. (p. 348), the old copies read hath not walked," which has
" been changed into “doth not walk”, that the tense may agree with that used in the two following clauses.
4. One or two other alterations may be noticed separately. In the 12th Homily (p. 139), the old copies, following the translation of the Vulgate instead of the original Hebrew, state the number of Israelites who were slain to have been twenty-three, or twenty-four thousand; in this edition the authorized version of the Scriptures has been followed.
In the 24th Homily (p. 373, line 4 from foot), Zechariah has been substituted for Jeremy : the word Jeremy in Matt. xxvii. 9, is probably an interpolation.
In quoting from the Psalms, the writers of the Homilies follow an arrangement of the numbers different from that in our Bibles : in this edition the latter has been adopted. And in the quotation from Ecclesiastes, (p. 154), the old copies refer to chapter 4, as it stands in the LXX, but in this edition the fifth chapter is mentioned. In such cases the convenience of the English reader has been consulted. All other known deviations from the original text are enclosed between brackets [ ].
In the Society's former editions of the Homilies no marks were used to distinguish the beginning and end of a quotation : in this volume Italic letters are used to mark the passages taken from the Holy Scriptures, and inverted commas those from the Apocrypha, or from the Fathers : in the latter case, single commas are used when the reference is general, and double commas when the original expressions are accurately translated. In ing from the Scriptures, the original copies refer only to the chapters; the verses are here added on the responsibility of the editor: but in the 33d Homily the verses have generally the authority of the writer. Many references to passages of Scripture have been added: they are distinguished by the use of brackets [ ].
Suitable prayers, selected from various parts of the Prayer-book, have been placed at the close of each Homily: these may be useful in private devotional reading, and also available when a Homily is read in public instead of a sermon.
The addition of parallel passages from the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, Jewell's Apology, Nowell's Catechism, &c., is intended to exhibit the uniformity of teaching which pervades the authorized documents of our Church.