The perusal of the first numbers of a series of tracts, containing extracts from the writings of "early Friends," and published for the avowed purpose of lowering the estimation in which those writings are held by the Society, and even of proving "that many of them would reflect discredit upon a private library, and ought truly to be accounted dangerous books," has given rise to the present re-publication. As an humble, but sincere admirer of those principles of Gospel Truth, which the early Friends sought to promulgate, as well by their writings as by eminently devoted lives, and a constant and oft proved willingness to suffer for Christ's sake, I must protest (whether to any purpose or not) against the illiberal, and unjust mode of conduct resorted to by the publishers of the "Extracts," in selecting short and partial sentences, and thus, as I conceive, grossly misrepresenting some of the views of those Worthies long since removed from the world on which they walked as strangers and as pilgrims, and long since, I doubt not, permitted, through the mercy of their God and Saviour, to enter into that "better country," where they are no more exposed to the trials of time, no more exposed to the scoffs and persecutions of men, and no more affected by the calumnies of "false Brethren."
Whilst, however, expressing a sincere and affectionate regard for the memories of those who have preceded me in religious professions, I would add that I consider them worthy to be followed only as they followed Christ, and that if I go forth by the footsteps of this flock of my Saviour's companions, it is that I may feed beside that good Shepherd's tents, where, I believe, they found plentiful pasture.
I would most explicitly state, the present publication is no party act, or an act originating in party feeling, for though I must take a heartfelt interest in the present proceedings in our Society, yet I deeply feel that, even if I see, or think I see, the Ark of the Covenant of our God unsteadily placed as upon a new cart, there is a danger of putting forth, like Uzza of old, uncalled and unprepared hands for its support.
To the serious attention of all honest hearted enquirers after truth do I commend this little Pamphlet, believing that the principles set forth in the annexed Sermon, are the principles uniformly avowed and supported by the "early Friends," and that (however their views and writings may be distorted and belied) the whole Gospel of a crucified and risen Saviour, in all its freeness, and in all its fullness, was what they sought to publish, and by their lives to adorn.
Manchester, 4th Month, 1836.