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the four Gospels as genuine; and their doctrines were so coincident with those of the catholic Christians, that no separate value attaches to their testimony. The evidence afforded by the Gnostics, therefore, is the main topic of inquiry in the present volumes.
In order to understand the nature and value of this evidence, it is necessary to be acquainted with the history and doctrines of the Gnostics, and the relation in which they stood to the catholic Christians. But this subject is one of very considerable difficulty. The Gnostics have hung like a dark cloud round the early history of Christianity. Such accounts have been given of them as to make their existence appear something strange and inexplicable. The obscurity thus spread over the early history of our religion has afforded opportunity for surmises and objections unfavorable to its truth. Whatever may tend to dispel it, and to let in a clearer light on the circumstances accompanying the reception of Christianity in the Gentile world, may tend equally to strengthen our assurance of the reality of what is recorded in the Gospels.
It may be added, that the doctrines of the Gnostics are connected with some of the most important facts in the history of opinions, and some of the most remarkable phenomena in the operations of the human mind.
In order to be understood, they must be viewed in their relation to the circumstances in which they had their origin. We are thus led to enter on a wide inquiry concerning these circumstances, whence our immediate. subject receives illustration, and to which also it affords illustration in return. While studying in a proper manner the doctrines of the Gnostics, we are at the same time studying the character of ancient philosophy, and the tendencies of thought on the higher subjects of speculation.
In the conclusion of the Preface to the first volume I spoke of endeavouring to remove some misapprehensions respecting the historical evidence. But the argument has been so pursued, that I have not found it necessary to treat of those misapprehensions under a separate head.
The three volumes now published contain such a view, as it has been in my power to give, of the historical evidence, both direct and subsidiary, of the genuineness of the Gospels. Should my life and health be continued, it is my purpose to add another volume concerning the internal evidences of their genuineness. But I wish this to appear simultaneously with a new translation of the Gospels, accompanied by explanatory
notes, on which I have been long engaged. Such a translation seems to me a necessary basis for the volume proposed, while the volume may serve as an introduction to the translation.
Cambridge, 5 December, 1843.
Notice of the doctrines peculiar to the theosophic Gnos-