(Volume I [867 pages], Volume II [525 pages])
PREFACE TO VOLUME II
The first volume of this work was finished in June, 1833, although the Title, for the sake of uniformity, bears the date of 1836. The second volume was commenced; and it was the Author's intention to have proceeded to its completion. But, having attended The British Association for the Advancement of Science, held that year at Cambridge, he wrote thence to his printer, stating, that he was labouring under severe bodily affliction; that he should endeavour to reach home as speedily as possible; and adding, as it were prophetically, that he should never leave it again, till he was conveyed to his grave. So deeply interested, however, did Mr. Higgins feel in the completion of his work, that he wrote frequently—alternately expressing hope and doubt of his recovery. Having made what he deemed necessary arrangements for placing the manuscript in the hands of his appointed editor, he continued to devote his attention to it, till a few days previous to his decease. This occurred on the 9th of August, 1833.
After Mr. Higgins's interment, his only Son and Executor wrote to say he was directed to forward the copy, that the printing might be proceeded with, and expressing his desire to carry his Father's wishes fully into effect. Here it may suitably be stated, that, at the sole expense of Godfrey Higgins, his son, this posthumous volume of the Author's is published.
The Friends and the Literary and Scientific Associates of the Author may have felt surprised that this publication has been so long delayed. The delay has been unavoidable : for, although Mr. Higgins had made preparations for the progress of the work, had his life been spared, yet when the manuscript was placed in the hands of another, many parts of it appeared to require curtailment, or omission, to avoid repetitions. The doubts of the Editor might have been removed immediately had he been able to summit them to the Author.—As numerous quotations had been made, it was necessary for the Editor frequently to go to the British Museum to collate them with the originals. His distance from the Museum, the number of books often required for a single sheet, and the time unavoidably consumed in finding them, sometimes occupied the greater part of a day, without the object being fully accomplished; for it sometimes happened, that quotations had been made from works which could not be found even in that great establishment : and, at certain periods of each month, the Editor's attention was fully occupied by the incidental duties of his profession. During those periods, the work was delayed, as no part of the manuscript was placed in the hands of the compositor till it had been carefully examined, in order to supply references to the first volume, or to preceding sheets of the second—some of which had not been seen, and many of which could not be, supplied by the Author. Delays have also occasionally arisen from the Editor's inability to attend to the work in consequence of indisposition. Suffice it to say, that the publication of the volume has not been retarded by Mr. Higgins, who has uniformly evinced an anxiety to see his Father's wishes realized.
In supplying references to the first volume, it was sometimes found, that the Index, though copious, was not so specific as was desirable, as subjects alluded to under a given name, could be found only by referring to many pages appended to that name. To obviate this inconvenience, a more detailed Index is given with this volume; and it is hoped, that nearly every subject or opinion contained in it may be found by seeking it under its appropriate name.
The reader may possibly feel somewhat disappointed if he peruse the entire volume carefully, that the promise made by the Author, that he would "exhibit, in a future book, the Christianity of Jesus Christ, from his own mouth," has not been fulfilled so amply as he anticipated. The probability is, that had the Author's life been spared, he would have left no pledge unredeemed. He may, however, have thought, that what is contained in the concluding page sufficient. At all events, neither the Author's Son nor the Editor felt justified in attempting to supply what may, perhaps, be regarded as an omission. They esteemed it their duty to allow the Author alone to speak for himself. His views respecting Jesus Christ and his religion are stated explicitly in various parts of the volume. These views will doubtless excite astonishment in some, and displeasure in those who, while they deny infallibility to the Pope, write, and speak, and act, as if they possessed that attribute. To the honest and intelligent inquirer after truth, there can be nothing really offensive in the statement of opinions directly opposed to his own, if these opinions are honestly propounded. If the Author's statements respecting many of the rites and doctrines of the endowed and unendowed sects of Christendom can be shewn to be groundless, numerous advocates of those rites and doctrines will, without doubt, speedily appear in their defence. Truth can lose nothing by fair discussion.
The Author having given, in the Preface to the first Volume, what he designates a Portrait of himself, it is deemed unnecessary to enter into any further particulars. …
The Author lived to revise only the first four sheets of this volume. Apprehending that his life was drawing to a close, he wrote to his printer, expressing a wish that he would edit the remainder of the work. From so responsible an office the printer would have shrunk, had not the Author informed him that the manuscript was so far arranged, that, with proper attention, he would be able to complete the volume. Whether Mr. Higgins's confidence was well-founded, must be left to the judgment of the reader.
Two injunctions were laid on the appointed Editor,—that he should not send out the proof sheets to any literary friend; and that, in any instance of a difference of opinion, he should append Editor to the note. The first injunction is respectfully urged on the kind and candid consideration of the reader, in excuse for the errata, which, it is lamented, are numerous. On the second injunction, the Editor begs to remark, that he has scrupulously endeavoured to leave every opinion of the Author's as he found it; and that, sustaining the twofold office of Printer and Editor, he has reluctantly expressed any dissent from the views of the Author. One note, especially, the Editor wishes he had not inserted—that in p. 122, as it was written in ignorance of the Author's opinion, subsequently expressed (pp. 131, 132), respecting the book of The Acts. It will be obvious from other notes, that the Editor views the character and doctrines of Paul in a different light from that in which the Author regarded them. It will, therefore, it is hoped, not offend or shock the philosophical reader, when he finds it added, that the Editor avows his firm conviction of the divine mission, the death (by crucifixion), the resurrection, and the ascension to a state of immortality, of JESUS of Nazareth.
The respected Author, could he speak from the grave, would not, the Editor is confident, disapprove of this frank and conscientious avowal. Mr. Higgins was, indeed, as he claimed to be considered, a philalethean; and he was too liberal and too generous to deny his Editor the right of expressing his love of that which he regards as the truth. …
Homerton, June 4, 1836
Link to Volume II - Book I.