To uphold the "right of private judgment," and our "Christian liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free;" to add fuel to the fire of investigation, and in the crucible of deep inquiry, melt from the gold of pure religion, the dross of man's invention; to appeal from the erring tribunals of a fallible Priesthood, and restore to its original state the mutilated Testament of the Saviour; also to induce all earnest thinkers to search not a part, but the whole of the Scriptures, if "therein they think they will find eternal life;" I, as an advocate of free thought and untrammelled opinion, dispute the authority of those uncharitable, bickering, and ignorant Ecclesiastics who first suppressed these gospels and epistles; and I join issue with their Catholic and Protestant successors who have since excluded them from the New Testament, of which they formed a part; and were venerated by the Primitive Churches, during the first four hundred years of the Christian Era.
My opposition is based on two grounds; first, the right of every rational being to become a "Priest unto himself," and by the test of enlightened reason, to form his own unbiased judgment of all things natural and spiritual: second, that the reputation of the Bishops who extracted these books from the original New Testament, under the pretence of being Apocryphal, and forbade them to be read by the people, is proved by authentic impartial history too odious to entitle them to any deference. Since the Nicene Council, by a pious fraud, which I shall further allude to, suppressed these books, several of them have been reissued from time to time by various translators, who differed considerably in their versions, as the historical references attached to them in the following pages will demonstrate. But to the late Mr. William Hone we are indebted for their complete publication for the first time in one volume, about the year 1820; which edition, diligently revised, and purified of many errors both in the text and the notes attached thereto, I have re-published in numbers to enable all classes of the nation to purchase and peruse them. As, however, instead of being called by their own designation "Apocryphal," (which yet remains to be proved), they were re-entitled THE SUPPRESSED GOSPELS, and, from communications received, appear to have agitated a portion of the great mass of ignorant bigotry which mars the fair form of Religion in these sect-ridden dominions, I have modified the title to its present shape with the hope that in spite of illiberal clerical influence, my fellow Christians will read and inwardly digest the sublime precepts they inculcate;—as pure, as holy, and as charitable as those principles of Christianity taught in the Scriptures they now read by permission; although their minds may, after mature reflection, doubt the truth of the miraculous records therein given.
To ensure these Gospels and Epistles an unprejudiced and serious attention, which they are entitled to, equally with those now patronised by Church authority, I will briefly refer to that disgraceful epoch in Roman Ecclesiastical Annals, when the New Testament was mutilated, and priestly craft was employed for excluding these books from its pages. Hone, in the preface to his first edition of the Apocryphal New Testament, so called, without satisfactory grounds, by the Council of Nice, in the reign of the Emperor Constantine, thus opens the subject:—
"After the writings contained in the New Testament were selected from the numerous Gospels and Epistles then in existence, what became of the Books that were rejected by the compilers?"