This is called “free Inquiry,” because it is strictly such : the subject with which it deals being entirely an open question, and the investigation of it being con- ducted with all due deference (I trust) to prejudices which it may disturb, but without any appeal to mere authority, whether of the early Church or the modern. In some parts of the work the ground has been broken by others, and I have of course availed myself of the advantage of their labours. The chronology, for example, has been learnedly explored by Browne, in his Ordo Sæclorum, a book frequently referred to in the course of this Inquiry. But I have not simply followed Browne. A mistake of his, in one important point, led me to work out the whole scheme de novo et ab ovo. The result has been that, with the exception of this one point, I find my effort to harmonize in the main with his, and so far as the principle is concerned to be more than corroborative of his remarkable conclusions.
In that part of the work which will be the newest to most readers, and in which I may have to entreat them to “strike, but hear,” the leading idea is one familiar to the early Church. It does not appear, however, that it was ever subjected to a rigorous scientific examination.
As to the connection between these parts, the application of mystic numbers as a key to sacred dates, I do not know whether any one has been before me. The famous Mirandula professed to have found the secret of Spiritual Arithmetic but what he made of the subject, or whether he put his discoveries to the severe proof of connecting them with Chronology, I have not been able to ascertain. Hoping the effort may be useful, at least in calling attention to an interesting subject, I submit it to the judgment of the candid and thoughtful reader.
General Theological Seminary, N. Y., June 9th, 1863.