WHEN I had delivered my first course of Gifford Lectures in the University of Glasgow I was asked by my friends to publish them exactly as I had delivered them and not to delay their publication by trying to make them more complete. I have followed their advice and I now present these lectures to the public at large if not exactly as I delivered them at least as I had prepared them for delivery. I was under the impression that according to Lord Gifford's Will each course was to consist of not less than twenty lectures. I therefore allowed myself that number for my introductory course and I confess I found even that number barely sufficient for what I had chosen as my subject namely
(1) The definition of Natural Religion
(2) The proper method of its treatment and
(3) The materials available for its study.
In order to discuss these preliminary questions with any approach to systematic completeness I could not avoid touching on subjects which I had discussed in some of my former publications such as ‘The Science of Language’ ‘The Science of Thought’ and ‘The Hibbert Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion.’ I might have left out what to some of my readers will seem to be mere repetition but I could not have done so without spoiling the whole plan of my lectures. Nor would it have seemed respectful either to my audience or to my critics if in reiterating some of my statements and opinions I had not endeavoured to the best of my power to vindicate their truth and to answer any bonâ fide objections which have been raised against them during the last years.
No one can be more conscious than myself of the magnitude of the task with which the University of Glasgow has entrusted me and of my own inadequateness to perform it as it ought to be performed. This first course of lectures is but a small contribution towards an immense subject and it is such as from the nature of my own special studies I felt best qualified to give. But the subject admits of very different treatments; and in nothing has Lord Gifford shown himself more judicious than in founding not one but several lectureships in Natural Religion so that inquiries which were so near his heart might not suffer from one-sided treatment. I look forward to the lectures of my learned colleagues at Edinburgh St. Andrews and Aberdeen not only for instruction but also for correction; though on some points I may hope for confirmation also of my own views on a subject which has been confided to our united care and which more than any other requires for its safety a multitude of counsellors.
F. MAX MÜLLER.
OXFORD April 20 1889.