« הקודםהמשך »
which can be formed of the perfections and providence of God. This internal evidence, connected with the external, forms an union not easily to be resisted ; and it is most worthy of being received, for it is the confirmation of principles, which are the only preservatives against the horrors of superstition on the one hand, and the extravagancies of scepticism on the other.
In the pursuit of this object, the author was resolved to apply to no other source of information, than to the Sacred Oracles themselves. He is fully convinced, that a revelation from heaven cannot be so obscure in its essential points, as absolutely to demand the assistance of the Literati, however serviceable this assistance may be in articles of inferior consideration; or necessary to combat those objections which may
arise from ignorance, and misconceptions, in their various branches.
There would not be much extravagance in the apprehension, that many pious and zealous Christians are not acquainted with
the history of the Old Testament, in the manner and to the extent which it deserves ; or they would peruse it with greater pleasure, and treat it with more respect.
The indifference with which this dispensation has been too generally treated, even by those who deem it of a divine origin, may perhaps be ascribed to confused and imperfect ideas respecting its immediate object; and these, again, may proceed from an apparent defect in the arrangement of the materials which compose the Jewish history, The Sacred Records are journals of various events, with all the peculiarities attending them as they arose. Histories national and personal, institutions civil and religious, natural occurrences, miraculous interpositions, conquests, defeats, obedience, disobedience, trangressions, threatenings, rewards, punishments, Pagan rites, Jewish corruptions; these are related with great simplicity, but in a style and manner very different from modern compositions. The object of the historians was to perpetuate important events, establish important doctrines, deeply to impress the minds of
a peryerse people, with a sense of their duties and their privileges; and to preserve them from the contaminations of their idolatrous neighbours, to which they were exposed for a series of ages. But to answer such purposes, no other order was necessary or practicable, than the order of time. This mass of materials, however, so heterogeneous to us in its appearance, contains incontestable evidences of wisdom more than human, in the execution of a plan worthy of the Deity; and truths in which the whole rational creation is equally interested. But these important subjects are blended together, in a manner which embarrasses a superficial reader, and with various other subjects, in which we seem to have no interest. The author hopes that many of these difficulties will be effectually removed, simply, by arrangements more adapted to modern readers ; and by his having collected in a more conspicuous point of view, subjects which, in the current history, are separated from each other by the intervention of adventitious matter. The mercantile reader will fully comprehend his meaning, when he intimates, that he has attempted to digest the miscellaneous contents of a day book, into a methodized ledger.
The particular object which the author had in view, when he applied himself to the perusal of the Old Testament with attention, was, that he might extract and arrange those doctrines respecting religion and morality, which were correspondent to the principles investigated in his Ethical disquisitions, and this circumstance has, at the same time, enabled him to trace the harmony that pervades the whole, notwithstanding the great diversity of the parts ; and also the relation of this whole to the common interests of mankind.
It would, at all times, have been desirable to render the moral history of the world, which is contained in these Sacred Records, more intelligible, pleasing, and instructive to biblical readers. But at the present period, the pious ardour which is diffused over these happy lands, the unanimity with which Christians, of every denomination, exert themselves to communicate light and knowledge to the Pagans in distant regions, and to instruct those who are nearly as ignorant as Pagans, at home, render every attempt to remove some of the obscurities which hang, like a mist, over the Divine Book, of peculiar importance. The period is approaching, and must arrive, in which that Book will become perfectly intelligible to believers, perfectly rational to unbelievers, and most acceptable to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; and happy is every one who can accelerate its arrival.