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natural history, religious ceremonies, and miscellaneous customs of the Bible and the eastern nations have been compared and explained, and that essentially to the advantage of the former.
But with regard to these writers it must be observed, that many excellent things of the kind here adverted to are only incidentally mentioned. Some observations which they have made are capable of an application which did not present itself to their minds ; so that in addition to a number of passages which they have professedly explained, select portions of their works may be brought into the same service. To collect these scattered fragments, and make a proper use of them, is certainly a laborious work: it has, howežer, been ably executed by the late Mr. Harmer;
his Observations on divers Passages of Scripture are well known and highly esteemed. It must be acknowledged to his praise, that he led the
way in this department of literature, and has contributed as much as any one man to disseminate the true knowledge of many parts of holy writ. But his work is too copious for general utility: it will never fail to be read by the scholar : but it cannot be expected that the generality of christians can derive much benefit from that, which from its extent is almost inaccessible to many persons.
It must also be admitted that
some of the subjects which are there discussed may be dispensed with, as not being of much importance. The style is sometimes prolix, and difficult of conception, and the arrangement is certainly capable of improvement. On the whole, the book would be more valuable if it were more select in its subjects and compressed in its language. This object long appeared so important, that I determined to execute an abridgment of these observations for my own private use; but upon further reflection, I was induced to undertake the compilation of a volume to include the substance of the best writers of this class. The production now offered to the public is the fruit of that resolution.
I have endeavoured to select from Mr. Harmer's Observations whatever appeared important and interesting. This has not indeed been done in the form of a regular abridgment; but after extracting such materials as appeared suitable, I have inserted them in those places, where, according to the passage prefixed to each of the articles, they ought to stand. This method I
apprehend to be new, and not before attempted, but I hope will prove both agreeable and useful. As it is the avowed intention of each article to explain some passage, it is proper that it should be inserted at length, and in a manner
so conspicuous as at once to attract the attention of the reader.
To the materials collected from Mr. Harmer, have been added some very important remarks from Shaw, Pococke, Russell, Bruce, and other eminent writers. It is admitted that many of these things have repeatedly passed through the press : but as the valuable observations which have been made by travellers and critics lie interspersed in separate and expensive publications, a compendious selection of them appeared very desirable, and is here accomplished.
But many of the following observations are original: they are not however particularly distinguished from the rest. I must here avail
myself of an opportunity to acknowledge my obligations to Mr. Gillingwater, of Harleston in Norfolk, for the very liberal manner in which he favoured me with the use of his manuscript papers. They consist of additions to, and corrections of Mr. Harmer's Observations, and were communicated to that gentleman with a view to assist him in the farther prosecution of his work; but it was too late, as the fourth and last volume was then nearly completed at the press, and in a single instance only towards the close of it was any use made of these materials. From this col
lection I have made many extracts, and have enriched this volume with several new articles on subjects which had not before been discussed.
That this work might be rendered acceptable to the scholar, and those who have inclination to consult the sources from whence the information it contains is drawn, the authorities in most instances have been very particularly inserted. It must however be observed, that one principal object in view was the advantage of christians in general. I have aimed to furnish the plain reader with a book to which he may refer for information, on such passages of scripture as appear obscure and difficult, at least those which are to be explained by the method here adopted. Two indexes, one of scriptures incidentally illustrated, and the other of subjects discussed, are subjoined: an appendage, which I conceive no book ought to be destitute of that is designed to be useful.
A very considerable claim to candour may be advanced in favour of this work. The number and difficulty of the subjects treated of the compass of reading necessary to obtain materials to elucidate them--the singular felicity of avoiding sundue prolixity or unsatisfactory conciseness and the perplexity arising from the jarring opinions of learned men on many of these subjects, render it an arduous task for an individual to accomplish. Without presuming to suppose that I have always succeeded in ascertaining the true meaning of those difficult texts which are brought forward, I have done the best which I could to remove their abscurity, and to give them a consistent and intelligible meaning. Nec semper feriet quodcunque minabitur arcus. Many of the observations here advanced are indeed rather proposed to consideration, than offered to decide positively the meaning of those passages to which they are attached. The same diversity of sentiment which has influenced commentators and prevented an unanimity of judgment, may justly be supposed to induce some readers to form their opinion as variously.