Page images

And if there had been no connection betwixt the near and remote events, by the predictions which were to be accomplished during the interval, the distance between the two extremes would have rendered their Prophecies useless, the first being forgot, and the last not expected.

By the accomplishment of the first the prophet acquired a just authority, and induced an expectation of the fulfilling of those that followed. These added to his authority an entire certainty, that his knowledge came from God, and that what was revealed, with reference to the most distant times, would as infallibly come to pass, as what had been foretold concerning times that were nearer. The public monuments attested what was already fulfilled, the memory of it was handed down to the children; and these connecting what fell out in their days with what had fallen out in the times of their fathers, left to their posterity a profound veneration for the prophets who had foretold it, and a firm confidence that all that was contained in the rest of their predictions would as certainly be accomplished.

Thus their books have deservedly been looked upon as divinely inspired. The proof was certain, and suited to the capacity of all mankind. They gave credit to what was to come from what they saw at present. They were persuaded the revelation came from God, because it was infallible, and passed all human understanding; and they would have made a quite contrary conclusion, if any of the events had not answered the prediction. "Hear now this word, that I speak in "thine ears," [r] said the prophet Jeremiah to a man that pretended to be sent from God, "and in the ears "of all the people. The prophets, that have been "before me and before thee of old, prophesied both "against many countries, and against great kingdoms "of war, and of evil, and of pestilence. The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of

[blocks in formation]

"the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him." This then was their rule; a rule plain and easy, as capable of being applied with certainty by the common people as persons of great abilities, and wherein it was not possible for either to mistake.

The little time their ordinary studies leave youth, does not admit a great number of historical or prophetical facts to be explained to them in any great extent. But if a judicious choice was made of them, and they were put upon reading some every year, and these attended with reflections suited to their understandings, this small number in my opinion, might very much contribute to inspire them with a great reverence for religion, give them a great taste for the holy scriptures, and teach them in what spirit, and with what principles they ought to read them when they shall have leisure.



I SHALL follow the same order upon this head, as I have observed in treating Sacred History; that is, I shall first lay down some principles, which may be useful to direct youth in the study of Profane History; and afterwards apply them to some particular facts by reflections annexed.



THESE principles may be reduced to six or seven; to reduce this study to order and method: to observe what relates to usages and customs: to enquire particularly and above all things after the truth: to endeavour to find out the causes of the rise and fall


of empires, of the gaining or losing of battles, and events of the like nature: to study the character of the nations and great men mentioned in history: to be attentive to such instructions as concern moral excellency and the conduct of life: and lastly, carefully to note every thing that relates to religion.



ONE thing, which may very much contribute to the bringing this study into order and method, is to divide the whole body of an history into certain parts and intervals, which at once present the mind a kind of general plan of the whole history, point out the principal events, and shew us the series and duration of them. These divisions must not be too many, lest they throw us into confusion and obscurity.

Thus, the whole time of the Roman history, from Romulus to Augustus, which takes in seven hundred and twenty-three years may be divided into five parts.

An. U. C. 1. The first is the reigns of the seven kings of Rome, which lasted two hundred and fortyfour years.

245. The second is from the establishment of the consuls to the conquest of Rome, and takes in an hundred and twenty years. It includes the establishment of the consuls, the tribunes of the people, the decemvirs, the military tribunes with consular power, the siege and conquest of Veii.

364. The third is from the sacking of Rome to the first Punic war, and takes in an hundred and twentyfour years. It concludes the conquest of Rome by the Gauls, the wars with the Samnites, and against Pyrrhus.

An. U. C. 488. The fourth is from the beginning of the first to the end of the third Punic war, and takes in an hundred and twenty years. It includes the first


and second Punic wars, the wars against Philip king of Macedon, Antiochus king of Asia, Perseus the last king of Macedon, the Numantines in Spain; and lastly, the third Punic war, which ended with the conquest and destruction of Carthage.

608. The fifth is from the destruction of Carthage to the change of the Roman republic into a monarchy under Augustus, and takes in an hundred and fifteen years. It includes the war of Achaia, and the destruction of Corinth; the domestic troubles raised by the Gracchi, the wars against Jugurtha, the allies, and Mythridates; the civil wars between Marius and Sylla, Cæsar and Pompey, Anthony and Octavius. This last war ended with the battle of Actium, (U C.723.) and the sovereign authority of Octavius, who was afterwards surnamed Augustus.

I have already observed, in treating sacred history, the use we should make of chronology, and shall forbear to repeat what I have already said upon this subject.

Geography also is absolutely necessary for youth; and for want of learning it when they are young, abundance of persons continue ignorant of it all the rest of their lives, and expose themselves to mistakes upon this article, which make them ridiculous. One quarter of an hour regularly spent every day in this study is enough to make them perfect in it. After the general principles are explained to them, they must never be suffered to pass by any considerable town, or any river mentioned in their authors, without shewing their places in the maps. They must learn likewise to point out the situation of every city, with reference to other places that are spoke of. Thus they will say that Evreux lies west of Paris, Châlone upon Marne on the east, Amiens on the north, and Orleans on the south. They must trace the rivers from their source to the place where they throw themselves into the sea, or some greater river, and point out the considerable towns that lie in their passage. When they are tolerably well instrueted, they may be made to travel over a map,


or may be taught by word of mouth, by asking them, for instance, what rout they would take to go from Paris to Constantinople, and so of the other provinces. To render this study less dry and disagreeable it would not be amiss to add to it certain short stories, which might serve to fix an idea of the towns more firmly in the minds of youth, and would teach them a great many curious matters as they went on. These are to be found in several geographical treatises, wrote in French; from which the masters may easily extract such as they shall judge most proper for youth.



Ir is of no small consequence, whilst we are upon the study of history, to take notice of the different customs of countries, the invention of arts, the various manners of living, building, fighting, disposing of sieges, or defending of towns, of building ships, and sailing; the ceremonies of their marriages, funerals, and sacrifices; in a word, whatever relates to customs and antiquity. I shall have occasion to say more of this hereafter.

What I have hitherto taken notice of is, if I may so say, but the skeleton of history, the observations I am going to make are in a manner the soul of it, and contain the most useful part of this study.



THAT in which the most essential quality and most indispensable duty of an historian consists, points out at the same time what should be the principal care of every reader of history. [y] No body is ignorant

[] Quis nescit primam esse historiæ legem, ne quid falsi dicere audeat; deinde, ne quid veri non

audeat ; ne qua suspicio gratiæ sit in scribendo, ne qua simultatis L. 2. de Orat. n. 62.


« PreviousContinue »