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if you persevere in the request, you will find, it inost certainly will. God grant, that it may be so! And that as you have been in one respect, you may each of you be in another, like a brand pluckt out of the burning! It is, I am sure, the earnest desire, and by the grace of God it shall be the frequent prayer, of,
Your affectionate Friend,
and faithful Servant, &c.
SIR ISAAC NEWTON'S SCHEME
REDUCING THE SEVERAL HISTORIES CONTAINED IN THE EVANGELISTS
TO THEIR PROPER ORDER.
HE name of Sir Isaac Newton is so justly celebrated through the learned world, that they who know he has endeavoured to establish a method of settling a chronology of our Lord's life, (for I think one can hardly call it, an harmony of the evangelists,) quite different from what has bitherto been advanced, may be curious to know what it is, and why we presume to depart from it; since it is so natural to imagine, that such a genius must demonstrate whatever it attempts to prove. I therefore, think it incumbent upon me to lay the scheme before my reader, as I promised long since to do: (Note (m) on Mat. iv. 25.) After which I shall briefly present, in one view, those reasons (many of which have been already hinted,) which compelled me to tread a different road, after having most attentively considered all that this illustrious writer has urged for the support of his plan.
I cannot set myself to this task, without feeling the fatigue of it sensibly allayed, by the pleasure with which I reflect on the firm persuasion which a person of his unequalled sagacity must have entertained of the truth of Christianity, in order to his being engaged to take such pains in illustrating the Sacred Oracles. A pleasure, which I doubt not every good reader will share with me; especially as (according to the best information, whether public or private, I could ever get,) bis firm faith in the divine revelation discovered itself in the most genuine fruits of substantial virtue and piety; and consequently gives us the justest reason to conclude, that he is now rejoicing in the happy effects of it, infinitely more than in all the applause which his philosophical works have procured him; though they have
commanded a fame lasting as the world, the true theory of which he had discovered, and (in spite of all the vain efforts of ignorance, pride, and their offspring bigotry,) have arrayed him as it were in the beams of the sun, and inscribed his name among the constellations of heaven.
Sir Isaac Newton has given us his sentiments on the chronology of our Lord's history, in his Observations on Prophecy, book I. chap. XI. page 144—168. and, according to his usual method, he has done it concisely, only marking out some of the outlines; and after having endeavoured to establish some of the chief principles, by arguments which he judged to be conclusive, he leaves it to his readers to apply those principles to several other particulars; which being deducible from them, he did not think it necessary to enter into. Such is the method he has also taken in his chronology of ancient kingdoms; and it was most suitable to that great genius, which bore him with such amazing velocity through so vast a circle of various literature. Yet it must render him less sensible of the difficulty attending some of his schemes, than he would otherwise have been; and may leave room to those, who are justly sensible how much they are his inferiors, to shew by their remarks upon hiin, how possible it is for the greatest of mankind to be misled by some plausible
appearances of things in a general view of them, against which invincible objections may arise, when they come to be applied to unthought of particulars.
There are many facts recorded in the evangelists, the order of which is so plain, that all harmonies agree in them: And such especially are most of those with which the history begins, and most of those with which it ends, though there be some disputes about a few circumstances relating to the resurrection. But Sir Isaac enters not at all into that part of the history, nor into any thing that precedes the appearance of John the Baptist.
He lays it down as the foundation of all his other reasonings and calculations here, (on the authority of Luke iii. 1.) that John began to baptize in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, reckouing his reign to have commenced from the death of Augustus, which happened, he says, Ang. 28*. in the year of our Lord (according to the common reckoning) 29. This is said (Newt. page 147.) to have been in the year of the Julian period 4727, which must surely be an error of the press for 4742, the year
* This is a small mistake; for Suetonius (Aug. 100.) fixes it to xiv. Kal. Septemb. that is, Aug. 19.