« PreviousContinue »
The author had at first expected that a cursory view of the Jewish religion, merely as introductory of the Christian, would have been sufficient for his purpose. But, in proportion to the minuteness of his enquiries, was he the more strongly convinced, that this dispensation deserved deeper researches; the more clearly did he perceive an interesting uniformity through its various parts; each of them, like the radii of a circlé, tending to a central point; and in this central point, are placed the interests of the Gentile world, as well as those of the Jewish nation. The accumulating evidences of the importance of that dispensation, that it is worthy of God, and that it came from God, augmented his pleasure as he proceeded. To such causes must be ascribed the extent of the disquisition.
Several writers who have been zealous to support the credit of the Jewish history, have manifested great solicitude to confute the detached objections of unbelievers ; and they have displayed much learning and soundness of judgment in their endeavours. But they have proceeded upon the supposition, that the objectors were intimately acquainted with the nature, contents, and objects of the sacred records ; and that nothing further would be requisite, to dispose them to walk in the paths of truth with an even step, than to remove certain obstacles which lay in their way.
It was the contrary supposition which induced the author, to treat the Jewish dispensation with such minuteness of detail. He has presumed, that very few objectors have studied the Jewish history with attention and impartiality; for to readers of this description, there is every reason to imagine that all the objections advanced will appear trivial. It may be acknowledged, that some remaining difficulties require the elucidations of the learned, while they are impotent to silence the Oracles of Truth.
The evidences of a divine revelation are usually classed into two kinds; the external, and the internal. The external evidence depends entirely upon human testimony; and the credibility of human testimony, rests upon the opportunities of information which have been enjoyed by the witness; the powers of his mind, rightly to understand and comprehend; and the integrity of his heart, preventing him frorn being influenced by any motive whatever, to invent a falsehood, or misrepresent the truth. For the external evidences relative to the Jewish history, we must refer to other authors. To have enlarged upon these, would have been a deviation from our plan; which has been to investigate the moral history of
to · trace the consonance between his moral nature, and the obvious designs of Providence respecting him ; and to prove, that all the leading facts related in the Jewish history, are worthy of our belief, from their intrinsic nature and peculiar characteristics ; that they are perfectly consonant with the nature, state, and exigencies, of the human race; and that they perfectly harmonize with the most rational conceptions 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