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may justly call him the secretary of the divine wisdom. I shall not need to advance his character by enumerating his wonderous works in Egypt: his miraculous conduct of the Israelites through the Red Sea; his furnishing them with food from heaven: his producing water by a miracle; and his vindicating God's honor and his own reputation from the calumnies of their enemies by a just execution on Korah and his associates. Whoever examines his adminstration, will find in it the most refined polity and most exact economy that ever adorned the character of the most illustrious legislator ; for he had to do with a most obstinate, rebellious people, and whom he governed with such dexterity, that he always brought them to a sense of their duty. Nor was his humility the least embellishment of his character; for though the Israelites had often provoked him by their reproaches, and apostacy, and sometimes threatened to stone him, unmoved he beheld their ingratitude, and instead of revenging himself by threats and punishments, he humbly addressed himself to God in their behalf, to deprecate the judgments they deserved. And for this virtue God himself expressly distinguishes him with this eulogy, “ That he was the meekest man upon earth.”
As to the other writers of the Old Testament, little need be .said; besides, confining myself chiefly to the historical part of it, I shall be the more brief, giving an account only of those books of the Scripture, from whence the history is collected.
The first catalogue of sacred books, was made by the Jews, but by whom is not certainly known. It is highly probable, it was by Ezra, who collected all the sacred books of the Old Testament, and shewing the collection to the Jews, it was received and approved by the whole nation.
The five books written by Moses, contain the history of near three thousand years, from the creation till his death. The prophets who succeeded him, wrote in thirteen books, all that happened from his death to the reign of Artaxerxes.
It is not certain whether Joshua wrote the book that goes by his name; but it is very probable it was written by his command, and soon after his death; for Moses had often, during his administration, ordered him to write the most remarkable occurrences in a book. It contained a históry of about seventeen years.
xiii Some are of opinion, that every judge wrote what was transacted in his days; and that all these transactions were collected either by Samuel or Ezra. The book of Judges contains the history of three hundred years and upwards, from the death of Joshua to the death of Samson. As for the story of Ruth, it is certain she lived in the time of the judges, probably under Shamgar.
The four books that follow, contain the history of near six hundred years. The first book of Samuel to the twenty-fifth chapter, was written by Samuel himself; the prophets Gad and Nathan finished it, and wrote the second book of Samuel. The two books of Kings were written by Jeremiah or Ezra.
The two books of Chronicles were written after the four former. It is generally believed they were composed by Ezra, who collected them partly out of the other books of the Bible, and partly out of the papers which were yet extant in his days, but since lost.
Ezra wrote that book which is called by his name: and contains the history of eighty-two years, from the first year of Cyrus to the twentieth of Artaxerxes Longimanus.
The book of Nehemiah was certainly written by himself, and contains the history of about thirty-one years, from the reign of Artaxerxes to the beginning of the reign of Darius.
The time and author of the book of Esther are very uncertain. Some think it was written by Ezra, or Joachim the priest, the grandson of Jozedec.
As to the story of Job, some have questioned the truth of it; but Job being mentioned in Holy Writ with so much applause, it would be criminal to doubt it.* The time in which he lived is difficult to be ascertained, as well as the author. Some say, it was written by himself, others by Moses. These are but conjectures. It is generally believed that Job lived before Moses, and that his afflictions befel him when the children of Israel were in the wilderness. Some are of opinion, that he was descended of Nahor, Abraham's brother; others from Esau, which last is most probable.
See Ezek. xiv. 14, James v. 11,
With respect to the following Work, it would be more amusing than beneficial to give the reader a catalogue of the helps I have made use of in this undertaking; let it suffice, that I have had recourse to the best interpreters, critics, and commentators.
Confining myself chiefly to what is historical, I have touched only on those passages in the prophets which relate to the history, that I might not break in upon, or discontinue the series of time and action.
I have inserted those historical passages of the Apocrypha, which the Jews esteemed true history, though they did not place them among their canonical books.
From the time of Malachi to our Saviour, there is a chasm of about four hundred years; which, to make the history complete, I have filled up out of the best authors that wrote of those times, as the reader will perceive; particularly the learned Prideaux, and occasionally Rollin.
With regard to the New Testament, I shall here only assign my reason for connecting the History of the four gospels in one story.
The God of truth, willing to acquaint us with what is of the highest concern, hath provided his Spirit to enlighten our understandings, and his written word to bring those things, which were done many ages ago, and in places far distant from us, so near, as if we had seen them acted before our eyes, Gal. iii. 1. To this end, our blessed Saviour chose from among the Jews certain men, which had known his life and doctrine from the beginning, Luke i. 2, to be witnesses to the Jews and Gentiles; and selected two from among his apostles, and two more from his disciples, to commit them to writing, and transmit them to posberity: that if in other cases the witness of two or three were sufficient; this of four night abundantly satisfy us; especially having received what they delivered, not only by their own knowledge and experience; but writing, as they spake, the dictates of the Spirit of God, 2 Pet. i. 21. The writings therefore of one of those, whom we call Evangelists, being the testimony of the Holy Ghost, 2 Tim. iii. 16, is of more value, and ought
rather to be credited, than the testimony of many, nay, of all men: but all of them agreeing in one and the same truth, their testimony is so much the more binding, as implying so many several acts of one and the same Spirit, producing in divers subjects one and the same effect; for though every one of them follow his own peculiar order in the context of his History, and sometimes deliver the same thing in different words, or add some circumstance to that which another had written, or new matter altogether omitted by the rest, and now and then seem not so much to respect order and method, as faithfully to record facts ; yet in the undoubted truth both of Christ's speeches and actions, there is a most admirable consent and harmony. For the more clear demonstration of this, the learned of all ages have bestowed much labour and industry in comparing their testimonies, by whose labours, the church of God hath been much enlightened and adorned. Yet this, being attempted by different writers, was performed in various ways. Some of them reduced all the four Evangelists into the method and text of one. Others placed the several texts collaterally in one page, leaving it to the reader to judge what was added; or otherwise delivered by any one of them. And this method most of latter times have followed, Calvin excepted, who harmonizeth only the three first, placing St. John by himself, as hardly reducible to the other three. Others have reduced all the four gospels into one continued text, bringing in every one in his due place and own words, delivering his part of the history of Christ. This method is observed by Jansenius and Chemnitius: but that which I have chiefly followed, is the Itinerarium of the incomparable Lucas Brugensis, before his most learned comment on the four gospels; which being so exactly performed, I thought it most proper for my. rule and guide.
The advantage of this kind of harmony will be infinitely greater than I can express; for the reader will find by this perpetual and continued connexion of history, the speeches, sermons, and acts of Christ, related without interruption of circumstances differently placed. And where the circumstances of any actions are omitted by one or two of the Evangelists, they are in this method reduced to their proper place, and the history carried on entire. There are many places of the Evangelists, which seem to an
inadvertent or prejudiced reader to contradict one another; but by this connexion are more commodiously reconciled, than by any gloss whatsoever.
And thus by the joint consent of the four gospels in one testimony and relation, the history of our blessed Lord and Saviour, and the whole foundation of evangelical truth and doctrine, appear more beautiful and illustrious: of which, may God give us his grace to make a right use and true improvement, for his glory and our benefit. Amen. Amen.