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and his apostles: and in many cases the former laws, ordinances, and transactions, are evidently designed to prefigure and shadow out, as well as to introduce those which follow. Adam, our first father, by whom sin and death were brought into the world, was a type or figure of Jesus the second Adam, who brought in righteousness and life. Rom. v. 14. 1 Cor. xv. 21,. 22, 45, 49. The law of Moses was a shadow of the good things which were to come; but the body and substance of these blessings was given us by Christ our Saviour. Col. ii. 17. Heb. x. 1. And it is certain we may obtain a more extensive and complete knowledge of Christianity, by our acquaintance with the sacred affairs of Adam and Noah, of Abraham and Moses, and the sons of Israel.
Besides, it is the history of the Bible, which hath conveyed down to us the knowledge of those miracles and divine wonders which have been wrought by the prophets, the immediate messengers of heaven, to prove that they were sent of God: it is in this history we read those prophecies of things to come, together with the accomplishment of them, which stand in a beautiful connexion from the beginning of the world to the days of the Messiah. All of them join to confirm our faith in the several revelations of religion which God has made to the sons of men; and all concur to establish the last and noblest scheme of religion, that is, Christianity. Thus the very history of Scripture has a powerful and rational influence to establish our belief of the Gospel, and to make us Christians upon solid and reasonable grounds.
I add yet further, that in the historical part of Scripture we read the holy laws of God, exemplified in the life and practice of good men in several ages of the world: and when we see the rules of religion copied out in the words and actions of our fellow creatures, it renders the performance of them more practicable and more delightful to us. While the word of command stands in the law to require our obedience, the actual obedience of our fathers to those commands recorded in the history invites our imitation, and makes the work more easy.
To conclude: we find not only the precepts but the sanctions of the law of God exemplified in the narrative of Scripture. How often do we read the promises of God fulfilled in the rewards of the righteous, and his threatenings executed against wilful transgressors! These things set the government of God before our eyes in a stronger light; they shew us that his words of promise and threatening are not empty sounds; and make it appear with sensible conviction, that he will certainly reward, and that he will as certainly punish. The many wonderful instances of a divine Providence which concerns itself in the affairs of men, and which are recorded in the word of God, have
a natural tendency to awaken our fear of so great and glorious a Being, and to encourage our hope and trust in him. word, the perfections of God, whereby he made and governs the world, are set before our eyes by the Scripture history in such divine colours, as give us a more awful and amiable idea of God himself, than any words of description could have done, without such an historical account of his works of nature, grace, and providence.
Since then it appears, that some knowledge of the history of Scripture is necessary and useful to every one among us who would know and love God, and be a partaker of his favour, the next thing to be inquired is, how this knowledge may be best attained? How shall persons, whose capacity is weak, or who have little time to employ on these subjects, be led in the shortest and easiest way to a competent acquaintance with the sacred history? And how shall those who are young in years, be trained up in the plainest and most alluring manner to some knowledge of these important affairs, till their growing age and further advantages, shall give them a more extensive and capacious view of all the transactions between God and men recorded in Scripture?
The Bible itself is a very large book, and though it ought to be read (at least many parts of it) by persons of all characters and conditions, yet the reducing of the several things contained in it to a short and narrow view, by way of abridgment, is so exceeding useful, that I had almost called it necessary, at least for youth, and for persons in the lower ranks of life, who have fewer conveniences and advantages of knowledge. I have made this sufficiently evident with regard to the doctrines and duties of religion, in my Discourse concerning the Composition and Use of Catechisms, to which I refer my reader: and the same argument will hold good with regard to the historical part of Scripture. There I have shewn particularly how needful it is to collect the great articles and rules of our religion, which lie scattered up and down in the Bible, into a shorter scheme for the use of younger understandings; and I have given my reasons also, why the catechetical method of question and answer is preferable to all other methods of instruction; and I need not repeat the same things here, with regard to sacred history.
It is proper the reader should know, that at the end of the History of the Old Testament I have inserted one chapter, wherein the Jewish affairs are continued from the time of Nehemiah (where the sacred writers end) down to the time of Christ and the Gospel. This is borrowed from the best ancient writings we have of these events, namely, the books of Maccabees. in the Apocrypha, and the history of Josephus, though I am
greatly indebted also to Dr. Prideaux's Historical Connection of the Old and New Testament, wherein these narratives are so happily reduced to a chronological order, and embellished and improved with many valuable hints from heathen historians.
And to render the work yet more useful in these days of infidelity, I have added another chapter, which I call a Prophetical Connection between the Old and New Testament, wherein the most eminent prophecies relating to our blessed Lord are set down in one view, together with their accomplishment; that younger minds may see how much this great Messiah, or anointed Saviour, was foretold and expected through all ages, and may have their faith of Christ built early upon a solid foundation.
I have nothing more to add, but to acquaint the reader with the method I have taken in composing this work, and with the use that he should make of it.
In framing this book, I have observed the following rules, namely,
I. I have proceeded, for the most part according to the order of things as they lie in the books of Scripture; but still endeavouring to maintain some connexion throughout the whole history. Yet I cannot say I have always reduced things to that order in which they were transacted for in several places I found that a strict observation of chronology would have intermingled too many incidents of different kinds, would have broken the scheme of things I had proposed, or interrupted the narrative of some particular event, and rendered the history much more unconnected and disagreeable to those for whom I write.
II. Though I have not been solicitous to insert every incident, and the name of every person contained in the Old Testament, yet I have omitted scarce any name or remarkable. transaction which has been referred to or cited in the New, or has any connexion with the Gospel of Christ, which is the religion of Christians. It was not possible to insert all the particular narratives contained in the Scripture, without making another book almost as big as the Bible itself: whereas my prime design was to give an abstract or short view of the sacred history, for the use of persons of such age, capacities or conditions of life, as are not able to attend to much reading, nor gain a fuller and more accurate knowledge of the transactions of God with men.
III. I have added the chapter and verse of one or more texts of Scripture, to every answer that required it, that the reader might be invited to search his Bible, and there gain a larger and more particular acquaintance with those historical matters which I have briefly mentioned in a line or two. If
young persons by this means are allured to grow familiar with the word of God, I am persuaded the advantage they may reap thereby will richly compensate all their labours in reading this historical abridgment of Scripture, and all my pains in writing it.
IV. It is all divided into chapters, and some chapters into sections, with a new title to each. This will, in some measure, give a comprehensive view of the method and order of the whole. It is evident that the catechetical form of question and answer takes off the tiresomeness of reading from younger minds, and perpetually allures their inquiry and curiosity onward by short answers, without that weariness which arises from many long continued pages of mere narrative and in the same manner a proper distinction of the history into chapters and sections under different titles, renders the work of reading much more delightful by the frequent returning rests and pauses.
V. Since I intended it originally for persons of younger years, and the common rank of mankind, I have studied generally to use such words and forms of speech as are most plain and easy to be understood. It would not have answered my design so well, if I must have sent my reader too often to his. dictionary to inquire the meaning of hard words and Latinized expressions.
VI. Yet I have not so confined myself to the service of my unlearned readers, as to neglect all useful criticisms and occasional remarks to clear up difficulties: but have freely interspersed them throughout the whole book, so far as may inform the inquisitive, and give some hints to the more intelligent reader, for the further illustration of some passages of Scripture both in the Old Testament and the New.
If there should be found any mistakes in drawing up this history, which might have been rectified by further consulting the writings of the learned, I would only mention one apology for myself; and that is, a great part of it was drawn up in the country, at a distance from my usual habitation, where I had no learned writings to consult, and was confined to my Bible alone. A friendly notice of any such mistakes might occasion a correction of them.
Let me here speak a word or two more of the particular uses which may be made of this summary of sacred history.
It may not be an improper book to lie constantly in the nursery or the parlour, to assist the instruction of children, or the conversation of grown persons. And if this and other useful books were suffered always to lie in the places appointed for servants, especially in great families, it might be an allurement to them to employ some of their leisure in a profitable manner. The placing it in any room of usual residence, may entice per
sons often to look into it, and lead them into an easy acquaintance with the various dealings of God with men from the beginning of the world.
Nor can I think it would be a vain or useless employment for persons who are not furnished with better advantages for Scripture knowledge, to read it over once in a year or two, in order to keep these sacred memoirs ever fresh in their minds. Half a chapter in a week would be no heavy task, and this would finish it in one year's time.
May the divine blessing attend this feeble endeavour of mine to diffuse the knowledge of divine things among mankind, and to furnish families with useful matter for conversation, whereby they may be better secured against the temptations of loose and vicious writings, and vain discourse, which give an unhappy tincture to the imagination in early years, and tend to defile and destroy the soul.