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The Defign of fuch a Short View of SCRIPTURE HISTORY, and the Advantages of it.
THE Holy Scripture is divided into Two Books,
are called the OLD TES TAMENT and the New. And as each of these Books contain feveral Articles or Propofitions which God has revealed to Men for the Direction of their Faith and Practice in the fucceffive Ages of the World; so there are feveral Hiftories contained in them, or Narratives of the Lives and Death of Men, of the Affairs of Nations, and especially of the Tranfactions of God with Mankind.
Some Knowledge of these hiftorical Matters is neceffary and useful, in order to obtain a more clear. and full Acquaintance with the Principles of our holy Religion, as well as to affift and engage us in the Practice of it by way of Motive. It is the History all along introduces the peculiar Doctrine and Duties; and all the latter Revelations of the Mind and Will of God, relating to Religion, have fome Connection with and Dependence upon the Events which went before.
The very Gospel of CHRIST confists partly in the Hiftory of his Life and Death; nor can the other Part of it, namely, the Doctrines and Duties, be fo well understood without fome Knowledge of the Law of Mofes, the Ceremonies of the Jews, the Religion of the Patriarchs, and the Tranfactions of God with Adam, the firft Father of all Mankind.
The great and bleffed God at one fingle View furveys all his own Works and Defigns, from the beginning to the end of them; and every Part of his grand Scheme ftands in a delightful Harmony with the reft. He has ordained all his more early Dealings with Men in fuch a Manner, as to let in divine Light by several Gradations upon a dark World, and to lay a happy Foundation for his latest and beft Revelation made by his own Son, and his Apoftles: and in many Cafes the former Laws, Ordinances and Tranfactions, are evidently defigned to prefigure and fhadow out, as well as to introduce those which follow. Adam, our firft Father, by whom Sin and Death were brought into the World, was a Type or Figure of JESUS the second Adam, who brought in Righteoufnefs and Life, Rom. v. 14. I Cor. xv. 21, 22, 45, 49. The Law of Mofes was a Shadow of the good Things which were to come; but the Body and Subftance of thefe Blefsings was given us by CHRIST our Saviour, Col. iì. 17. Heb. x. 1. And it is certain we may obtain a more extenfive and complete Knowledge of Chriftianity, by our Acquaintance with the facred Affairs of Adam and Noah, of Abraham and Mofes, and the Sons of Ifrael.
Befides, it is the Hiftory of the BIBLE which hath conveyed down to us the Knowledge of thofe Miracles and divine Wonders which have been wrought by the Prophets, the immediate Meffengers of Heaven, to prove that they were fent of God: It is in this Hiftory we read those Prophecies of Things to come, together with the Accomplishment of them, which ftand in a beautiful Connection from the Be. ginning of the World to the Days of the Messiah. All of them join to confirm ourFaith in the levera} Revelations of Religion which God has made to
the Sons of Men; and all concur to establish the laft and noble Scheme of Religion, that is, CHRISTIANITY. Thus the very Hiftory of Scripture has a powerful and rational Influence to establish our Belief of the Gofpel, and to make us Chriftians upon folid and reasonable Grounds.
I add yet further, that in the hiftorical Part of Scripture we read the holy Laws of God, exemplified in the Life and Practice of good Men in feveral 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 ftands in the Law to require our Obedience, the actual Obedience of our Fathers to thofe Commands recorded in the Hiftory 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 Narratives of Scripture. How often do we read the Promises of God fulfilled in the Rewards of the Righteous, and his Threatenings executed against wilful Tranfgreffors? Thefe Things fet the Government of God before our Eyes in a stronger Light; they fhew us that his Words of Promife and Threatenings are not empty Sounds; and make it appear with fenfible Conviction, that he will certainly reward, and that he will as certainly punish. The many wonderful Inftances of a Divine Providence which concerns itfelf in the Affairs of Men, and which are recorded in the Word of God, have a natural Tendency to awaken our Fear of fo great and glorious a Being, and to encourage our Hope and Truft in him. In a Word; the Perfections of God, whereby he made and governs the World, are fet before our Eyes by the Scripture Hiftory in
fuch 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 hiftorical Account of his Works of Nature, Grace and Providence.
Since then it appears, that some Knowledge of the Hiftory of Scripture is neceffary 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 beft attained? How fhall Perfons, whofe 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 facred Hiftory? And how fhall those who are young in Years be trained up in the plainest and most alluring Manner to fome Knowledge of these important Affairs, till their growing Age and further Advantages fhall give them a more extenfive and capacious View of all the Transactions between God and Men recorded in Scripture?
The BIBLE itself is a very large Book, and tho' it ought to be read (at least many Parts of it) by Perfons of all Characters and Conditions, yet the reducing of the feveral Things contained in it to a fhort and narrow View, by way of Abridgment, is fo exceeding useful, that I had almost called it neceffary, at leaft for Youth, and for Perfons in the lawer Ranks of Life, who have fewer Conveniencies and Advantages of Knowledge. I have made this fufficiently evident with regard to the Doctrines and Duties of Religion, in my Difcourfe concerning the Compofition and Ufe of Catechifms, to which I refer my Reader: And the fame Argument will hold good with regard to the historical Part of Scripture. There I have fhewn particularly how needful it is to collect the great Articles and Rules of our Re