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degree of credit, because the vouchers, whence it is ascertained, are, of all others, the best attefted, and the term, as in them, fixed most consonant with natural phenomena, the late origin of the most ancient civil establishments and national records, the flow progress, and continual improvements in arts, &c. Suppose this term uncertain, and these vouchers counterfeit, curious and skilful enquirers into the origin of HISTORICAL TIME are left in perplexity to determine whether the Mofaical chronology, or that of the Chaldees, Chinese, Egyptians, Gentoos, &c. merits the preference.
EVERY well informed and impartial enquirer must admit, that the Hebrew records, inspiration apart, are recommended by internal characters of consistency, method, order, and truth; not to be found in the annals of nations, who pretended a prior origin to the Hebrews, but were certainly much more recent. No alphabetical composition, on any subject, in the primimitive language of Egypt, is mentioned in any old historian, even by its title, or a detached fragment. The Coptic alphabet is demonstratively, if not confessedly, modern. Manetho's Dynasties, originally the result of fiction and forgery, never had the lowest claim to credibility: and so much are they disfigured by deliberate changes of names, order, numbers, enlarged, omitted, mutilated, or transposed, that no guess can be made concerning their primitive contents or form. The Bible exhibiting every criterion of plan, method, and tendency to an ultimate end, is properly the subject of fair criticism, and never loses credibility, but always
acquires consistence, certainty, and every infallible character of truth, from those modes of trial, and tests of authenticity, which never fail to detect the fabrications of imposture.
Sir Isaac Newton, having built his Chronology on a foundation already laid, the ANNALS of Archbishop Usher, which had, before his time, obtained a general reception, went no farther back than the days of Eli, 28 full centuries subsequent to the Mosaical creation. But, as he did not avow his approbation of the received system, nobody knows, though it cannot reasonably be presumed, whether he did tacitly adopt the amplified antiquities of the Gentiles. The very first sentence of his work removes all such suspicion : “ All nations, before they began to keep exact accounts of time, have been prone to raise their antiquities; and this humour has been promoted between nations about their originals."
FARTHER, the Chronology of the Hebrew Pentateuch is, in many instances, different from that of the Samaritan copy, of the Greek version, and of Josephus. In several copies these distinct authorities contradiet one another, and all deviate from the original, which in all its transcripts, the Samaritan excepted, exhibits every where the same notations of number within the expressed period. Here are two reasons of preference, originality, and self consistence. Transcripts and versions are tried by their antitypes, as the supreme standard. Conformity is rectitude, and deviation the creature of error or unfaithfulness. Well known are the agents, the times, and the probable causes of variation from the numbers of the venerable original, which none of the scribes or translators had the effrontery to corrupt. As they found, they left it-unvitiated by enlargement, mutilation, or change; and kept in custody the precious depofitum, which eventually detected their breach of fidelity, as copiers or translators.
The impulsive cause of amplifying the true Mofaical compu:ation was to rescue the nation of the Hebrews from the supposed ignominy of a recent origin, in compliance with the prevalent vanity of the Gentiles from the days of Herodotus to those of Josephus. It has been alleged that the Jews of the second century first abbreviated their chronology. This conjecture has already been obviated, by (hewing the impossibility of such a fraud from the cime of Moses to the Chrisian era ; greater still was the difficulty of executing such a project, at a later period; for the Christians of the first century had got in possession the genuine oracles of inspiration.
This illustrious reformer of ancient chronology, taking his rise from the times of the later judges in Israel, has left it doubtful what edition of the Heb. Pentateuch he approved, whether the original text, or its transcripts and versions, as the model of true chronology. The numbers marked in the Short Chronicle express the years before the Chriftian era, as fixed by Ulher. Where he is erroneous, and Sir Isaac's arrangements did not require a different date, he erred with his master; whence it is presumed, that his prime source of computation is the number of the Julian Period 4710.
WERE this computation accurate, which it is not, Usher antedates the dispersion by a term of years, which affects the credibility of Moses in his historical character, if the state of arts and population, at the close of the first century after the flood, be maturely confidered. The interyal, compressed within too narrow limits, violates physical probability. Moses affirms, that, “ in the days of Peleg was the earth divided." Usher, after Josephus, refers that partition to the very year of that patriarch’s birth. But the facred historian's words may fairly be supposed applicable to any year of Peleg's life, whose
at death was 239; or to any year before the birth of Haran, (a brother of Abram), of whom it is recorded that he died in the land of his nativity. This notation of time presupposes the division of the earth. Who so well qualified to rectify this obvious prochronism as the renowned Sir Isaac Newton, whose of computation feem to have been intuitive? This point, the time of the general dispersion, would have opened to his view momentous discoveries, respecting the plantation of the first colonies, and the rise of the most ancient kingdoms. It would likewise have prevented the confusion, which, since his death, perplexes this subject, and is likely not to be soon removed. The authors of the Ancient Universal History, puzzled with the difficulties attending this period of the facred chronology, and incapable of dispelling the darkness induced by the frivolous and false arrangements of inexpert 7
chronologers and commentators, preferred the compusations of the Samaritan copy, as more expanded than those of the Hebrew, and less extravagant than those of the Greek version. Nor has the licentiousness of innoyation flopt here. Whilton, Hay, Jackson, and Kennicott, having revived the credit of the once exploded Septuagint, it is now the supreme and exclusive chronological directory; for one Geddes, in compliance with general opinion, has lately introduced into the English Pentateuch, the genealogical numbers in Gen. xi, from the Alexandrian interpreters, under the false pretence of translating from the Hebrew.
Even among those Christian writers, who adhere to the Hebrew computation, great is the discord of opinions, concerning the first point in time, which era Strauchius pronounces the gordian knot in chronology, never to be untwisted by the ingenuity of man. Petavius, Wallis, and others, have been fo bold as to afirm that absolute certainty in this matter is not attainable, but hy divine revelation.
UNREASONABLE it is to expect an immediate communication of supernatural light, to confirm the discoveries of the written word. If this point be not there revealed, it may safely be avoided, as one of those foolish and unlearned questions, which minister ftrifes, rather than promote edification. David Paræus, as quoted by Usher, pronounced those (who promised an exact astronomical table of time, from the first point of the creation unto Chrift) more worthy of encouragement than praise, in that they attempted a thing above