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people passed in the wilderness under the conduct of Moses; three hundred and fifty from their entrance into the Holy Land under the direction of Joshua and the judges ; forty years under Saul, forty more under David, and some years of the reign of Solomon. Such a division is not very burdensome to the memory, and in my opinion makes the knowledge of facts much more clear and easy.

Among the writers of chronology, Usher and Pe. tavius are the most followed. Either the one or the other of these great men may be chosen for a guide ; but in the same college it will be proper to keep to one and the same in every class.

As there are some facts in Sacred History differently related by the several authors who have treated of them, it is the master's business to unite and reconcile these differences, by chusing out of each book such circumstances as are most instructive and affecting. When they come to the times of the prophets, their writings give a great light to the historical books, that omit several considerable facts, or often but slightly touch upon them; of which we shall give some examples in the sequel.

There has been lately printed a book, entitled, An Abridgment of the history of the Old Testament, which may

be

very useful not only to youth, but to all persons, who have not leisure or capacity enough for studying the Sacred History in the scripture itself. Whatever is most essential in Sacred History is thrown into this abridgment. That simplicity of style is diligently observed, which is so peculiar to it. In the historical relations care is also taken to intermix certain words of scripture, which convey great sense, and suggest matter for important reflections. Lastly, to render this work more complete and useful, it concludes with an extract from the sapiental and prophetical books. It were to be wished, we had the like assistance for profane history.

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II. In the studying of Sacred History we must not neglect the usages and customs peculiar to the people of God, their laws, their government, and manner of living. The excellent book of M. l'Abbé Fleuris, intitled the Manners of the Israelites, contains all that can be desired upon this subject, and dispenses 'with treating it more at large.

III. It is proper to make youth take notice of the principal characters of the Jews, the carnal Jews I. inean, who made up the body of the nation. The honour which God had shewn thein in chusing them to be his people, had filled them with pride. They looked upon all other nations with the utmost contempt. They thought every thing their due. Full of presumption, and an high opinion of themselves, they expected to be justified only by their own works. They placed their whole confidence in the outward observances of the law. They confined their vows and hopes to temporal advantages and earthly blessings. When brought to the trial, and reduced to any necessity, forgetful of all the benefits of God, and all the miracles he had wrought in their favour, and constantly disposed to rebel against him and their superiors, they gave themselves up to complaint, murmuring and despair. And lastly, if we except the latter times, they had always an irresistible inclination to idolatry.

It is this last circumstance which in my opinion lets us most into the real character of the Jewish nation, and is one of the principal motives of the choice which God made of them; I mean, their hardness of heart, an extreme inclination to do ill, by which God would shew us, that means purely exterior are absolutely incapable of correcting the heart of man, as they were all without exception employed for several ages in healing the Jews of idolatry, and teaching them to observe the first commandment, but without success. Neither the long and miserable oppression they un

derwent

derwent in Egypt; nor the joy and gratitude for a miraculous deliverance, and the instruction of the law given at the foot of mount Sinai ; neither the substitution of a new race, born in the wilderness, brought up by Moses, formed by the law, intimidated by the punishment of their fathers; nor their entrance into the promised land, and the actual enjoyment of all the effects of the promise; neither the different chastisements, nor the warnings and examples of the prophets, during their abode in that land, were able to root out that impious inclination. But growing still more wicked, more corrupt, and idolatrous in the promised land, than they had been in Egypt, God at last was obliged to send them captive to Nineveh and Babylon; and yet this correction served only to harden them ; so that, giving up themselves to all manner of wickedness, they caused the name of tlie God of Israel to be blasphemed among the idolatrous nations, whom they exceeded in all manner of guilt and impiety.

It is God himself, who declares to us in his prophets, and especially in [t] Exekiel, the design he had of shewing mankind by the series of all the events which befel his people, of shewing them, I say, the excessive corruption of their hearts, and the inability of purely external remedies for the healing so ancient and inveterate an evil. This view is one of the great keys of scripture, and shews us most sensibly the secret and spirit of the Old Testament. Without the knowledge of this circumstance, the Sacred History will consist of impenetrable obscurities, and remain an incomprehensible book to the greatest part of its readers. To what end indeed was the choice of a people so obstinate and ungrateful? Why so many favours conferred upon Israel, preferably to so many other nations, in all outward appearance better than they? Why so constant an attachment to this people, not- . withstanding so fixed a perseverance in ingratitude ? Why were they made to pass through so many various [1] Ezek. XX.

con

conditions ? Why that continual alternative of promises and threatnings, consolations and afflictions, rewards and corrections ? Why

Why so many instructions, warnings, invitations, reproofs, miracles, prophets, and holy guides? Why so many benefits bestowed on a people, who, instead of growing better, became the worse for them? This depth of the divine wisdom, which astonishes us, should at the same time instruct us; as from this very obscurity, diffused through the

; whole conduct of God towards his people, there breaks out a light more clear than that of the sun, demon

atrating to us the insufficiency of all outward applica. tions in healing the corruption of the human heart.

IV. It appears evidently from the manner in which the Old Testament is written, that the design of God, in giving it to men, was to make them extremely attentive to the great examples of virtue contained in it. The scripture cuts off in few words the history of the ungodly, how great soever they were in the eyes of the world; and on the other hand dwells long upon the smallest actions of the righteous. The first book of kings is the history of Samuel; the second that of David; the third and fourth of Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Elijah, Elisha, and Isaiah. The wicked seem to be mentioned only with regret, by accident, and on purpose to be condemned. If we compare what is said of Nimrod, who built [u] the two mighty cities of the world, and founded the greatest empire that ever was in the universe, with what is reported of the first patriarchs, we know not why the very important facts, which inust have rendered the life of that famous conqueror so particular, and given so much light and ornament to ancient history, should be passed over with such rapidity, to dwell so long upon the minute, and seemingly unnecessary circumstances of the life either of Abraham, or Jacob, which was still less illustrious than that of his grandfather. But God points out to us herein how different his [u] Nineveh and Babylon.

thoughts thoughts are from ours, in letting us see in the first what men admire and wish for, and in the others what he is well pleased with, and thinks worthy his approbation and our attention.

The scripture lays down rules, and prescribes models for all ranks and conditions. Kings and judges, rich and poor, husbands and wives, fathers and children, all find there most excellent instructions upon every branch of their duty. It is an useful, and withal an agreeable exercise, to accustom youth to join together of themselves and repeat off hand several examples upon the same subject.

Kings in holy scripture, I mean such as were after God's own heart, consider themselves only as the ministers of the supreme King, and use their authority only to make their subjects happy, by making them better. They are full of zeal for the glory of God and the public good. Let but any one carefully reflect upon the sentiments of piety, which David expressed in the translation of the ark, and his preparations for building the temple; Jehoshaphat's visitation of his kingdom ; Hezekiah's cares for religion from the moment he began to reign; the indefatigable zeal of Josiah for restoring the true worship not only in Judah, but in the ten tribes also, and he will plainly see that those princes thought themselves placed on the throne only to establish the kingdom of God in their dominions. And to shew that piety is not inconsistent with true politics, the scripture affects sometimes to mention in particular the wise precautions they took in war and peace; fortifications of towns, magazines of arms, disciplined troops; the cares of agriculture, of the feeding and preservation of cattle, the certain and innocent sources of the plenty that reigned throughout the country, and enabled the people to pay with joy and ease the taxes which were constantly regulated according to the real necessities of the state, and the abilities of every private subject.

Judges, magistrates, ministers, and all persons in authority, find perfect models in Moses, Joshua, the

Judges

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