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Art. III. An Investigation into our present received Chronology
Wherein it is proposed clearly to point out and prove several essen. tial Errors, of very considerable Magnitude, contained in the Pea. riod of Time comprehended between the Birth of Abram, and the Birth of Christ; insomuch, that although it is over-reckoned materially in two Instances, yet upon the Whole it is evidently under-reckoned as much as 115 Years, viz. that Christ was born in the Year 4119, and not in the Year 4004. The whole indisputably proved from the Scripture, which is its own best Interpreter. By a Friend of Truth. Printed at Shrewsbury. 8vo. Pp. 106.
25. Longman, London. 1798. HERE is another laudable attempt to systematize and recon;
cile the various and jarring parts of what is called Sacred Chronology*. The propositions, which the author endeavours to establish, are the following:
PROPOSITION I. • That there does exist an error of 60 years, over-reckoned from the birth of Abram, till he was called to leave his father's house, at the age of 75, to go to the land of Canaan.
" PROPOSITION II. • That our commentators have, one and all, totally misconstrued and misunderstood the meaning of that passage of St. Paul, in the iii. ch. of Galatians, in supposing and concluding that the 430 years mentioned there, in the 17th verse, is to begin to be reckoned from the first promise to Abram.
• PROPOSITION III. « That there exists an error of no less than 215 years under-reckoned respecting the time which the children of Israel sojourned in Egypt.
• PROPOSITION IV. « That there are a few of her small errors, amounting in all to 13 years, under.reckoned from the foundation of the temple to the return of the Jews from their 70 years captivity in the first year of Cyrus.
• PROPOSITION V. • That there is a further error in the computation of cur chronologists, from the first year of Cyrus, to the birth of Christ, of as much as 53 years, over-reckoned during that period.
· PROPOSITION VI. • In order further to illustrate and confirm the truth of the last proposition, I undertake to shew, that the period of time, Dan. viii. 14, represented under the figurative term of 230 days, that is, years, did not expire in the year 1750, according to the opinion of the late Mr. Fletcher, (which it would have done had the chronology from the first year of Cyrus been right) but that it does expire in or with the year 1798.
• We have lately noticed several productions of this kind.
« PROPOSITION VII. In order further to demonstrate that the whole statement of the chronology is strictly correct, I shall shew, that there is every reason to believe, and infer, and that it appears very clearly, that the precise time when Abram was called of God, to offer up his son Isaac, on Mount Moria, as a type of Christ, was at exactly the half.of the period from the creation of the world, to the crucifixion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.'
We have neither leisure nor inclination for an elaborate critique on the arguments which the author employs to support these propositions, which would require an article as bulky as the • Investigation' itself. We must observe, however, that his reasoning is generally founded on a very questionable principle ; viz. that the dates in the Hebre scriptures, as they stand in the present copies, are infallible data. On the contrary, we think that they are often visibly wrong, and never infallibly certain. The Hebrew historians, like others, we believe, gave the best dates that they could find, whether from oral traditions or from written annals: but what reason have we for supposing that those annals and those traditions were themselves free from the possibility of error? We have three schemes of chronology in the book of Genesis only; and who will affirm that any one of them is indubitably certain, or even which of them is the most probable ? One author may employ all his talents in sup porting the Hebrew computation, another that of the Septua-d gint, and a third that of the Samaritan; and all this is excellent amusement for the chronological antiquary: but if the chrono." logical antiquary should go a step farther, and obstinately maintain that bis favourite system is the only true, the only divine system,--the sober critic must smile, and the sour critic will not scruple to sncer.
At this Friend of Truth, however, we will neither sneer nor smile; because we sincerely believe him to be what he professes ;;; and, indeed, we agree with him in some of his propositions ; although not precisely for the reasons which he adduces. For example, we are persuaded that, in our common calculations, made from the present Hebrew text, there is an error of sixty years in the chronology of Abram: but we would not, in order to prove this over-reckoning, invalidate the testimony of Stephen, to save the credit of Moses. We would rather, with honest Stackhouse, reject the present Hebrew reading, and adopt the Samaritan, which perfectly agrees with Stephen; with whom there could be no collusion.
In maintaining his second proposition, the present author endeavours to shew that the promise mentioned by St. Paul, Galat. iii. 17. has no relation to the first promise made to Abram,
Gen. xii. 7. but refers to the promise made to him immediately after Isaac'had been offered up intentionally by his father.' p. 33. Is not this a pure begging of the question, supported only by a train of suppositions, each and all equally unfounded? And does the authorthink that his observation, accompanying this assertion, will make it more palatable to the judicious critic? What renders this more remarkable (says he) is, that this circumstance took place precisely at exactly the half of the period from the creation of the world to the crucifixion of Christ, upon that selfsame mount Moria : as will hereafter be clearly proved, in the course of this work. For these proofs we have anxiously sought, but have not been happy enough to find them. However, that the author may not think that we injure him, we will (with our patient reader's permission) transcribe the proofs of his seventh and last proposition, to which he probably refers us : (p. 104, &c.)
• Some authors have entertained the opinion, that Isaac must have been as much as 33 years old at the time he suffered himself to le bound of his father, as bearing more asfinity with the age of Christ, Others have contended, that he was not then more than 25. This being the case, and the precise time uncertain, I shall take the liberty of supposing him to be just 28 years old at the time; and we are in. formed Gen. xxi. 5, that his father Abraham was an 100 when Isaac was born ; add to both these the age of the world when Abram was born, viz. 1948, and they make just 2076 to be the year of the world when Isaac was bound by his father Abraham, with the intention of being offered up for a burnt-offering, as a type of Christ. Add then the age
of Christ when crucified, viz. 33 years, to the age of the world when Christ was born, as hath been proved by this chronology, viz. 419, and both will make just 4152, which is just double the period of time which had elapsed previous to Isaac being bound by his father Abraham, with a view to be offered up as a type of Clirist.
• What has induced me to dwell so particularly on this circum. stance is, having been given to understand that the last sentence of the 14th verse of the xxii, chap. of Genesis is not properly translated from the original Hebrew text, or it would run thus, “ in this mount the Lord shall be seen;" that is, the Lord Jehovah shall be
Which was actually verified when Christ suffered upon that very identical Mount MORIA, on which, you will observe, the tcmple was built, see 2 Chron. iii. 1. And that it was the Lord Jehovah HIMSELF that was seen on that mount, I refer to Christ's own words, as recorded by his beloved disciple, John the Evangelist, see Jobu xiv. 1-11. And I think there can be no manner of doubt, but that it was the same person that appeared to Abram, Gen. xiv. and xviii. chapters. That this is not an unwarrantable construction upon the above passage in John, I refer to Isai. xliii. 10, 11 ; xliv. 6, 8, 245 xlv. '5 to 23 ; xlvi. 9; xlvii. 4 ; xlviii. 17 ; xlix. 26; liv. 5, 8; see also John i. 1, 3, 10, 14; 1 Timothy iii. 16; also Hosea xii. 4, 9, 14.
Mrs. West's Poems and Plays. • Having now, I trust, completely cleared up all my propositions collectively as well as severally, I shall only add a few remacks. If this chronology is not incontrovertibly correct, certain it is that the scripture is inadequate and insufficient to furnish us with a connected chronology; which would be a very essential defect, and greatly tend to derogate from its divine authenticity as recorded by Moses, who was, without the Icast doubt, instructed by God himself for that purpose. And as to the 69 weeks mentioned Dan. ix. 25, which imply 453 years, and which have been proved to commence in the first year of Cyrus; I make no hesitation whatever in firmly relying upon the truth and verity of that divine prophecy, in preference to a vague, uncertain and confused chronology, on which, its very votaries have confessed, there is no certainty or dependance to be placed.'
We inagine that, after this specimen, we need not give our opinion of the style, reasoning, and acumen of this wellmeaning writer.
Art. IV. Poems and Plays. By Mrs. West, Author of “ A Tale
of the Times," “ A Gossip's Story," &c. &c. 2 Vols. 12mo,
105. Boards. Longman and Rees. 1799. TH
He public have already been made acquainted with Mrs.
West, by several novels, and by some poetical composi. tions, which have been honoured with a respectable share of approbation. The elegant little volumes before us will not depreciate her literary reputation, though it is probable that she will find the Parvassian Mount less fertile of gain than the humbler field of storied fiction.
The dramatic pieces, which Mrs. W. here submits to the closet.judgment of the public, are a Tragedy called Adela, of which the subject is taken from feudal times- the “ days of chivalry' which, alas! are now no more !~and a Comedy called How will it end? The tragedy was offered to the manager of DruryLane Theatre, about three years ago, and declined; from an opinion that it was unlikely to succeed on the stage; it met a similar fate from the manager of Covent-Garden ; to whom also the Comedy was presented during the last winter, which he likewise refused. We do not think that these circumstances alone are proofs of their demerit; for we recognize the truth of Mrs. Wi's observation that theatrical managers, in our times, look for something different from plot, character, sentiment, or moral, in order to secure a favourable reception to a new piece.' The taste of the times, perhaps, compels them to do so :-a taste which we cannot help calling vicious, as it insists on a seasoning of the supernatural and the marvellous, even in those compositions of which sound criticism has declared probability to be an essential ingredient. The charge of bombast, pageantry, and unnatural inconsistent horrors (Mrs. W. observes) has been proved against tragedy; and comedy labours under
the strong censure of confused plot, exaggerated character, and buffoonery.' Our opinion of Mrs. West's comedy is, that it possesses very considerable merit, with respect to the conception and delineation of character, the soundness of its sentiments, and the purity of its moral; and, if the public should receive as much pleasure from the representation of it as we have gained from the perusal, we are confident that the exhibition of it would not be either unsuccessful or unprofitable. With regard to her Tragedy, our hopes are less sanguine. Probably the muse of Mrs. West is of too soft and gentle a character, to rise to the energy and pathos which are indispensable when the object is to rouse the stronger passions. She may please, divert, and inform: but she cannot agitate. Biank verse, too, is not perhaps the garb in which she best knows how to dress her sentiments. Her compositions of this kind seem to want something both of spirit and of harmony.
Among the detached poems, many possess very considerable merit. The Ode to Poetry abounds with beautiful and spirited imagery, and will afford the reader much of that kind of pleasure which, after all, is perhaps a better criterion of poetic merit than the rules of pedantic criticism. The following stanzas are taken from that part of the ode which is devoted to uncultivated poetry : • Amid the oaks which now compose
The bulwarks of the British clime,
And taught their mysteries sublime ;
And when the numbers ceas'd to flow,
In mimic fights they rais'd the shield,
Yet charms th' enthusiastic breast,
Their harps the Scottish minstrels press'd;
Rear on the hill his cloud-built throne,
The spirits of the dead repair
Peur'd in the dungeon's living tomb ?