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THE HISTORY of the BIBLE, by the Rev. Mr. Howel, being much esteemed, and having become very scarce, I was desired by the publishers of this edition to prepare it for the press: in doing which I found much more labour than I expected; for Mr. Howel's style was frequently negligent, and required some improvement to render it agreeable to modern and intelligent readers. Many events, recorded both in the Old and New Testament, appeared to me to have been passed over too slightly. To his account of these I have made considerable additions; and have sometimes ventured to intermingle a few practical reflections. I have also endeavoured to throw that light upon some of the obscurer passages of the Old Testament with which we are furnished by the New. The History of our Saviour's sufferings, death, and resurrection, is much enlarged, for which I am indebted chiefly to those excellent writers, Doctors Doddridge and Macknight; from whom, as well as from several other able critics, I have borrowed many an explanatory note, which I trust have contributed greatly to enrich the Work: and throughout the whole, I have laboured to render the history uniformly evangelical. In a word-If Mr. Howell's criginal work deserved the approbation of the public, I hope this improved edition will be still more acceptable, and be found generally useful to Christians of all denominations.
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, on account of their antiquity, dignity, and other excellencies, far exceeding all the writings of the ancients, it may be proper, before we commence our Biblical History, to make a few remarks upon them. Indeed, if we consider how many centuries have passed since they were compiled, and how miraculously they have been preserved to the present times, they plainly appear to have been the peculiar care of God. We ought also to prize the Scriptures, as comprising every species of knowledge that is useful and entertaining. Would we know whence natural philosophy, with astronomy and other appendages on it derive their origin? Examine the books of Genesis, Job, and Ecclesiastes. What writings abound more in ethics or moral precepts, than the sacred and sententious Proverbs? What more certain, regular or pleasing History can we find, than in Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, and Judges. How free from sophistry are the Holy Scriptures, and how solid are all the arguments used in them? Geometry is displayed in the building of the tabernacle; and the working in metals and wood was known long before the building of Solomon's temple. In short, all manner of Learning, Arts, and Sciences, are comprehended within those sacred pages. They are so exactly disposed, that they are a magazine accommodated to all places, times and persons; so that St. Basil justly calls them a Pharmacopeia furnished with medicines for all uses and necessities. From hence, in time of persecution, the martyrs derived con
stancy and courage. From hence, in times of peace and religion, the learned acquired wisdom and eloquence. In times of heresy, they furnished the orthodox with stability in the faith, and assisted them in the subversion of error. From hence, in prosperity, we learn humility and modesty; in adversity, magnanimity and patience. In danger it arms us with an honest zeal; and, finally, if abuses insinuate themselves into discipline, and corrupt our morals, nothing but the rule of God's word can restore religion to its pristine state and dignity; for that alone is the standard of our thoughts, and guide of our actions.
But we need no other recommendation of these sacred writings, than that of our blessed Saviour, who hath commanded us to "search the Scriptures." And in obedience to his precept, the apostles and fathers of the church made it their great concern to exhort all men to the study of them. The Old Testament is indeed a system of every kind of knowledge useful for the conduct of human life; and from which the philosophers and legislators of all ages drew the best of their observations; and the authors of both canon and civil law have from thence derived their most useful institutions.
But the excellency of Sacred History will more evidently appear, if we compare it with the accounts of the best and most ancient heathen writers. How obscure and trifling are their stories of Deucalion's flood, of Prometheus and Hercules, and their general notions of the existence of the world from eternity! In short, all profane story is filled with obscurity and fables before the Olympiads, which was their first certain æra, and which did not commence till many centuries after the time of Moses; so that from the first three thousand years of the world, we have no certain history to depend upon, but that of Moses. And, indeed, if we pay our just deference to it, we shall find it the best guide in the transactions life. There only we have the true account of the rise and fall of the most early kingdoms of the world; and by their example, either in prosperity or adversity, learn to be wise and happy. If we compare the Greek and Roman historians with the Sacred History, we shall find the latter to abound with the more illustrious exemplars of heroic virtue. Rome may boast of her Torquatus and Brutus, who, in a more