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that they are all true in themselves, and have, in the rain, been faithfully handed down to us. They were chiefly written by persons who were concerned in many of the transactions which they relate. This was particularly the case of Moses, the first and the oldest of them : 'and though he lived several centuries after the creation of the world, yet, considering the long lives of men in those days, a traditionary account might be easily handed down to him, and with ' much greater certainty than it can be at present. The learned tell us, that the heathen divided their time, before their histories began, into two periods. One they called the dark age, of which they knew nothing ; and the other, the fabulous age, of which their traditionary accounts were very uncertain and fabulous. But of this whole period we have an authentic account in the scriptures, delivered by wise and judicious men : yea, by men divinely inspired, and therefore secure from any important and dangerous mistake. I shall only add, that these histories have great internal evidence of truth. The simplicity of their style and manner, the honesty of the writers, in not giving favourable accounts of their own nation, or particular families, or of the chief heroes whose actions they relate ; their very particular account of their own imprudénces, and faults, and the transgressions and calamities of their countrymen, all speak the integrity of their hearts. The manner in which the history is written, is agreeable. The narrations are plain, and yet beautiful ; the style grave and manly ; the stories are told in a clear and concise manner, it has all the 'advantages of common history; and some peculiar to itself; particularly, the sublime idea it gives us of the great God, and constant expressions of reverence for his name, and regard for his providence. These at once prevent our thinking it to be a fraud, and render it'extremely agreeáble and useful to wise and serious minds. Its antiquity, its truth, and the manner in which it is written, all render this history worthy of our pérusal and study, and very serviceable ; indeed other histories have no glory, in comparison with the excellent glory of this.
II. They explain and illustrate many other parts of the holy scriptures.
We shall have occasion hereafter to observe the consistency of their sévéral parts, and thảt they all center in one grand, leading design : consequently the several parts of the sacred volume must illustrate, and be illustrated by, one another. In this view the historical párt is useful. There are frequent references in the Psalms and Prophets and the New Testament, to the original state of mankind ; to the fall ; the deluge ; the call of Abrahám, with whom the covenant of grace respecting the Jewish church was made : 'to the whole history of the Israelites, and the cirtumstances of many of their kings, especially. David. These references could not be understood without the history of these things. The book of Psalms, is of admirable use to enkindle and assist our devotions ; but the beauty of many of these would be lost, in a great measure, if we had not the histories of Moses, David, and the state of the Israelites, which some of the latter Psalms plainly refer to. It throws light and beauty upon many of those composures, to know upon what occasion, and in what circumstances, they were written. The history of the authors illustrates their own tempers ; we enter into their sentiments with peculiar pleasure, know how, as it were, to feel with them, and can better accommodate them to our own circumstances, as we better discern the resemblance between theirs and our own.
Again ; these histories throw great light upon the prophecies of the Old Testament. The account we have of the state of the Israelites under their kings, and amidst their captivities and depressions, illustrates the prophecies of Moses concerning them. The history of the kings of Israel, and of good men under the reigns of their several princes ; the attacks of the neighbouring nations, and the calamities they suffered by them, is a key to explain the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and several of the minor prophets. And, had we as particular an account of the neighbouring nations, it would illustrate those prophecies concerning them which the Jewish prophets delivered, and which, for want of a further acquaintance with the history of these nations, are, and must be, very obscure. We have had occasion to refer to many prophecies, in the course of our exposition, which have been accomplished ; and when we consider the prophecies themselves, it will, I hope, further appear, of what service the histories are to explain them.
Further ; these histories are serviceable to illustrate the whole New Testament. Many of the Old Testament heroes were figures of Jesus Christ ; the sacrifices and other rituals under the law were types of him, and of the institutions and blessings of the gospel. The most material facts in the Old Testament history are referred to, and argued upon, in the New. What was said to encourage the faith and patience of God's ancient people, is accommodated to the circumstances of christians. And our encouragement rises, in proportion to the degree in which we understand the histories, and consider the cases of those ancient saints, to whom favourable and merciful dispensations were made. To this the apostle seems particularly to refer, where he says, These things were written, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope,
III. They convey to us many important and profitable instructions : their great design and tendency is to make us wise and good.
And here let it be observed, that these histories give us clear and striking ideas of God's government of the world ; they fur nish us with many examples of piety and goodness ; they set before us the danger, to which the best of men are liable, of being overcome by temptation ; they represent to us the great evil of
sin, and God's displeasure against it ; they show the insufficiency of any prayers or professions without a suitable life ; they manifest God's favourable regards to his servants, notwithstanding the imperfection of their characters ; and they show us that there is one consistent, honourable and useful scheme of divine government carried on through his several dispensations.
1. They give us clear and striking ideas of God's government of the world ; both of bis natural and moral government : his natural government, or his providence ; and his moral government, that is, his treatment of his. rational creatures, according to their character and conduct.
They give us clear ideas of the providence of God : that his kingdom ruleth over all. This is a truth, which the reasonings of our own minds, upon an observation of the frame of nature, its preservation and revolutions, would suggest ; but it is particularly represented in the sacred history. It is supposed through the whole of it, and in many places delivered in express and striking terms. It is almost impossible to open the bible without reading this at the first glance ; and it is often described with great plainness, and great sublimity, both to convince the most illiterate, and to strike the most careless. The sacred histori. ans were full of this thought, and they introduce it in a very natural and a very instructive manner. They ascribe all their mercies and afflictions, and those of their nation, whose history they record, to the hand of God. They acknowledge, that he lifteth up, and he putteth down ; that to him belongeth mercy and judgment. Whatever extraordinary achievements they describe, they impute them to the Spirit and power of God. The devotions of its heroes are perhaps as valuable a part of the history as any other. They seek their help from God, own their depende ence on him, and give him the glory of all their deliverances and successes. They ascribe it to him, that other pations were overcome by them, or were their conquerors : and represent the greatest and most powerful princes, as only instruments in his hands, and employed to execute his wise and righteous purposes. And there is not one of the sacred historians, except the writer of the book of Esther, who does not take frequent occasion to suggest this thought to every reader, that God reigneth among the kingdoms of men, and that he ordereth all things according to the counsel of his will. It has been observed, that other histories are written to give us high and magnificent ideas of princes and conquerors, the pomp of courts, the splendour of conquests, the bravery and success of armies ; but these direct our thoughts to the supreme and universal King, whose scourge, tyrannical princes are, to a wicked people. Here we see, as in the works of nature, “all things full of God.” A strong presumption that these writings come to us under his influence and suggestions, and are instances of their great usefulness. Vol. II,
Further ; we have the clearest ideas of the moral government of God, or that which respects the conduct of his rational creatures. He does not interpose in the affairs of this world merely to show his power, but also to display his holiness and justice, his hatred of sin, and his regard to righteousness. The calamities brought upon our first parents, upon the old world, upon the Canaanites, upon the Israelites as a nation, and upon many of their princes ; all display the divine rectitude, and show, that the righteous Lord loveth righteousness, but the wicked, and him that loveth violence, his soul hateth. And though we cannot argue: from God's dealings with the Jews, how he will deal with other nations, (as there was something peculiar in their constitution and government) yet their history inculcates this general and important truth, that righteousness exalteth a nation, and sin is the refiroach, and will be the ruin, of any people. For the apostle tells us, 1 Cor. x. 11. that all these things happened to them for ensamples to us.
2. They furnish us with many examples of eminent piety and goodness.
The usefulness of virtuous examples is universally allowed ; and where shall we find any equal to those in the bible ? Many of the Old Testament saints were very eminent : perhaps, considering their advantages, as eminent examples of true religion as any in the New. The simplicity, as well as shortness of the scrip-ture histories, does not allow the inspired penmen to take up time in drawing characters and writing encomiums, such as are to be found in common histories. This is left to the reader, who cannot but observe in them the evident traces of unaffected piety, deep humility, generous benevolence, strict temperance, undaunted fortitude, meek resignation, and the like.
And one would think that every reader must feel an inclination to celebrate and imitate what is so lovely and Jaudable. To stir up such inclinations, a hint is sufficient, and perhaps may be more effectual than a laboured panegyric or description. I would only observe, that there are good examples for the young and the old, for persons of both sexes, for statesmen and soldiers, for divines, tradesmen, and mechanics ; and these examples come recommended by the sanction of God himself. There are, particularly, some shining characters, which he has marked out with especial approbation ; and they were recorded to promote our emulation. There is an abstract of the principal characters in these histories, in the eleventh chapter of the Hebrews; and illustrated with this view, that we may be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
23. They set before us the danger in which the best of men are, of being overcome by temptation.
The most perfect of human characters are not exempt fror what may be a grievance and reproach to them : the most celebrated saints under the Old Testament have displayed soms
things in them, which cannot be commended or vindicated. Instances may be found in the lives of Noah, Lot, Abraham, David, Solomon, and some of the prophets. And though some writers have very indecently exposed their frailties, and disguised their virtues, in order to weaken the credit of revelation, yet we cannot vindicate them, and even the sacred histories themselves condemn them. Our business is candidly to think that they were but men; men of like passions, and subject to the same infirmities, with the rest of the species. Their faults are recorded for our warning; and the warning is important and useful. They caution us not to be high minded, but fear, whatever advances we may have made in religion. And let me add, it is a debt of justice to good characters in ancient times, as well as at present, not hastily to receive an opinion to their disadvantage ; but to consider the circumstances of the action, of time and place, to judge candidly, and to pronounce with caution. Had many writers done this, instead of asserting confidently, or insinuating with a sneer, it would have prevented them from censuring many great and good men, whose virtues would have commanded their approbation and applause.
4. They represent to us the great evil of sin, and God's high displeasure against it.
Sin is so evil and bitter, that every thing which tends to make us sensible of its malignily and mischief, must be of great advantage. The sacred histories answer this end ; for they represent the most remarkable calamities which have befallen mankind in those ages, as the effects of sin'; and.plain, avowed tokens of the divine displeasure against it. In this view the history of the fall, the destruction of the old world, and the many afflictions of the Israelites, are remarkable. These were awful memorials of God's Iratred of that which is evil. The destruction of Sodom and of the Canaanites, for their horrid and unnatural rices, speak loudly, that they are the abominable things which God's righteous soul hat. eth. Calamities on particular persons speak the same language. The death of Korah and his company, of Nadab and Abihu, the destruction of the rebellious and murmuring Israelites, the can lamities which befell David and his house, for his sin, and several su ch events, testify the righteousness of God, and how he resents the iniquities of men. The great ends of punishment, are the reformation of the offenders, and the admonition of others. The admonition was designed, not only for those who were spec-, tators of those calamities, or shared in the effects and consequchces of them, but for all to whom the report of thein might extend. For the nature of God is the same ; the nature and evil consequences of sin are the same ; and, amidst numerous snares and temptations, we need a caution. Thus, after St. Paul had reckoned up the chief sins and plagues of the Israelites, their unreasonable desires ; their idolatry ; their impurities ; their murmur. ings and tempting of Providence ;- he says, Now all these things