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The preceding remarks will have prepared the mind of the reader for appreciating the author's design in the production of this volume. His first and ruling idea was to arrive at the TRUTH respecting the origin and early history of the human race. Two reasons induced him to make the Bible his text-book throughout the inquiry. First, he saw that, in reference to several important topics, no light could possibly be obtained, except through divine revelation: this is the case with regard to the origin of mankind, the divine purpose respecting the human race, and man's future destiny. On these subjects, if any information is attainable, it must be through explicit communications from the Author and Governor of the universe. Secondly, the volume of inspiration is the only source of information which we know to be unalloyed by error, and unadulterated by fiction. For these reasons, the Scriptural account has been regarded as of paramount authority. But while it has been the primary object of the author to give a true account of this portion of history, it has been no less his design to make it as full and complete as possible; and, for this purpose, every profane historian of eminence, whose writings contain allusions, however brief, to the events connected with the earliest ages, has been consulted; the annals of every nation have been examined; the cloudy regions of tradition, mythology, and fable, have been explored. From all these sources, information has been obtained, which the author has endeavored to concen. trate into the smallest compass consistent with explicitness, and to reduce the whole into a homogeneous narrative, which may present a complete view of the history and religion of the age.
The author likewise freely avows, that it has been, throughout, an integral part of his design to impart to the work a decidedly religious character. He has endeavored not only to unite in the same investigation the history of every age with its religion, buť to do this in a decidedly religious manner; and, avoiding all sectarian peculiarities, uniformly to illustrate the grand elements of evangelical godliness, and to show their powerful efficiency in forming the finest characters of sacred antiquity, the most perfect specimens of exalted virtue and moral grandeur of which our frail humanity, under the benignant ducture of divine teaching, has at any time been capable.
With respect to the plan of the work, few words may suffice. A general view of the subject soon rendered apparent the necessity of settling the chronology of those primeval times, and of ex
hibiting at least a general and connected outline of the intelligence and learning possessed by the early generations of mankind, before we entered upon the history itself. This has been attempted in the “ Preliminary Dissertation ;” the conclusions at which we have arrived, from a careful examination of the whole subject, being, that the Septuagint chronology is alone entitled to our confidence; and that letters and learning were extensively cultivated and diffused in those ages of which we have undertaken to treat, and were most probably coeval with our race, and consequently of divine origin.
Another part of the plan may require a passing notice. In referring to the various works which the author had occasion to quote, he had to choose between giving the substance of those extracts in his own language, or citing the very words of the writers themselves. He was strongly advised by some literary friends to adopt the former course, as a means of preventing those frequent alternations of style, and breaks in the narrative and argument, which must necessarily result from the other. After mature consideration, it has, however, been decided to submit to these inconveniences, and act upon the plan of citing from all the important treatises which have been consulted, either in the exact phraseology employed in them, or in approved translations. The principal reason for preferring this mode has been, that it presents to the reader, in all their integrity, the authorities on which any reliance has been placed; and thus affords every one the means of judging of their value, and appreciating their true character, to an extent that would have been impossible if their substance had been incorporated into the narrative, and a mere reference to the authorities had been made at the foot of the page. Although the adoption of this course may render the volume less acceptable to some persons, it is hoped that this defect, if such it be, is more than counterbalanced by its deriving from the same cause, notwithstanding its limited size, the character of a cyclopædia of all that is certainly known of the history and religion of that early period.
The author did not at first contemplate the prosecution of his researches beyond the present volume ; but he has, during the progress of his labor, been so convinced of the utility and importance of a similar investigation of the history and religion of the period from the death of Isaac to the birth of Christ, that he has resolved to carry his purpose into effect, and to complete it in
two other volumes as nearly as possible of the same size as the present; one treating of the history and religion of the Jewish Commonwealth from its commencement to the birth of Christ; the other containing the collateral history and religion of the Gentile nations. Thus, while the work will contain three separate and independent treatises on different portions of history, each being complete within itself, the whole will form an epitome of the history and religion of the world from the creation to the birth of Christ.
The author has deeply felt the inconvenience of being situated at a distance from all valuable public libraries; but, thrown solely on his own resources, he has spared neither labor n
expense to render 'the volume useful to the world. It is the first desire of his heart that Scriptural religion and increasing knowledge may be inseparably united, and proceed onward, till they speedily triumph over all ignorance and error. To the great cause of the instruction and moral amelioration of our species, the book is, with unaffected anxiety, most heartily and sincerely devoted.
March 4th, 1847.