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NECESSARY PRINCIPLES FOR THE UNDERSTAND
ING SACRED HISTORY.
S 13а T
BEFORE I set down the observations necessary to be made in the studying of Sacred History, or teaching it to others, I think it proper to begin with giving a general idca of it, which may explain the character peculiar to it, and assist us in shewing wherein this history differs from all others.
SACRED History is very different from all other history whatsoever. The last contains only hunan facts and temporal events, and often full of uncertainty and contradiction. But the other is the history of God himself, the supreme Being; the history of his omnipotence, his infinite wisdom, his universal providence, his holiness, his justice, his mercy, and all his other attributes, set forth under a thousand fornis, and displayed by abundance of wonderful effects." The book which contains all these wonders is the most ancient book in the world, and the only one before the coming of the Messiah, in which God has shewn us, in a clear and certain manner, what he is, what we are, and for what ends designed
Other histories leave us deeply ignorant in all these important points. Instead of giving a clear and distinct idea of the Godhead, they render it obscure, dishonour and distigure it by numberless extravagant fables, differing only from one another in a greater or less degree of absurdity. They give us no insight into the nature of the world we inhabit, whether it
had a beginning, by whom or to what end it was created, how it is supported and preserved, or whether it is always to subsist; we learn nothing what we are ourselves, what our original, nature, design, or end.
Sacred History begins with clearly revealing to us in a few words the greatest and most important truths, That there is a God, pre-existing before all things, and consequently eternal; that the world is the work of his hands, that he made it out of nothing by his word alone, and that thus he is almighty. [ej In the beginning God created the hearen and the earth.
It then represents man, for whom this world was made, as coming forth from the hands of liis Creator, and compounded of a body and a soul; a body made out of a little dust, the proof of its weakness; and'a soul, breathed into it by God, and consequently distinct from the body, spiritual, intelligent, and from the very substance of its nature and constitution, incorruptible and immortal.
It describes the happy condition in which man was created, righteous and innocent, and destined for eternal happiness, if he had persevered in his righteousness and innocence; his sad fall by sin, the fatal source of all his misfortunes, and the twofold death to which he was condemned with all his posterity; and lastly, his future restoration by an all-powerful Mediator, which was even then promised and pointed out to him for his consolation, though at the distance of a remote futurity; all the circumstances and characters whereof are' afterwards described, but under the faint shadows of figures and symbols, which like so many veils, serve at the same time to disclosc and hide it
..! It teaches us, that in this restoration of mankind, the great work of God, to which all is referred, and in which all terminatės, is to form to himself a kingdom worthy of him, a kingdom which shall alone subsist to all eternity, and to which all others shall give place; that Jesus Christ shall be the founder and  Gen. i. 1.
ruler of this kingdom, according to the august prophecy of [[ ] Daniel, who after he had seen in a vision under different symbols the succession and ruin of all the great empires of the world, sees at last the Son of Man drawing near to the Ancient of Days, usque ad Antiquum Dierum, a noble and sublime expression to denote the Eternal; and immediately adds, that God gave him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
This kingdom is the church, which is begun and formed here upon earth, and shall one day be carried up into heaven, the place of its original and eternal habitation. [g] And then cometh the end, that is, of this visible world, which subsists only for the other, chen Jesus Christ, after having put down all rule, and all authority, and power, shall have delivered up the kingdom, that is to say, the blessed and holy company of the elect, to God, even the Father.
It is this blessed society of the just, and he who has been pleased to be their head, sanctifier, father, and spouse, who are the grand object and the last end of all the designs of God. From the beginning of the world, and even before sin had perverted the order of it, he had them both in view. [h] St. Paul declares in express terms, that the first Adam was the figure of the second, qui est forma futuri ; and (i] he insinuates to us, that Eve, who was taken from Adam's side during his mysterious sleep, was a natural image of the church, proceeding from the side of Christ, who slept upon the cross to make us the children of it.
We sce God, who is always watchful over the work of his own hands, from the earliest times preparing at a distance the formation of the Christian church, and laying the foundations of it, by revealing to man such mysteries as it was always necessary to his salva(f) Dan. vii. 1-14.
[b] Rom. v. 14. : (s) 1 Cor. xv. 24.
(1) Eph. V..25, &c.
tion for man to know, by frequently renewing to him the promise of a Redeemer, by pointing out to him the necessity of believing in a Mediator for the obtaining of true righteousness ; by teaching him the essence of religion and the spirit of true worship; by transmitting from age to age, without alteration, these capital doctrines by the long life of the first patriarchs, who were full of faith and holiness; by taking care, through the means of the ark, to preserve these essential truths from perishing in the deluge; and lastly, by forming from the beginning a society of just men, more or less numerous and visible, and preserving them by an uninterrupted succession.
But when the earth began to be again overspread with an inundation of errors and crimes, of a more pernicious consequence than the deluge of waters they had lately escaped from; God, to secure the salutary truths, which began to grow obscure and extinct in all nations, committed them in trust to a family entirely devoted to religion. Of them he forms a peculiar people, inclosed within the precincts of a particular country which he had long before prepared for them, separated from all other nations by distinct laws and customs, directed and governed in a manner entirely singular, exposed as a spectacle to the rest of the world by the innumerable wonders he wrought amongst them, either with a view to fix them in the promised land, to keep them in possession of it, or bring them back to it when driven out. He was not content to guide them like other people, by a general and common providence, but himself became their head, legislator, and king. And it was his will, that this people should be the type and figure of what was afterwards to happen to the church, by their departure out of Egypt, their wandering in the desert, their entrance into the land of promise, their wars and conquests, their long captivity in Babylon, their return into their own country; in a word, by all the different states and changes which befel them; and that the expectation of the Messiah, promised to VOL. II.
the patriarch, figured by the ceremonies and sacrifices of the law, foretold by the prophets, should be the proper and especial character of this people to distinguish them from all the other nations of the earth.
This is what the scripture teaches us, and alone could discover to us, as it alone is the depositary of the divine revelations, and of the manifestation of God's decrees, which lay concealed in his bosom from all eternity, till the moment he was pleased to divulge them. And can any object be greater, of nearer concern, and more worthy the attention of mankind, than an history, wherein God has thought fit of himself to draw with his own hand the plan of our eternal destiny ?
To fix the certainty of revelation, and establish religion upon a firm foundation, it has pleased God to give it two sorts of proof, which were at the same time suited to the capacities of the most simple, and superior to all the subtleties of the incredulous, which visibly bore the character of omnipotence; and which neither all the endeavours of man, or cunning of devils were able to imitate.
These two sorts of proof consists in miracles and prophecies.
The miracles are plain, public, notorious, exposed to the eyes of all the world, infinitely multiplied and diversified, long foretold and expected, and continuing for a long series of days and soinetimes of years. They are evident facts, memorable events, of which the dullest understanding could not but be sensible, whereof the whole people were not only spectators and witnesses, but themselves the matier and object; they reap the advantages of them, and perceive the effects, and have their own happiness or misery depending on them. The family of Noah could not forget the destruction of the whole world by the deluge, after the continued menaces of an age; nor the miraculous manner in which they alone were preserved in the ark. The fire which came down from heaven upon the un